Dark Ages “Classes” – The Man-At-Arms

You know those guards who are always getting tossed around by the monsters, overrun by bandits, and trampled by opposing forces yet who manage to turn up mostly unwounded after the mighty heroes deal with things? Well, that’s these guys Except there aren’t any mighty heroes to come to the rescue; they’ll just have to get organized and do it themselves. On the other hand, in a low-magic low-technology setting there’s a lot to be said for understanding how to avoid being hurt. Wounds heal slowly, if at all. They can leave lingering damage. They can get infected. Even a minor wound can kill.

Just as importantly… Men-At-Arms spend a LOT more time on guard duty, maintaining their armor and weapons, practicing, teaching local militias how to poke at real fighters with farming tools without killing each other, and being intimidating, than they ever spend in combat. And when they do fight…

  • Prisoners are wonderful. They can be put on trial or held hostage for political purposes, ransomed for financial purposes, interrogated for military purposes, pressed into service as laborers, and more. They are all-purpose loot, who can – at worst – be sold as slaves or killed later. And if you helped capture them you usually got a share.
  • Injured or maimed opponents are good too. It’s often easier than a kill, they’re demoralizing for the enemy, an injured opponent who needs to be cared for takes another soldier out of battle with him to get him to the healers, wounded men continue to drain the enemies resources while contributing nothing to their cause, and all too often they never recover enough to return to battle. After all, in the Dark Ages there is very little magic and not a lot of medical skill.
  • Dead opponents? They get buried or burned, and then their relatives or companions often want revenge. There’s not a lot of profit in THAT. Sure, you can steal everything they had IF you hold the field after the battle and no one dragged them away – but you can do that with prisoners too and nobody pays much to ransom a dead body. At worst, you have to waste your own time and effort burying them. Corpses are downright useless.

So the tactics are different.

The equipment is different too.

As far as this “Dark Ages” (Maybe 600-1000 AD) setting is concerned the vast majority of the available armor is getting classified as what D20 calls “light armor”. There are several reasons for this.

  • Many of the “heavy” armor types hadn’t been invented yet. A lot of early armor consisted of padding, leather, and tough cloth, sometimes with bits of mail or metal plates attached to it to protect more vulnerable areas. About the best you could do was the full-out roman legionnaire armor or various forms of “Mail” – all of which were somewhat flimsy compared to later armor of similar encumbrance and offered relatively limited coverage. Few actual examples have survived and there’s been little (or no) actual testing so there’s a lot of guesswork here – but d20 is full of approximations anyway. Ergo, I’m placing most early “Mail” as being roughly equivalent to a chainmail shirt from later centuries.
  • While it doesn’t get a lot of attention, technology did advance over the centuries. For armor and weapons… the metals, designs, and crafting techniques all slowly improved. They still do; that near-legendary Damascus steel was a product of Wootz steel ingots shipped in from India (which happened to carry a useful combination of trace elements, improving the alloy – although no one at the time knew that) and local techniques. It was very good for it’s time, but was still inferior to many modern steels. Rather than introduce a debatable set of inferior period armors – especially when the presence of even minor magic makes what little actual data we have on the topic pretty much irrelevant – simply shortening the table is at least as good an approximation as the rest of d20 combat.
  • Major wars might bring the troops of many nobles together for a time, but the vast majority of conflicts were far smaller squabbles between a handful of noblemen, their personal retainers, and a few squads of reluctant peasant militiamen – but not too many because you needed those workers if you wanted to eat next year. That meant poorly organized skirmishes, where wearing armor heavy enough to slow you down too much was just asking for three or four of the enemy to gang up on you. A horse would help – but getting dismounted was all too common.
  • The more elaborate armor was hideously expensive stuff. You needed a set of skilled craftsman with several relatively rare sets of skills, expensive materials, and a lot of time to make it – and the import networks had pretty much fallen apart. If you wanted mail… you went to a specialist ship in the city, not your local blacksmith. You got in line. you paid extravagantly, and it still wasn’t all that great. You might well be better off investing some of that cash in bodyguards instead.

So: Proficiency with Light Armor (3 CP) and Shields (3 CP). That saves them some points. That’s good, because without magical healing around they are going to need them.

  • Personal weapons weren’t all that varied either. You basically got minor variants on Axes, Swords, Daggers and Knives, Clubs, Maces, and Spiky Maces, Morningstars and Flails, War Hammers, Horseman’s Picks, Spears/Pikes, Staves, and Pole Arms (blades and hooks on sticks, often improvised from agricultural implements), Lances, Throwing Axes, Javelins, Crossbows, and (non-composite) Bows* – and the selection was even more limited in any given area and time. For game purposes… Proficiency with All Simple and a Limited Set Of Martial Weapons (6 CP) will pretty much cover it.

*Samples recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose suggest that war-bows had a normal draw of 150-160 pounds – applied to each arm. About three times the draw of a heavy hunting bow today. A trained longbowman could fire 10-12 times per minute (although six a minute conserved their strength much better) – equivalent to bench-pressing (and briefly holding) 300-320 pounds at that rate. Now such Longbows (and several of the other weapons on our list) were a little late for our period, but we’re allowing the Bombardier (even if they are using magic), so that’s not a big worry.

So rather than using exotic enchanted weapons and getting ever-better armor, Men-At-Arms in our period focus on getting the most out of what they have.

The Build:

Basic Attributes: As with any physical combatant, physical attributes take a leading role here – but the emphasis leans more towards Constitution and Dexterity then raw Strength. They’ll probably want to avoid any major penalties on Intelligence and Wisdom if they can; both skill points and awareness of their surroundings help when your goal is to avoid injury rather than charge in, smite your opponents, and get healed later.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Three Disadvantages. Men-At-Arms commonly have various Obligations (Owing fealty and occasional services, having a family to care for, teaching or students to look after), being Aged (and thus semi-retired, thus having time for adventuring), Healing Resistant (There isn’t much healing in the Dark Ages to be resistant too, but this counts for Men-At-Arms due to having more regular need of what there is), Poor Reputation (Mostly for mercenaries, who are rarely trusted), Stigmata or Accursed (representing poorly-healed old wounds), and Valuable (for younger noble sons and such who can expect to be ransomed if captured)) +2 (Duties, normally to a liege lord) +12 (Human and First Level Bonus Feat) = 72 CP.

Basics (42 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +1 BAB (6 CP), additional +1 BAB (Specialized in either Missile or Melee combat, Corrupted for a limited group of favored weapons only, 2 CP).
  • Hit Points 12 (L1d12 HD, from Fast Learner, Specialized in Buying Larger Hit Dice, 6 CP, automatic d12 at L1, d6 thereafter) + (Con Mod).
  • Saving Throws: +2 Fortitude (6 CP). Between diseases and infected wounds Men-At-Arms need at least a modest boost to their Fortitude checks.
  • Proficient with Light Armor, Shields (Corrupted / Not Tower Shields), and all Simple and a limited Set of Martial Weapons (11 CP).
  • Skill Points: 4 SP (Purchased, 4 CP), get Human Fast Learner up to +2 SP/Level but Corrupted / only for maximizing Adept skills (+1 CP), Adept (A martial art for a favorite weapon, Profession / Man-At-Arms (covers armor and weapon maintenance, elementary protocol, basic guard and investigative procedures, known threats, basic military organization, tactics, and logistics, and constructing field fortifications), Intimidate (one of a Man-At-Arms major duties), and one skill of choice, 6 CP. All are effectively automatically maximized).

The Martial Art is normally Specialized for Increased Effect (One ability per level) / May never include Synergy, Toughness, Breaking, Crippling, or any Occult Techniques, requires dedicated training time each week to maintain proficiency, only usable when wearing light or no armor and proficient with armor. The first priority is normally on bonuses to Defense and Attack, but the ability to inflict nonlethal damage is a close second.

Men-At-Arms commonly invest their available skill points in Heal, Ride, and/or Perception.

Other Abilities (30 CP):

  • Tis Only A Flesh Wound!: Damage Reduction 3/-, Specialized / only versus physical injuries, Corrupted / damage prevented by this should be tracked, since it represents bruising, strains, minor flesh wounds, and similar non-critical damage. As long as any remains, half the characters healing will be devoted to removing it (2 CP). Unlike the purely positive-energy based “hit points” of standard d20, a Dark Ages character actually has meaningful biology. With them, being stabbed ten times in the foot for one point of damage per blow is not at all equivalent to being hit in the head once with an axe for ten points of damage. Major wounds will blow right past this resistance, but they can take lots of minor ones. Sadly, this may not be upgraded.
  • Armor Expertise: Defender, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only while wearing a favored kind of light armor, bonus does not increase with level, 2 CP).
  • Weapon Expertise: Skill Emphasis (Their Martial Art), Specialized for Increased Effect (+4 Bonus) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / May never include Synergy, Toughness, Breaking, Crippling, or any Occult Techniques, requires dedicated training time each week to maintain proficiency, only usable when wearing light or no armor and proficient with armor, only works with one specific weapon at a time, user must practice with the new weapon for at least a week to change weapons, weapon must be of “masterwork” quality (2 CP).
  • Practiced Evasion: Grant of Aid (Unrolled 10-point Variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / hit points only, only to reduce the damage from a single incoming attack not to heal injuries, only takes effect after damage reduction and other defenses, cannot reduce the damage by more than 50%, rounded down (4 CP). A character with this ability may opt to suffer only half damage from an attack inflicting up to twenty points of damage, although half-points are always rounded in favor of damage. Attacks inflicting more than twenty points of damage have their effects reduced by ten points.
  • Military Caste: Minor Privilege, Corrupted / only applies when in service to a local noble (2 CP). Men-At-Arms are generally employed; basic armor and weapons are supplied, they have some law-enforcement privileges, and they may wear armor and bear weapons in most situations with no complaints.
  • Combat Feats (18 CP): Men-At-Arms have 18 CP remaining, with which they may buy additional “feats” – specialized combat abilities. While you can build an endless array of such abilities in Eclipse, here are a few to pick from to get you started.
    • Advanced Armor Expertise: An additional +1 AC may be purchased as Defender (+1 AC Option), Specialized only while wearing a favored kind of light armor (3 CP per +1 AC) or it can be Corrupted as well / each +1 increases the effective encumbrance of the users armor by 25% (2 CP per +1 AC).
    • Maiming Strike / Trick: may inflict a Bestow Curse, Cause Blindness, or Cause Deafness effect on a critical hit (6 CP). Such injuries may be mitigated to some extent with time and the care of a reasonably skilled healer but some small penalty or effect will usually remain.
    • Flashing Strike: Bonus Attack (With speciality weapon). Make two attacks, albeit at -2 penalties (6 CP).
    • Critical Master: Luck, Specialized in Critical Confirmation (6 CP). The user may roll twice to confirm critical hits.
    • Weapon Master: Martial Arts (6 CP). Increase the weapons damage die size.
    • Legionnaire (6 CP): Gain bonuses to Attacks, AC, Reflex saves when working with others with this ability.
    • Terrible Mein: With: Opportunist. User may attempt to persuade, or intimidate, opponents into surrendering or fleeing as a free action up to twice per battle. This is most likely to work if they are obviously overmatched (6 CP).
    • Sneak Attack: Augment Attack +2d6 (6 CP).
    • Grand (Weapon) Master (6 CP):
      • +4 bonus on all checks to resist being disarmed. Immunity/Uncommon, Minor, Minor (2 CP).
      • May use a weapon against a grappling foe without penalty and without first making a grapple check. Immunity/Uncommon, Minor, Trivial (1 CP).
      • May draw a weapon, make a sudden strike, or fight defensively as an immediate action three times per day. Reflex Training (three action per day variant), Corrupted / only for weapon actions (4 CP).
      • May make Disarm attempts without provoking an Attack Of Opportunity. Evasive (3 CP).
      • Gain a +2 Bonus to Initiative. Improved Initiative (3 CP).
        • All of these abilities are Specialized / only with the characters favored weapon, giving Grand (Weapon) Master a total cost of (6 CP).
    • Armor Mastery (6 CP):
      • Increase the Maximum Allowed Dexterity Bonus: Immunity/Penalties for wearing armor (Very Common, Minor, Trivial, Corrupted / only to raise Dexterity Bonus Caps). Increase the maximum allowed Dexterity Bonus by +2 (3 CP).
      • Make it an Effective Weapon: That’s Martial Arts (1d4 damage), Corrupted/must be wearing gauntlets and limb protection (2 CP). With this you can use your armored limbs, fists, and head as effective maces and are always considered armed, including while grappling.
      • Make you more Intimidating and harder to “read”: Augmented Bonus/Adds (Str Mod) to (Cha Mod) with respect to Charisma-Based Skills, Corrupted/only for Intimidation and Bluff (4 CP).
      • Reduce it’s Encumbrance: Immunity/the base weight of armor (Uncommon, Minor, and – for light armor – Trivial, 1 CP).
      • Negate the Armor Check Penalty: The “Smooth” modifier for Light Armor Proficiency (3 CP).
        • All of these abilities are Specialized / only with the characters favored armor, giving Armor Mastery a total cost of (6 CP).

A low-level Man-At-Arms is really a somewhat better combatant than a low-level standard fighter. That’s partly because standard fighters really aren’t that good a build, partly because their job is to solve problems not to be meat shields who keep the enemy off the spellcasters, partly because they rely on skill instead of magic, and partly because they need to be able to function on their own – without a healer, or a mage to do the heavy lifting.


Star Trek Relics in Eclipse

And for today it’s a couple of relics. Unfortunately, unlike most relics, a character needs to be able to use very high-level technology to create or use these – and will need proficiency in Informational Combat to use the Tricorders full abilities. Still, if you just happen to hail from a Star Trek universe, here are a couple of the most popular toys.

Phaser (15 CP / 2 Point Relic):

  • Innate Enchantment: Specialized and Corrupted / only 1750 GP (35,000 Credits or Purchase DC 31) to duplicate the functions of a particular technological item or set of interlinked items with a common theme. The Phaser (or Plasma Laser) is a combination of…
    • Early Plasma (Laser) Pistol With Heavy Stun (4500 CR).
    • Early Plasma (Laser) Rifle with Autofire Module (2250 CR).
    • Plasma Launcher : Minigrenade Launcher (2000 CR) with 20 Fireflush Grenades (24,000 CR).
    • Plasma (Fusion) Torch (120 CR).
    • 30 extra Power Packs (2100 CR)
      • Total: 34,970 Credits. All items from d20 Future rules.
  • With 1d6+2 (6) Mana, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Reality Editing, only for edits related to the devices Innate Enchantment effects or to the device itself, maximum of major edits (9 CP).
    • Common Minor Edits (1 Mana): Device is recharged/reloaded, an attack on it turns into a stunning energy discharge in a 10′ radius, produce an effect that is almost reasonable for the device in question (using a plasma gun to heat a room, flash-weld a door closed, attack a small area or double the damage or an area effect, hit automatically, or run a steam engine for some time).
    • Common Notable Edits (2 Mana): Device affects a small area rather than an individual target or a greater than usual area, device can be repaired as a standard action, produce an effect which is only remotely possible for the device in question (using a plasma gun to blast a sizeable area, create a wall of fire, hit and crit automatically, disrupt electrical apparatus rather than doing damage.
    • Common Major Edits (3 Mana): Make a plasma gun shoot cold, completely ignore range limitations, fire an overload blast for triple damage, carve out a tunnel, use the gadget to power up other systems, get things to work where they have no business doing so (for example, using a plasma beam under water).
      • Note that, if the device user is also using reality-editing technobabble, the effects are cumulative. Just sum up the total effective mana expenditure to determine the level of the edit.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the Mana Pool above, takes several minutes of tinkering, requires a roll? (4 CP).

A phaser isn’t one of the most powerful weapons out there – but it can keep firing almost indefinitely, has a “stun” setting for when you don’t want to kill people, and can be used for all kinds of tricks as well as just shooting people. So why do most minions just flash and vanish when shot with a phaser set to “kill”? It’s because they’re MINIONS, and – in a Sci-Fi universe – generally only have a few hit points. That’s why pretty much ANYTHING kills them.

Tricorder (8 CP / 1 CP Relic):

The universal instrument pack would probably be best written as “Privilege: user gets to be the one to relay the plot-relevant information to the group after the game master has decided what he wants the party to know” – but most players would prefer a gadget that actually has some worthwhile effect. For them, we have the Classic Tricorder.

  • Sensor Suite: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (level zero and weak level one effects) / Only for Divinations, requires at least one full round spent fiddling around with the gadget (6 CP).
    • Such effects include Detect (Magic, Psionics, Poison, Disease, Life, Time, Location, Dimensional Disturbances, Metal, Ores, Radiation, Secret Doors, Snares And Pits, Nutritional Value, Undead, Electrical Activity, Bugs, and so on), Find (Fish, Game, Forage, Campsite, Water, Oil, Gold, Personal Items), Know (Diagnosis, Direction, Numbers, Age, Origin, Creature Classification, Plant Classification, Immediate Past, Weather), Assay (Purity, Creature, Plant), and speeding up a search (Sift).
  • Innate Enchantment, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only 500 GP Value (2 CP).
  • “Card Computer”: Small PC with various programs. 175 GP.
    • Holorecorder (5 GP).
    • Motion Sensor (20 GP)
    • Piercing Visor (25 GP).
    • Power Backpack (4 GP). (for powering the “detailed scan” below).
    • “Detailed Scan” / “Disintegrator” (250 GP). 3d8 Nonspecific Energy Damage, 30′ Base Range, Crit 20/x2. Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Informational Combat Weapon. “Damage” is tracked separately. As it is inflicted, the user gets more and more information about the target. If the target is “killed” the user’s information is reasonably complete. If the user reduces a target to (-hit points) via informational damage he or she is entitled to use technobabble to explain it’s weaknesses and how it can be exploited – and have such explanations often turn out to be correct, even if they weren’t at all correct before / does no actual damage, exposes the user to informational feedback (a free counter-attack from the target) against his or her own hit points / “informational integrity” which can induce a variety of mental and physical problems, ranging up to incapacitation if the user’s informational damage total exceeds his or her hit points.

The Tricorder can detect all sorts of things – but at relatively short range and it often takes a good deal of time to “decipher what the readings mean”. Things can get much stranger if the user actually knows Informational Combat however, since with that… he or she can technobabble whatever is being scanned into complying with his or her ideas of how the universe is supposed to work. That’s why a skilled sensor operator can find a weakness in the enemy shields, or a way to bypass Borg immunities, or or a crack in the event horizon. They’re basically bludgeoning the universe into going along with their version of the “observer effect” and being the way they want it to be. (Unless, of course, the universe wins the informational battle and gets it;s own way). More mundanely… a Tricorder is a high-quality personal computer which can generate maps, spot hidden creatures, and record in various modes. It also has unspecified data libraries (a complete copy of Wikipedia perhaps?), which can be used to try and get back to the world that ought to be, if only Spock can collect enough stone knives and bearskins.

Beragrave The Fallen, Eclipse D20 Sniper-Assassin

He meant well. A dying wife, a sickly child, and none to help him. An old story, played out again and again. Unlike most, however, Beragrave would indeed do ANYTHING to help them. Anything at all.

And a power took note of that, and answered. The power to craft Charms and Talismans of black magic was a small, small, gift – but the seed of corruption easily took root in Beragrave’s flawed heart.

A Bloody Bowl saw to his families health. What matter it if a passing street urchin or two was sacrificed for that? They were doomed anyway, and their lives purchased the time his family needed for a natural recovery.

A Horned Amulet let him support his family in better style. It came at the expense of those about him, but they had not aided him when his family needed help, and so Beragrave paid no heed to the increased burdens he was inflicting upon them.

A Blood Spider and some Necromantic Elixir did in a few travelers – and left Beragrave and his family surprisingly well-off.

By the time his son moved out to start his own family – he and his mother still ignorant of Beragrave’s multitudinous sins – Beragrave had committed hundreds of dark crimes in exchange for additional powers, and served his demonic master with dedication.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Disadvantages; Accursed, Secret, ) +2/Level (Duties; making black magic charms and talismans available and encouraging evil) +1/Level (Restrictions: May not willingly accept the services of good clerics or paladins) +12 (L1 and Human Bonus Feats) = 73 CP.

Basic Attributes: Str 12, Dex 14 (+2 Human = 16), Con 14, Int 14, Wis 10, and Cha 13 (Pathfinder 20 Point Buy).

The Basics (29 CP)

  • Warcraft +2, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for Missile Attacks, only for his Spirit Weapon (4 CP).
  • Hit Points: 8 (L1d8, 4 CP) +2 (Con Mod) +15 (Bear Cloak) = 25. By the time his “adventuring” career started, Beragrave had been in more than a few fights. Tending bar will lead to that.
  • Proficiency with Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Composite Bows (3 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Shimmermail) +3 (Dex) = 17
  • Initiative: +3 (Dex).
  • Save Bonuses: Will +2 (6 CP). Net Save Bonuses: Reflex +3, Will +2, Fortitude +2.
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) +8 (Upgraded Human Fast Learner, 3 CP) +8 (Int) = 22.

Special Abilities (44 CP):

  • Seed Of Darkness: Equipage with Purchasing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to obtain charms and talismans (especially those of black magic), poisons, torture implements, unholy water, smoke bombs, and similar evil supplies (4 CP). This small ability allows Beragrave to simply “buy” small items on the spot. If a whim strikes him to poison someome, or pour acid into a prisoners eyes, or gift some child with a bit of black magic. he can indulge that whim on a moments notice.
  • Bane Of Heroes: Ranged Spirit Weapon (Composite Longbow, 1d8, 20/x3, 110′ Range Increment, 9 CP), Inflicts Nonmagical Fire Damage (+0 CP), two attacks each round are Touch Attacks (+12 CP), Exotic Appearance (Infernal Hellfire, +3 CP), Switch x2 (Stun and Unholy Damage, 6 CP), Augment Attack (Silencing, +6 CP), Augment Attack (Dirty Trick Master, 1d4+1 Rounds, +12 CP), Augment Attack (+1d8 Damage with Spirit Weapon, 8 CP) – all Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Must ritually sacrifice an innocent intelligent being at least once per week, must regularly undertake missions for his demonic masters, and must gratatiously spread evil and corruption. If he does not do so, this power will soon start to fail. Failing for several weeks in a row will negate this power until he Atones (see the Atonement spell) for his failures (19 CP).
    • At the moment, Beragrave’s infernal blast is a +6/+6 (+2 BAB +3 Dex +3 Martial Art -2 Multishot) ranged touch attack with a 110′ range increment that inflicts (2d8 + 2 ((Str Mod)) fire, stun, or unholy damage, Crits on a 20 for an extra 1d8. A hit also silences the victim and inflicts a Dirty Trick effect for 1d4+1 rounds. He can upgrade this in a wide variety of ways, just like any other archer.
  • Demonic Tutelage: Adept (6 CP): Bow Martial Art, Diplomacy, Disguise, and Stealth.
  • Embracing The Darkness: Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, they take some time to attune for use, at least three Charms and two Talismans must be Black Magic (6 CP).
  • Stolen Years: Immunity / Aging (Uncommon, Severe. Minor, 4 CP). Beragrave has already earned several extra centuries of life. Who knows what having that much time
  • Track (Urban) (3 CP)
  • A Sigil of Dark Fortune (1 CP): See Eclipse II. A minor Relic that allows one to either reroll or “take 20” in advance up to 12 times – but which can only be recharged though ritual murder.
  • Calling On The Dark Lord: Specific Knowledge: Ritual Of Consulting His Demonic Master (1 CP). This isn’t strictly necessary – presumably they can get in touch with HIM – but it can be convenient.

Charms and Talismans:

  • Personal Charms: Horned Amulet (Black Magic), Serpents Tongue (Black Magic), Wraith Guantlets (Black Magic Undead Version), Vanishing Cloak, Phylactory Of Whispering Shadows, Merasian Vapors, Hidden Pocket (to hide his minor supplies).
  • Personal Talismans: Bloody Bowl (Blask Magic), Black Bear Spirit Cloak (+15 HP), Shimmermail (Demonhide Version).
  • General Charms: As needed.
  • General Talismans: As needed.

Skills (22 SP):

  • Bow Martial Art: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Dex) = +7. +3 Attack and Multishot.
  • Climb +2 (2 SP) +2 (Str) = +4
  • Disguise: +4 (2* SP) +1 (Cha) = +5 (+10 using Merasian Vapors).
  • Diplomacy: +4 (2* SP) +1 (Cha) = +5
  • Perception +4 (4 SP) +0 (Wis) = +4
  • Profession (Innkeeper / Slumlord): +4 (4 SP) +0 (Wis) = +4
  • Stealth: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Dex) = +7
  • Use Magic Device +4 (4 SP) +1 (Cha) = +5

Further Advancement:

Each Level gains 24 CP (Base) +2 CP (Duties) +1 (Restriction) = 27 CP and +4 SP (Int and Fast Learner).

  • (2 CP) Between Adept and buying +2 SP/Level he can add +1 to each of his skills each level.
  • (2 CP) Buying a d6 Hit Die each additional level.
  • (3 CP) +1 on a selected Saving Throw.
  • (2 CP) +1 BAB with Bane Of Heroes
  • (1 CP) +1 level of the Ranger Spellcasting Progression, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Spells are weekly, not daily (Int-Based, Prepare Ranger Spells From List).
  • (1 CP) +1 Level of the Ranger Spellcasting Progression, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Spells are weekly, not daily (Int-Based, Perpare Assassin Spells From List)
  • (2 CP) +1 Caster Level, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for the Ranger Spellcasting Progression, blatant black magic, will not work on holy ground.

That gets him a reasonable set of skills, a reasonable number of hit points for someone who specializes in ranged strike-and-retreat, excellent attacks – touch attacks combined with a BAB of (Level + 1) and other bonuses should hit most of the time – and a pretty good selection of tracking, archery-boosting, stealth, and assassin-utility spells. It also leaves some 14 CP/Level to spend on other things. Spend some of those on…

  • Bane Of Heroes is his primary attack – and is Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost – so you can easily add more d8’s (2.67 CP Each), Archer-Style “Feats” (2 CP Each), additional Touch Attacks (2 CP each) once his BAB is high enough to support them, and various archer-style boosts. You’ll obvious want Imbuement (to give it magical boosts), possibly more types of damage, Far Shot, Enhanced Strike (Focuses), Double Damage (Versus Paladins perhaps?), Precise Shot, and similar benefits.
  • Stealth and General Combat boosts are also in order – Cloaking (6 CP) to conceal his dark powers, Reflex Training (Extra Actions Version) to allow swift escapes or extra strikes (6 CP), Awareness and Flankless (6 CP Each) to avoid sneak attacks and most precision damage, Augmented Bonus (to boost his hit points, 6, 12, or 18 CP), Defender (to raise his AC, 6 CP), Imbuement (Armor, 6+ CP), Opportunist (Hide In Plain Sight. 6 CP),

For miscellaneous purchases…

  • A few more Languages or skills never hurt anyone.
  • An Enhanced Demonic Familiar (12+ CP) can be very handy.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses (Specialized for Reduced Cost / Only to restore spell levels, 6 CP) will enable him to renew some spells given a few minutes out of combat.
  • Innate Enchantment (Hat Of Disguise (1800 GP), Amulet Of Tears (2300 GP), Healing Belt (750 GP), and 650 GP worth of necessary gear – perhaps an unholy symbol for his spellcasting (so that he doesn’t really need one), a spell component pouch if he needs one, and so on, Making some of his Black Magic Charms (10 GP) and Talismans (25 GP) into Innate Powers is a great way to keep them from being discovered. 6 CP). Alternatively, or in addition, a set of the convenient first-level archery boosters could be quite handy.
  • Leadership or Companion (6-12 CP). Beragrave is a family man, so when something happens to his wife – or if he’s just outlived her – he’s all too likely to marry a Hag, or a lesser Succubus, or something. He might also use this as a way to get a few disposable troops to keep a group from coming straight for him when he starts blasting them.
  • Returning (6 CP) – at least in the form of “mysteriously disappearing and reappearing later” – is probably a good trick for any villain that you want to have around for more than one fight scene.
  • Witchcraft: Even a few points invested here can provide access to The Adamant Will – preventing mind-reading and mind control – and a few other useful tricks.

For Items… He’s primarily going to want tools for infiltrating, burst damage, and escaping, A Cloak Of Mysterious Emergence (13,000 GP) is a WONDERFUL tool for escaping, if a bit pricey.

Beragrave is – in general – a long-range sniper-assassin. He pops up somewhere, starts blasting his target(s) (attempting to silence spellcasters and using dirty tricks to hinder everyone else) – and gets out if the opposition proves to have too much long-range firepower or is closing in on him. Being pretty optimized he can be a serious threat to good-guy characters. if only because “I’m getting my powers on the cheap because they rely on sacrificing lots of people to demons” is an approach that good-guy characters are often reluctant to take. After all, players are often reluctant to commit their characters to anything at all.

Medieval Dark Ages Classes – The Holy Friar (A.K.A. Fraire Provençal or Religious Sister)

When it comes to European holy men and women in the middle ages, we’re generally looking at more-or-less Christian types. There were a few others about – occasional Jewish Rabbis, Pagans, and Mullahs might appear – but they were vanishingly rare and were well-advised to keep their religious ideas to themselves. Of those…

  • Hermits didn’t deal with others much, although they were your best bet for mystic visions, getting weapons blessed, and similar interventions. There weren’t any major Prophets in the period, but it’s no coincidence that most of the classical ones spent most of their time alone in the wilderness listening for the voice of God. A hermit might join a party of adventurers for a specific mission if they have a vision or something about it – but that’s very rare.
  • Monks and Nuns were firmly based in religious communities, where they worked and prayed – although they fairly often went out into the nearby towns and villages to help out. If you needed long-term care, or food, or a base for your assault on the forces of darkness, or someone to take in some orphans, or to teach classes, or similar help, they were a good bet – but they basically stayed in one place, and so made poor adventurers.
  • Priests were were normally assigned to minister to the needs of a group – staying in one place where the population was dense enough, traveling on a regular circuit of smaller communities, or running a shrine, church, or other religious institution. They saw to baptisms and burials, arbitrated disputes, administered the sacraments, and ran religious institutions – but they were busy people. If you want their services. you needed to go to them. Priests have little time for adventure unless the need is immediate and urgent.

When it comes to clerical-styled adventurers, we’re looking at Friars and Religious Sisters – people who felt a religious calling, but who felt called to go forth and work amongst the people of the land, serving either by setting an inspiring example or by teaching and directly confronting the darknesses of the world. They were free to be pragmatic, to be heroic, and to go forth and do what needed to be done. Examples range from the fictional Friar Tuck and the Canterbury Tales, yo St Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, and Brother Juniper, and on to various currently-extant orders.

To build a basic Friar we’ll want…

  • Attributes. Charisma is important, but Intelligence and Constitution have their uses. After that… well, it’s best t0 avoid any major penalties elsewhere if you can.
  • Disadvantages: Broke (Friars are Mendicants and vowed to poverty. They may carry basic personal and religious possessions, relics (Charms and Talismans) of higher powers, and own a donkey or horse, but they rely on Charity for their supplies, may not own property, and so on), Vows (religious), and Obligations (religious and to their superiors). That gives them a total of 58 CP (64 counting their bonus feat, although that’s been left open in the build below) at level one.

Basic Items:

  • BAB: +0 (0 CP). Friars may be able to defend themselves, but they are rarely specialized warriors.
  • Hit Points: L1d6 (2 CP). Friar’s aren’t usually all that militaristic, but they do a lot of hiking around and a certain amount of general labor, and so are usually in fairly good shape.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP). Some Friars might not be skilled with much of anything beyond a knife (which everyone uses), but any of them that go adventuring will generally know at least this much.
  • Saving Throws: +2 Will, +2 Fortitude (12 CP). Friars tend to be strong-willed and enduring.
  • Skill Points: (Int Mod + 2) x 4 + 6 (6 CP).

Other Abilities:

  • Theological Training: Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (for +2 SP/Level), Corrupted / only to keep Adept skills maxed out (4 CP).
  • Studious: Adept: Diplomacy, Heal, Knowledge/Religion, and Perform/Oratory (6 CP).
  • +3 Skill Specialties: Knowledge/Religion/Christianity (1 CP), Perform/Oratory/Preaching (1 CP), and Specific Knowledge / Christian Religious Ceremonies and Sacraments (1 CP).
  • Sermonizing: Skill Emphasis (+2 Perform/Oratory), Specialized for Double Effect (+4) only while preaching the Word of God (3 CP).
  • Tis Only A Flesh Wound!: Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized / only versus physical injuries, Corrupted / damage prevented by this should be tracked, since it represents bruising, strains, minor flesh wounds, and similar non-critical damage. As long as any remains, half the characters healing will be devoted to removing it (1 CP). Unlike the purely positive-energy based “hit points” of standard d20, a Dark Ages character actually has meaningful biology. With them, being stabbed ten times in the foot for one point of damage per blow is not at all equivalent to being hit in the head once with an axe for ten points of damage. Major wounds will blow right past this resistance, but they can take lots of minor ones. Warrior-types may upgrade this to DR 3 / – for an additional 1 CP, but that’s the upper limit. No dark ages character is ever immune to being stabbed.
  • Adamant Faith: Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to make Will Saves and Checks (3 CP). A Friar’s faith is strong, and will help him or her resist influences to which others would fall all too easily.
  • Minor Privilege: Clerics, even lower level ones such as Friars, are respected, enjoy various legal privileges (the “Benefit Of Clergy”), and are normally welcomed and supported by the general population (3 CP).
  • Words Of Faith: Mystic Artist (Oratory / Preaching) with +4 Bonus Uses (8 CP). Specialized for Double Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / blatantly proclaims the user faith, attracts enemies of the faith, makes the user a notable public figure, positive effects only work on those who follow the speakers faith, negative effects only work on enemies or betrayers of the speaker’s faith, gives the user’s enemies a basic understanding of the user’s capabilities, the user may only call on (Knowledge /Religion score) differing power sources, each of which empowers a particular effect when it comes to abilities that potentially have a broad range of effects. Thus, for example, Greatness normally provides a positive level. Calling on St Francis might grant the ability to communicate with animals, while a more martial choice might grant an extra attack per round for a combat (Reflex Training (three extra actions per day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in attacking, 6 CP).

Even a first level Friar is should have at least +4 (Skill Points) +4 (Skill Emphasis) +3 (Skill Speciality) +(Cha Mod) = +11 to +15 in Oratory / Preaching – giving them a fair selection of mystic artist abilities and making them able to supply a party with some fairly impressive bonuses at level one.

Higher-Level Friars may have Echoes (+6 CP), allowing them to “trigger” the effects of their words at a later date.

Truly powerful Friars may have some or all of the Path Of Dissonance, Specialized and Corrupted / only works against true evils – undead and creatures of the lower planes and their effects. Distracting, Disrupting, Stunning, Maddening, Banishing, and Shattering (2 CP Each, 12 CP in total – bringing them up to the 36 CP maximum).

A Friars strength lies in their social advantages and in the impressive bonuses that they can offer the more direct combatants of a party. At higher levels they may take the lead against undead, demons, and other unholy abominations, using the holy force of Gods words to destroy or drive back such things,

Further Advancement? A realistic Medieval game probably won’t go past level four or so (if it does, it’s almost certainly no longer “realistic) – but up until then contacts, connections, buying the rest of those religious powers, and more social talents is probably the way to go.

Skill Stunts And Epic Skill Stunts XI – Use Rope/Cable/Chain/Wires/Etc

Twine and Rope (thicker twine) aren’t quite up there with fire or language, and probably not with agriculture or the domestication of animals, but they’re definitely up there with the hammer, spear, wheel, pottery, and writing. Twine brought nets and snares, bolos and sledges, bound rafts and supplies together, aided in both climbing and sliding down, pulled in harpooned fish and anchored shelters. It held on bandages and spearheads, captured and controlled beasts, secured children and equipment, strengthened the helves of axes and tied thorns into protective walls. Run through pulleys it multiplied strength and simply tied it allowed men to combine their strength and that of beasts as well. How many other Neolithic products have persisted so unchanged? The coil of hempen rope in my garage would be familiar to the hand of a tribesmen from twenty to thirty thousand years ago – although to him a coil so long, so fine, and so consistent would be a great treasure representing many hours of hard labor.

The trouble is that “use rope” is a poor fit with the games other skills. Many, MANY, other skills use rope, just as many other skills use hammers – but there is no “use hammer” skill. (That might be a reasonable way to build a skill system, but it would place a huge burden on the game master to adjudicate things). Even worse, the rules only provide a few uses for the skill, and almost all of those fit under other skills as well or better.

Get a grappling hook lodged? Isn’t this a job for Climbing? Tie a knot? Isn’t this a basic part of Climbing or Profession (Sailor) or a lot of other things? Make a traverse or simple rope bridge to help cross a river? Survival or Profession (Explorer) – or simply announcing that you’re using some rope and talking the game master into giving you a bonus for circumstances (or perhaps for a masterwork rope). Make a trap? Craft (Trap) or Survival again. Tie down cargo? Profession (Teamster) (and when was the last time your player characters worried about their cargo shifting anyway? That’s what Bags Of Holding are for). Tie a knot one-handed? Isn’t that just a circumstance penalty? Use ropes and leashes to help control an animal? Handle Animal. Tie logs together to make a raft? Probably Survival, but who cares? Kids do that successfully all the time with no skill. Sure, the Kon-Tiki needed to hold together for months – but has that EVER come up in your game?

Worse, pretty much all of these are simple tasks that ordinary folk – you know, people with no big bonuses and maybe a +1 from being a girl or boy scout as a kid or a little practice – can do with a pretty good chance of success even if they don’t really take their time. That means that we’re basically talking DC 5 to DC 15. After all, a skill point represents a year or so of casual training or several months of really intensive study on a topic.

Even worse than that… most of those tasks can be done without bothering with rope at all, either with cheap magic (can’t an Unseen Servant set that grappling hook for you? ) or just by not worrying about getting that +2 bonus from the traverse on whatever roll the game master calls for to cross the river. Making a roll to see if you get a small bonus on another roll just holds up the game. Even the listed Epic Level Uses are pointless; so you can animate a rope at DC 60. Doesn’t your epic-level character have something better to do with his or her time than emulate a first level spell?

About the only thing unique to Use Rope even in normal use is splicing it and binding prisoners. How often has splicing rope come up? And even if it did… wouldn’t a cantrip do it better? As for binding prisoners… that’s basically an opposed Escape Artist check. After all, if you know how to escape ropes, you can probably figure out how to keep other people from doing so.

I understand the appeal – I used a LOT of rope while camping, or building tree houses, or during a lot of other activities as a kid and rope is phenomenally useful stuff – but we’re talking about characters who can wrestle dragons, learn to walk on clouds with raw skill, and scale thousand foot greased cliffs in a hurricane if they don’t just teleport in the first place.

It’s a lot like having a “Use Fire” skill. Fire is IMMENSELY useful. Knowing how to handle it, what generates poisonous fumes when burned, how to put it out, how to make fiery weapons, how to smelt metal, how to melt sand into glass, how to perform fractional distillation… it has a myriad uses. The trouble is that it’s far TOO basic to far too many other skills. To handle “Use Fire” properly… it needs to be a part of a skill system built around skills like “Use Hammer”, “Use Stone”, “Use Wood”, “Use Metal”, “Use Air”, “Use Mechanical Advantage” – and yes, “Use Rope” or perhaps “Use Fiber”. That would be pretty interesting – but using it in play would require a table full of engineers and a shelf full of reference books to figure out how to use your characters skills effectively. While I tend to run things that way, and have “figuring out how things work” be an important item in my campaigns, I must admit that it’s an extremely specialized taste.

So, in Eclipse, there are three major approaches to “use rope”.

  1. Take Specific Knowledge / Knots (1 SP) and a +3 Skill Specialty in Using Rope (1 SP). That’s the equivalent of spending six months or so in an intensive study of knots and rope, will probably cover everything mundane that you want to do with rope, and will give you a +3 bonus on rolls that would be aided by your use of rope without having to make separate skill rolls. Quick, simple, and cheap.
  2. Take 2d6 Mana and Rite Of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for use with Rope Magic (8 CP) and put some skill points in (Rope) Rune Magic Mastery and Casting. Go ahead. Animate ropes, perform a rope trick, summon a rope golem, entangle enemies, bind spirits, catch the winds in knots, and make creatures and objects dance on your puppet strings. The game master will want to keep a careful eye on this sort of thing though to keep it down to things that rope is actually thematic for though. “(Implement) Magic” should not be an excuse to do anything at all as long as your description involves said implement somehow, just as “Frog Magic” is not an excuse for “Exploding Fireball Frogs!” and “Frogs Of Healing” – and even the “Intercontinental Ballistic Leaping Passenger Frog” (standing in for a party teleport) would be quite a stretch. This is a fairly easy way to represent skills like “Use Fire” and such though.
  3. Go ahead and take “Use Rope” and rely on Stunts and Epic Stunts. Sure, “Use Rope” vanished from Pathfinder, and the Rules Compendium wasn’t big on it – but if you’re looking at this option you’re looking at supernatural effects, not at the enormous, if uninspiring, list of practical uses for rope. This is a fairly powerful option, simply because rope – being another truly ancient tool – has as many mythological applications as the hammer, spear, or sword.

Sample Stunts For “Use Rope”:

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Apply an effective Bandage, Sling, or Tourniquet.
    • Make snowshoes or simple repairs on clothing and improvise other basic items of apparel.
    • Make a firebow (possibly using some bits from extra rope for tinder).
    • Put together simple baskets and carry-sacks, secure food out of the reach of animals, carry stuff conveniently (designate up to (Dexterity) items which can be accessed as a free action), increase your effective Strength score for encumbrance purposes by +2.
    • Secure things – cargo for transport, loose rocks against an avalanche, trees so that they fall the right way, safety lines for people, items and shelters against winds and storms, and so on.
    • Set up a rope for climbing, slide down a rope quickly but without hurting yourself (rope burns are possible if it’s long, but d20 characters shrug off being hit with battle axes, so who cares?), affix a rope securely enough to lift something, secure yourself for sleeping in a tree.
    • Set up a trip/alarm line, create a visual fence (lines set up with things that move and flutter in the wind, effective at confining the more skittish herd animals), create a crude deadfall.
    • Tie basic knots, make minor repairs, reinforce a grip or haft, assemble a crude raft or bundle (just don’t expect it to hold together against major impacts or for too long).
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Bind prisoners (gaining a +10 on any opposed check), Effectively leash and collar an animal or slave, perform a competent hanging, rig an animal harness (that won’t strangle the animal or team), hobble a horse or other creature, apply compression torture or mutilation.
    • Make a snare for small animals, assemble a fish trap, or set up a fishing line, properly hang an animal to drain the blood, set up a drying rack.
    • Make crude rope-and-weight weapons, such as bolas, basic flails, or nunchaku, use a piece of rope as a Sap (At DC 75 (and 2 mana on a Stunt), you may use a piece of rope as if it was Power Word: Stun).
    • Put together a simple shelter, effective thorn or brushwood barricade, crude boat, traverse, or rope bridge.
    • Rig and use climbing apparatus – rope ladders, rappelling gear, tie a rope so that you can undo it from any point with a few simply twists and pulls. Use a grappling hook properly, climb a rope at full speed (probably a Stunt).
    • Set up a block and tackle, tension lever (a taut length of rope secured on the ends which can apply great force through a sideways pull at the center), or other strength-multiplying system.
    • Tie extremely complex knots, splice rope, or conceal tiny items in rope, make rope, care for rope, put away up to 50′ of rope as a move action, restoring it to a neat coil along the way.
    • Weave a hammock, net, or fish trap or make crude cloth.
  • DC 20:
    • Knot Of Winds: A rope master may bind the winds. Each knot may be untied to produce a Gust Of Wind effect (albeit out to 120′ feet) or to alter the current wind conditions for one hour per level by one step, to a maximum of Severe Wind and a minimum of none. A rope master may maintain no more than (Wis Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) such knots at any one time.
    • Spiders Weave: You may accomplish up to (level) hours worth of ropework by simply tossing some rope out. You may thus create a pulley system to pull things up cliffs, erect an instant climbing rope, set up a fine rope bridge, stabilize some loose rock, create a rope ladder, weave a net or create snares and swinging-log traps, make hammocks, get a derelict ship rigged to sail, tie doors shut, set up a safety net under a falling creature, set up triplines and alarms, rig up a cutting or pop-up line trap, rig up a fence, or harness a group of horses. You may reclaim your rope and store it away when you are finished with it with a quick tug on one end.
    • Wield Rope: You may use a piece of rope as it it was a Garrote, Lasso, Whip (Any), Scourge (Any), or Flail (Any, including Scarves and Nunchaku). All options are treated as Simple Weapons for you and you may switch between them as needed (this does not count as an action). At DC 30 your options include the Bolas, Rope Guantlet, Double-Chained Kama, Kusarigama, and Spiked Chain. At DC 40 your options include the Aklys, Net, Flying Blade, and “Kobold Tail Attachments”. At +10 DC you can give your rope a +1 Enhancement Bonus (as well as +2 Hardness, +10 HP, and +2 Break DC). At +20 DC the bonus increases to +(Level / 4), multiplying the bonuses to Hardness, HP, and Break DC similarly. At +30 DC you may add special weapon properties in place of some of the Enhancement Bonus “plusses”. At +40 DC the Enhancement Bonus increases to (Level / 2). For +10 DC you may give your “weapon” an extra five feet of reach whenever you need it. Once activated, this ability remains in effect for one hour.
  • DC 25:
    • Ensnare: You may attempt to catch a target within short range, using your rope as if it was a lasso or net, although your target is allowed a Reflex save. At it’s base, this renders them Entangled, prevents winged flight, and allows the user to pull on them (or, for that matter, climb up on them). +5 DC per size category above Large. At +20 DC this has medium range, at +20 DC this Binds or “Pins” the target instead, At DC 75 you may imprison Outsiders who fail to save in a complex knot, equivalent to an Iron Flask – although you may only maintain (Cha Mod, 1 Minimum) such knots at any one time. Note that it is possible to snatch things out of people’s hands or steal them with this ability.
    • Harden Rope: You may cause a rope to harden until you handle it once more. It becomes as durable as an inch-thick piece of Oak. At DC 30 it is as durable as Stone, at DC 40 Bronze, at DC 50 Iron, at DC 60 Mithril, at DC 75 Adamantine, and at DC 100 it has Hardness 30 and 50 HP. If this is used in conjunction with Wield Rope you gain a +4 bonus to Damage on a successful hit.
    • Rope Care: Your personal ropes function as if they were of higher quality, moving one level up the chart below (two steps at DC 30, three at DC 60, but never beyond “Darkleaf”. All ropes beyond basic Hemp ropes are considered to be masterwork tools with respect to Rope Use). This effect remains active for twenty-four hours.
      • Hemp (50 Ft, 2 HP, Break DC 23, 1 GP, 10 Lb),
      • Silk (50 Ft, 4 HP, Break DC 24, 10 GP, +2 to Use Rope checks, 5 Lb).
      • Spider Silk (50 Ft, 6 HP, Break DC 25, 100 GP, +2 to Use Rope checks. 4 Lb)
      • Bloodvine (50 Ft, 10 HP, Hardness 5, Break DC 30, 200 GP, +2 to Use Rope Checks, 5 Lb).
      • Darkleaf (20 HP, Hardness 10, Break DC 35, 500 GP, +2 to Use Rope Checks, 4 Lb
  • DC 30:
    • Charm Rope: You may cause a rope to perform as if affected by Animate Rope, Handy Grapnel, or Tripvine. At DC 40 you may cause a Rope Trick, Ropeweave, or Snare effect. At DC 50 you can cause a rope to function as a Rope Of Climbing for a day. At DC 60 it functions as a Rope Of Knots for a day. At DC 75 it functions as a Rope of Entanglement for a day.
    • Jury Rig: You may fix something (including things that you have no right to fix) with rope. This equates to using Make Whole (Greater).
    • Phase Knots: You may tie, or automatically untie, knots without access to the ends of a rope and without damaging the rope, simply by causing it to pass through itself. You may also use this trick to instantly splice rope, to create loops along it, to conceal it’s ends inside itself, or to escape from rope bonds.
  • DC 35:
    • Cable Snap: You may lash out with a rope as a touch attack, inflicting 1d6/level slashing damage (20d6 maximum) to a single target or inflict half that much damage to a cone up to 60 feet long with no roll to hit – although this allows those within the area a reflex save for half damage. In either case, anyone who takes damage will be knocked prone.
    • Knot Of Lightning: A rope master working during a thunderstorm may catch natural bolts of lighting in knots, storing a maximum of (Dex Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) such bolts. A natural bolt normally causes (1d6+4)d8 damage to a 80 foot line or a 15 foot radius within medium range. Sadly, untying – and directing – the bolt costs just as much Mana as trapping it in the first place.
    • Zip Line: You may use a rope to transport yourself (via swinging, climbing, being pulled up by some odd mechanism, sliding along a line, or whatever) to any open area that can be reached without passing through a solid barrier within short range as a move action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. At DC 50 you may extend this to Medium Range, at DC 75 to Long Range, and at DC 100 you may cover up to ten miles in 3d6 rounds. You may carry others along as long as you can lift them.
  • DC 40:
    • Capstan Winch: You may catch a target within medium range that fails a reflex save and move it or them to some other location within medium range. While the location must be open, it need not offer support. If you move a living target past someone they provoke attacks of opportunity as usual You may also opt to slam a target into a solid surface for up to (Check Result) damage (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing depending on the nature of the surface) or to simply spin them in place, leaving vulnerable targets subject to the Nauseated condition for 2d4 rounds. At +20 DC you may attempt this as an immediate action against an unresisting target, allowing you to catch falling allies or move them around the battlefield.
    • Silver Cord: You may tie a spirit into it’s body, preventing it’s departure even if the body dies. This will delay actual “death” for up to (Check Result) rounds after the body takes deadly damage, and allows the body to be “healed back to life” by any healing effect applied during that time. An untriggered Silver Cord remains tied for twenty-four hours (72 hours at DC 60, one week at DC 75, and until activated at DC 100).
    • Splice Fate / Twisting The Threads (A.K.A “Witches Ladder”): You may splice and entangle the threads of fate. This allows you to Twist Fate as per Destiny Magic. At DC 40 you may produce first level effects, at DC 50 second, at DC 50 third, at DC 60 fourth, at DC 75 fifth, and at DC 100 sixth. This – as shown below – is a difficult endeavor and fraught with peril. It is best to think carefully before attempting it.
      • This option covers Marriage Knots, Curse Knots, Fertility Knots, Sterility Knots, attempts to bring good fortune, and many other types of knot-spells.

Twisting Fate:

Destiny Magic manipulates the probabilities of the future. The level of destiny magic spells depends on two basic factors: the level of effect you want and how much you want the spell to consider your desires. This can be very, VERY, dangerous. For some samples:

  • “We will have good luck in this battle”. This one is safe enough; you and your friends get some luck bonuses. You can simply use some of the appropriate spells.
  • “She will look over this way and notice me”. Also pretty safe unless you’re a wanted criminal, or a werewolf who will start her screaming or some such. People look around and notice things all the time. There probably won’t even be a save.
  • “They will drop the charges and let me out of jail in the morning”. Less safe, but unlikely to get you really hurt. One character tried this with a low-level spell; the locals concluded that he was mad – or “god-touched” – and shipped him off to an asylum where the monks would listen to his ravings in search of prophecy. This was awkward, but he WAS out of jail with the charges dropped.
  • “A diversion will come up during the trip that will give me a chance to escape”. This turned out a lot better; a diversion wasn’t unlikely and the destiny mage made it a higher level spell to avoid the diversion turning out to be a major monster attack or something and wound up with a few falling rocks, one of which knocked the transport wagon open. He then made his escape under his own power. (He didn’t even consider trying “The Daimyo will pass by along the way, recognize me as foreign but not mad, and give me an excellent job!”. THAT would call for a very high level spell indeed unless events along those lines were already in the works).
  • Thus “You will soon be badly injured” is pretty easy. “You will be hit by a runaway cart tomorrow and badly injured” is harder, but still plausible. “You will be hit and badly injured tomorrow by a runaway cart driven by your drunken son who will be crippled in the accident” is WAY up there, and may well be effectively impossible – if, say, the kid is currently several hundred miles away. Trying to force an event that unlikely into existence is also likely to have all kinds of unlikely side effects which may well endanger the caster and his or her party. Worse, it usually allows a save.
  • For an example from the more disastrous side… The party was hunting a colossal river serpent. They obtained flying steeds and attacked it at long range. The serpent promptly dove to the bottom of the river and burrowed into the mud where they could not reach it. One of the characters then tried to use first level Destiny Magic to make the serpent to come back up and fight. What was easiest? A lure. Where was he? Hovering directly over the river where the serpent was. He’d used a spell of such low level that it didn’t consider anything but what he’d asked for. Ergo… a biting bug bit his steed in a sensitive spot, he got bucked off, he landed in the river, and the serpent came back up to eat him – instigating the desired fight, but at close range rather than the desired sniping contest. He asked for a specific, and not unreasonable, event – but lacked the power to constrain his spell to more acceptable methods. A slightly higher level spell might have brought a cow by to drink and had it fall in.

If you try to directly affect someone else they get a save. So “May your bowstring break!” is simple, and not implausible (bowstrings do break) – but it allows a save, and if the save is made normal probabilities continue in their course. Of course, twisting destiny to tell an Orphan that “you will soon be adopted by a fine set of parents!” is not too likely to provoke a save, even if the easiest way to arrange that does affect the kid. He or she won’t WANT to resist that destiny.

  • DC 50:
    • Knot Of Storms: A rope master may bind storms. Such a knot may be tied to dismiss a severe weather event or untied to release one. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of the user’s control over such events. Worse, he or she must actually find such an event to bind and may maintain no more than (Cha Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) such storm knots at any one time.
    • Primacord: You may cause up to two hundred feet of rope to burn as swiftly or slowly as you wish. You may thus render it effectively fireproof, use it as a fuse or a way to transport fire, or use it as a high explosive (Equivalent to twice it’s weight in TNT ), causing this effect to activate by any one of contact, pressure, proximity, time, or chemical exposure. The effects are equal to those of an equivalent weight of C4 or twice the weight of Det Cord (See D20 Modern).
    • Splice Fate / Splice Threads Of Life: You may splice and entangle the threads of fate, Splicing threads of life into a damaged lifeline can provide up to (Check Result) points of healing at up to medium range. You may remove certain conditions by sacrificing five points of healing per condition removed. Eligible conditions include Attribute Damaged, Attribute Drained, Dazed, Dazzled, Diseased, Energy Drained, Exhausted, Fatigued, Nauseated, or Sickened. You may also extend a targets life by up to (Check Result) years.
  • DC 60:
    • Gleipnir: You may weave rope of sunlight, of music, of fire, or of other impossible substances as available. Such rope has Hardness 15, 30 HP, Break DC 35, provides a +4 bonus on your Use Rope checks, and is 100 feet long per use of this power. It will remain in existence for twenty-four hours OR until you disinvest the mana used to power this stunt, whichever is longer. While the rope will not harm you, whatever the rope is made of has its usual effects on other creatures that handle the rope or are touched by it (Vampires HATE rope made of sunlight. Most other creatures dislike rope made of high explosive).
    • Mummy Shell: You may wrap yourself in a cocoon of animated rope, gaining +50 HP, +6 Str, +6 Natural Armor, DR 5/Adamantine AND Slashing, and a pair of 2d6 Slam Attacks. If you hit with a Slam Attack you may Grab an opponent up to once size larger than you and start to strangle them. A strangled foe cannot speak or cast spells with verbal components and suffers (1d8 + Str Mod) damage per round until it breaks free.
    • Torsion Engine Knot: You may tie a complex knot that will slowly untwist to drive a shaft. Such a knot yields up to (Makers Intelligence) Horsepower for up to one hundred days, although use need not be at full power or continuous. Unfortunately, this gradually destroys the rope used.
  • DC 75:
    • Harness Beast: If you have managed to climb onto a creature that can reasonably serve you as a mount, you may use some rope to bridle it, forcing it to make a will save or do so. This is not a mind-affecting power, and so will work on creatures normally immune to such, but intelligent or undead creatures are only affected for twenty-four hours. Animals and unintelligent magical beasts make a second save after twenty-four hours are up. If they fail that save as well, they will be permanently domesticated.
    • Mindful Knot: You may tie knots that carry out programs, solve a complex set of instructions, or perform mathematical operations. For example, a knot might untie itself after a given time or when instructed to do so, move along a rope according to some schedule, slide down a rope to reveal how much weight is tied to the end, or function as a slide rule or simple computer. If you are tying knots in electrical wire or cable and have a power source, you may cause it to emulate any circuit you wish.
    • Splice Fate / Splice Life to Death: You may splice and entangle the threads of fate, Splicing threads of life into a severed lifeline is equivalent to Create Undead or – at DC 100 – Create Greater Undead. No components are required save the corpse and the casting time is a mere full round – but you are NOT in control of the undead so created other than that they will be bound to do you a major favor and two minor favors. It is wise to reserve one minor favor to request that they go away and leave you and your friends in peace henceforward.
  • DC 100:
    • Man The Lines: A rope master needs no crew to operate a sailing ship at its full capacity; the ropes and lines will do it for him – manifesting as up to (Level) Rope Golems with rope-related skills at +10
    • Puppet Strings: You may control the physical actions of any corporeal creature or object of up to Colossal size within medium range that fails a Fortitude save, causing them to act as if they were Animated Objects subject to your control. They may take mental actions normally however. Sadly, you may control no more than (Dex Mod, 1 Minimum) such targets at any one time, controlling them is a swift action each round, and the maximum duration of control is 2d4 rounds for creatures or 1d4+1 hours for objects.
    • Ropework Automaton: You may add assorted ropes and pulleys, a Torsion Engine Knot, and a Mindful Knot to an articulated framework to create Ropework Automatons that function similarly to Animated Objects. Such constructs gain an additional (Int Mod +2, 2 Minimum) Construction Points and cost 100 GP per hit die to build. Unfortunately, they require adjustment, tinkering, maintenance, and replacement of their Torsion Engine on a regular basis – and while smaller constructs may be less actual work, they require more finesse. The user may maintain no more than (Dex Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) such automatons at any one time.

Epic Stunts:

  • Tie Rope Golem (Level Seven, DC 38): You may tie a knot that will immediately grow into a Rope Golem that will serve you for the next twenty-four hours.
  • Grandiose Snare (Level 8, DC 42): As a free action you may entangle one Small or smaller target per level (a Medium target counts as two Small or smaller targets, a Large target as four, a Huge target as eight, a Gargantuan target as 16, and a Colossal target as 32) within medium range. Those who fail a reflex save are entangled for 2d4 rounds, after which the constantly-regenerating ropes fall away.
  • Regenerate Rope (Level 9, DC 46): All of your ropes regain 5 hit points per turn for the rest of the day unless destroyed by fire or disintegration.
  • Weave Of Winds (Level 10, DC 50): You learn to instantly spin nothingness into rope, and will never run short of the equivalent of hemp, silk, or spider-silk rope. Sadly, such rope fades away again in one week and is obviously only quasi-real, and hence unsalable. Worse, it may not be improved by Rope Care.
  • Entangle Threads (Level 11, DC 54): You may create Mystic Links between people, places, and things, up to a maximum of (Charisma +2) CP worth. While you may drop such links at any time, they will otherwise remain for a year and a day.
  • Whip Swarm (Level 12, DC 58): You may summon forth a dozen floating whips, as per Feather Token: Whip.
  • Lasso Defense (Level 13, DC 62): You may spend an immediate action to ensnare and redirect an incoming bject or ranged attack which is going to hit someone or some area within short range. You may redirect falling items, vehicles, and missiles of up to gargantuan size, spells of up to level six, toxic clouds, breath weapons, and similar items as long as they have a physical manifestation. You could catch an incoming Fireball (a streaking ball of flame that explodes), but not a Charm Person spell. Fortunately, in d20, all elemental attacks have physical manifestations.
  • Noose Of The Executioner (Level 14, DC 66) Every non-ally within medium range will be yanked twenty feet into the air by a noose around their neck or necks. This does not harm diminutive or tiny creatures. Small creatures take 2d6 damage, from this, medium creatures 4d6, large 6d6, huge 8d6, Gargantuan 10d6, and Colossal 12d6. Larger creatures take 14d6 damage, but cannot be so suspended. Regardless of size, all targets are Entangled, and cannot speak or cast spells with verbal components. Victims can break (DC 32), escape (make an Escape Artist check at +10 against the casting check), or cut (AC 15, Hardness 5, 20 HP) the rope. Victims who fail to get away suffer half the initial damage each round until they do or until the effects one-minute duration expires.
  • Spellbinding Knot (Level 15, DC 70): You may tie a knot that renders a spell effect of up to level six within close range permanent until it is either dispelled, broken in some other fashion, or the knot is found and untied (an opposed check. If it is cut or destroyed otherwise the permanent spell is not affected).
  • Bridge Of Clouds (Level 16, DC 74): This narrow rope-and-plank bridge can be called forth wherever there is a great drop – from the peak of a mountain, from the edge of a great chasm, or some similar spot. The far end cannot be seen, but is obviously a great distance away. The bridge itself will often appear more than a little unsafe. Those who venture forth will find themselves traveling through a white mist, with no apparent features for a time that cannot be measured. Those who persevere will find themselves emerging in some reasonably well-concealed spot in whatever realm the caster sought – whether that is a distant world, an outer plane, or a realm of myths. Anyone who falls or jumps from the bridge will fall onto a random plane or world. Once called into being, a Bridge Of Clouds is permanent unless assailed by some epic force.
  • Splice Lifeline (Level 18, DC 82): You may use this effect on behalf of others or after you die yourself to transfer a willing soul and consciousness into a new body – normally one that has been recently killed in the case of material beings, usually one that has been newly created in the case of outsiders. You must give up enough of your current abilities to purchase the new forms abilities; if you cannot afford to do so, the reincarnation fails. You awaken Fatigued and down half your (new) hit points. You do, however, enjoy a free choice of forms; if you want to come back as an adult dragon, and can afford to pay for it, then so you do. Your new form may be in a problematic situation when you awaken, but it will never be in immanent danger of death; you will always be able to survive and escape pretty much unharmed if you behave sensibly.
  • The Fisher King (Level 19, DC 86): You may cast a net into the planes beyond, seeking what you will. You may draw forth any creature or group of creatures that could be Summoned by a spell of level nine or less to serve you for a day, a permanent item worth up to 75,000 GP that you can use for a week, or a selection of minor minions (cooks, ordinary guards, etc), supplies, and simple structures that will keep you eminently comfortable for up to a year. Alternatively, you may perform a True Resurrection on up to (Check Result) levels of individuals.
  • Bind The Cataclysm (Level 20, DC 90): You may bind a catastrophe – a supervolcanic eruption, incoming solar flare or major asteroid strike, gargantuan earthquake, or similar disaster of vast scale in a knot. If and when you wish to let it out and direct it at a target you may untie the knot. Sadly, no one caster can bind more than three Cataclysms at a time.
  • Bind Nature (Level 21, DC 94): You may bind the divine forces of nature into knots, duplicating Druidical spells when they are unknotted. Each such knot takes an hour to tie, no more than three may be tied per day, and no more than thrice three may be maintained at any one time – but each such knot can duplicate a Druidical spell of up to level seven – although any expensive material components must be supplied when the knot is tied or removed by using a higher-level spell. Untying such a knot is a full-round action. Such knots can be used by others, but this does not bypass the limit of nine maintained knots at a time.
  • The Labyrinth Of Creation (Level 22, DC 98): You may toss out a tangled length of string or cord to any location within sixty feet. Those within thirty feet of where it lands may attempt a reflex save to avoid winding up deep inside the mighty dimensional labyrinth which will spring up, forcing other structures and folk aside as it rapidly grows. While this is not inescapable, it is a many-leveled megadungeon, will remain for a year and a day, and will tend to draw those who come too close – or who attempt to follow a trail that passes through the area it now covers – within for many desperate adventures. Targets may well survive, and may emerge more powerful than before, but nothing short of a Wish, Miracle, Gate, or other effects of similar potency will get them out in less than a week or two. Mere teleportion, plane shifting, and similar tricks will merely be diverted within the coils of the labyrinth.
  • Knot Of Time (Level 23, DC 102): You may loop time back upon itself, knotting its flow to place a great area into stasis. While this solves nothing, and nothing can affect whatever is in the out of time area, this does allow the user to put evils in a can, to preserve imperiled realms for a better time, to seal away dark kingdoms, and to stop hordes of demons and such. The effect is not subject to spell resistance, or antimagic, or local counterspelling. If the caster includes himself or herself in the area, the effect will last until conditions are suitable for it to end – whether that takes a week or a half a million years. If the caster remains outside the area, it will remain bound until whatever conditions the caster sets are apply, until the knot is untied (or falls to dust), or until the caster uninvests the mana used to perform this feat.
  • Summon Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka, The One That Formless Binds, The Writhing Entwinement (Level 24, DC 106): You summon forth an aspect of an Elder One, a twisting mass of ropelike fibers that exists in far too many dimensions to comprehend. Things get very weird across the local solar system or equivalent. Portals open as dimensions are linked together, creatures find themselves abruptly married to other creatures for no apparent reason, things that were once bound are loosed, and things previously free are bound. Eventually someone casts this spell backwards, or finds some other way to get Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka to go away (usually requiring either some epic quest or accepting permanent madness to allow one to communicate enough to ask it politely), or it simply goes away on its own and the world stabilizes. The caster does get some input into how the world is transformed, but this is more or less “I wish!” directed at an entity that does not understand reality at all. Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka probably isn’t hostile – after all, it helped make this particular flower arrangement universe – but if it was, and there was some way to tell the difference, it would presumably be bad somehow.
    • Invariably someone will want to find a way to kill Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka. I can’t think of anything, if only because it exists in a lot more dimensions of time than we do – but if someone insists, then fine. Binding forces have never existed, nor has the universe in any form that human beings are capable of comprehending. Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka vetoed that set of plans back at the beginning, and introduced another variant of his aspect into the universe that was made instead of this one.

Rope and knot magic have traditionally been considered fast and powerful magic simply because rope itself is such a fundamental thing, a tool with a myriad uses. It’s only human to assume that working magic with rope – literally Spellbinding – shares that same power and versatility. Thus Babylonian witches were said to capture souls in knots, ancient Greeks and Egyptians attempted to work love-spells, bind marriages, and heal with knots (the marriage-knot or knot of Hercules originated here, eventually becoming a protective charm associated with fertility and new life), sailors in many lands attempted to control the winds with knots. The Knot Of Isis was wound into shrouds in an attempt to summon the protection of Isis and Horus for the deceased’s journey to the next world. In Rome knot-curses were used to cause everything from impotence to a lingering death while other knots bound demons and vampires. Ancient priests wore knotted fringes to ensnare evil spirits and the Koran speaks of Mohammed being nearly slain by a curse from a knotted cord. In African traditions knots can bind others to your will. In more modern times we have Witches Ladders and spells worked though tying knots, They function as magic snares, invoke gods, and bind the energies of nature to your will. Like most other truly ancient skills… the use of rope is wound around with legend and magic.

Eclipse, D20, And Hereditary Templates

And for today it’s another question – in this case referring back to the Epic Survival Stunt of “Dynastic Founder” (Level 18, DC 82: All of your descendants for three generations will inherit a +2 ECL Template of your choice. The effect will start to fade thereafter unless they use magic to choose matches who will maintain the bloodline, but occasional throwbacks will occur for many centuries to come) – along with Channeling / Planar Bonds Path / Inner Light/Darkness / Legacy and Dominion / The Way of Valor / Epic Heroism, (both in Eclipse) and the Legacy spell (Paths of Power), among others which do things to your descendants.

That makes me wonder what exactly makes a template inheritable… Ordinary races are obviously inheritable, but I’m unsure if pseudo-races like the ‘action hero’ or ‘storm lord’ templates are.

As an expansion on that, the ‘Dynastic Founder’ ability seems to do nothing unless you have a lot of kids, assuming there isn’t any special interaction with the child rearing psuedo-leadership ability, since you could simply assign your children a +2 ECL template and say that it’s an inherited mystical trait that you picked up, possibly making it inheritable, and making so there is no difference in the first generation.

A few of those spells I check in the basic ‘paths of power’ document using control-f, and I wasn’t able to find them.


Well, quickest note first, the spells referenced can be found in the rest of the Paths Of Power sequence – either Monstrous Paths or The Complete Paths Of Power (print). As for the rest…

The inheritability of Templates is a bit tricky, if only because “having kids” is not normally a major consideration in d20 games – and thus neither WOTC nor Paizo have ever really covered it very well.

  • In 3.0 (Savage Species) there was a rule for inheritable templates – half-elementals and such – that was pretty simple. It stated that such templates were passed on undiminished. You could have any number of “half-whatever” templates stacked onto your character, limited only by what the game master said the ECL of the characters was going to be.

Of course, that led to obvious absurdities. Dragons breed with any living, corporeal, creature. Go back a mere six hundred years, and your family tree (at least presuming that you are of Northern European descent or have ancestors from anywhere along the silk road) will include pretty much everyone in Europe who had kids. Is your setting a few thousand years old? Then under this rule, everyone in your world will have the half-dragon template ten times (because each primary type of dragon is an independent template) as well as pretty much every other remotely compatible half-(whatever) template out there.

This pretty obviously doesn’t work, however convenient it was for character-optimizers who wanted to stack six different templates so as to construct an all-powerful (and generally quite unplayable) character

  • The 3.5 SRD updated that with a single line: “A templated creature can represent a freak of nature, the individual creation of a single experiment, or the first generation of offspring from parents of different species. (Note that d20’s use of the word “species” obviously has nothing to do with biology: in biology, creatures of two different species normally cannot interbreed).

“First generation”. That’s actually extremely restrictive. If a Dragon and a Demon had a kid, you could create a dragon with a half-fiend template (or possibly a fiend with a half-dragon template if the game master thought that there was such a thing as a young fiend), but if the dragon with a half-fiend template had kids… they were standard dragons or half-dragons of the other parents type. You could give them a Fiendish Bloodline (bloodlines were introduced later and were never more than semi-official to begin with) if you wished – but that was it.

Acquired templates (with the exception of disease templates) were never inherited – although, if they changed a characters “Species” (say to “Vampire”), a kid might get a half-vampire inherited template.

A lot of game masters didn’t bother enforcing that – but it does seem to be what the rules say.

There are some other “Inherited” templates though, so we’ll need to look at those too. Looking through a handy 3.5 Template Index…

  1. Denizen and Inherited “Underground Creature” Templates are a quick way to represent plane- or location- specific species that are otherwise broadly similar to standard creatures. You don’t really stack or acquire them, it’s just that Fire Spiders, Fire Dogs, and Fire Lions are made of fire and all share some obvious characteristics – and that creating a “Template” is a lot shorter than writing a modified block for every monster.
  2. Lycanthropy is its own unique case, in that it’s always an acquired template – but it can infect a child before birth, and they’ll be better adjusted to it. It only affects Humanoids and Giants though, so if you throw in a template that changes that it presumably ceases to apply. In any case, this falls under the “specific exceptions in individual descriptions” rule.
  3. Spellwarped (MMIII) is inherited – but it’s another “artificial species” template – rather like the (semi-official) Environmental Racial Variants from Unearthed Arcana. It, notably, can be added to any corporeal aberration, animal, dragon, fey, giant, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, plant, or vermin – leaving out the most common player character races. I’d guess that the children of two spellwarped creatures are also spellwarped, but the template doesn’t actually say. Given that it automatically drives the character insane about all we can say is that it’s a very poor choice for a player character.
  4. There are some “special breeding” templates for animals, but they really don’t seem relevant.

So that’s where it stands in 3.5: half-(whatever) templates are acquired from having two dissimilar parents and you get acquired templates from special events, but (with the sole apparent applicable exception being Lycanthropy), templates are not passed on to grandchildren. You could be born a half-something lycanthrope, but that’s about it. Of course, you may then acquire as many templates as you can manage, but now we’re in “talk with the game master” territory.

  • Pathfinder, of course, “discarded” the widely disliked ECL system – but never has worked out a good way to deal with player characters with templates or playing with a mixed party of monsters and normal player-character races. Thus Pathfinder Society simply disallows it, while the official “rules” say to treat CR as character level (fudging as needed since they admit that this is a spot where the rules are unreliable), and let them gain extra levels equal to 1/2 their CR on the way to level twenty since Challenge Rating doesn’t scale well – which is just a backdoor way of shoving both ECL (since CR is not necessarily based on the number of hit dice) and ECL buyoff / reduction back into the game without actually saying so. Thus Pathfinder’s solution to player characters with templates is basically “just say no”. Given that this does not actually answer the question of “how to handle them”, we’re pretty much stuck with the 3.5 version.

So, since Pathfinder never updated that rule, the general rule is that Inherited Templates (with the major exception of lycanthropy) only occur when the two parents are different “species” (A and B) and always come in the form of a “half-(A) template applied to base species (B). (I usually go with the mother determining the base species, but that’s just me).

  • Eclipse, of course, just lets you buy powers – with the only real change between a “level” and a “template level” being that the template level provides 32 CP instead of 24, but doesn’t include a free (d4 hit die + Con Mod) hit points or (Int Mod) skill points. It also lets you build up “species” abilities, so it doesn’t normally have a problem with ECL’s, ECL buyoff / reduction, playing characters with templates, or acquiring templates. Do you want to play a Half-Celestial at level one? Just start buying the powers and you’re a half-celestial, even if you haven’t fully developed your abilities as one yet. Since Eclipse generally doesn’t need to make a distinction, the point is usually moot.

The fun part of the various dynastic spells and effects is that they make a certain amount of power inheritable. In some cases you can simply grant your kids a template whether or not you have it (Dominion makes this possible), in others your kids and their descendants can get a certain amount of free power for generations to come. It doesn’t, however, cost any of the kids character points. Your descendants become an important and powerful people family because you have granted them importance and power right from early childhood.

I suppose you could thereby make a backstory claiming that your character is one of the one-in-ten-million kids who got a free template from their grandfather the mighty mage or something – but that’s no more or less valid than a character who wants to inherit 50,000 GP worth of magic items and a pet dragon because of his or her backstory. The game master may allow it, but if so he or she is probably going to be giving everyone some astounding freebie and the Template is just the one you happened to get.

And I hope that helps!

Skill Stunts And Epic Skill Stunts X – Survival

Survival is, arguably, the second oldest skill of all – predated only by Perception. After all, at the most basic level… Survival begins as little more than a tropism coupled with some ability to move around. An amoeba finds some digestible molecules and oozes towards the highest concentration of them – and presumably a source of food. A single-celled Euglena detects light and propels itself towards it, enhancing its photosynthesis (although it can also eat). In its way the Survival Skill predates multicellular life. Admittedly, it’s not a very sophisticated version of the skill (in game terms, it’s at a +0 bonus and probably an attribute penalty) – but it’s still a fair chance at doing the right thing before settling for random chance.

It’s also one of the broadest of all skills. It allows you to locate the resources you need to live in environments that would not normally support you, to understand, predict, and evade the dangers of such environments, and to build up resources from those environments. Secondarily, it covers navigation, tracking, raising children in a hostile world (“group survival”), building shelters, and exploiting the natural magic of the environment. For creatures of Intelligence Zero or One it also covers finding a mate, but more complex social behaviors take over in creatures of higher intelligence.

Finally, of course, it’s an archetype all by itself. A Knight, a Wizard, a Rogue, a Shaman, a Cleric… all have a complex array of skills and abilities – but what other skill pretty much defines an entire lifestyle and set of genres? Primitive tribes, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Burt Gummer, pretty much EVERY “survival horror” setting… all focused on THIS. It’s true that “I will live!” is a pretty basic drive – after all, it has to be or people would be extinct by now – but can you think of another skill that pretty much defines multiple genres?

  • Note that many benefits of this skill can be extended to companions, although each companion so aided increases the DC by +2.
  • In general, you can use Survival at a -10 penalty in place of Knowledge/Nature or Use Rope – but only for mundane purposes.
  • The format here is a bit different. Survival simply has too many applications to list them all separately. Ergo, they’re split into general categories.
  • Remember that these are mana-powered supernatural abilities, not simply feats of skill.

Sample Stunts for Survival:

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Harvesting: You may find and harvest common herbs and plants – taking appropriate precautions with those which are dangerous to handle. You may also identify toxic and dangerous plants and fungi.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may recognize animal dens, animal-created traps (ant lion pits, giant spider webs, trapdoor spider pits, etc), blatant natural hazards, wild magic zones, and cursed regions. In general, you get a free roll to spot such things before getting into them.
    • Pathfinding: You may select the more commonly used trails, leave readable trail signs to communicate basic information, and follow oddly marked trails (including the increasing traces of material that indicate routes to cave exits). You may avoid becoming lost on land.
    • Survival: You may obtain food, water, shelter, and basic personal supplies in cities without spending money. This is also the DC to find food and water in the wilderness, but finding shelter or clothing there is a bit trickier (+5 DC). You may also attempt to camouflage items and positions, inflicting a (Check Result / 2, rounded up) penalty on attempts to spot or otherwise locate them.
    • Talking The Talk: You may impress people with your skills. At DC 15 you may make a basic living as a survival lecturer or writer.
    • Tracking: You may follow unconcealed simple tracks under good conditions and can get a rough estimate of the age of the tracks and the number of individuals being tracked (See the system reference document for more details).
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Hazard Recognition: Basic weather prediction, flash flood risks, tidal bores, riptides, low oxygen levels, forest fires, explosive vapors or dusts, toxic fumes, quicksand, supernatural weather events, and similar items. Your check comes before the hazard takes effect and usually results in a chance to evade the hazard or a +2 on relevant checks and saves if that is not possible.
    • Improvise Gear: You can quickly devise protective clothing or gear up to an equivalent value of (5 + Check Result) GP, including swarm suits, basic armor, filter masks, vermin repellent, cold weather gear, and similar items.
    • Pathfinding: You may navigate in the wilderness or at sea without becoming lost. On land you may opt to conceal your trail and that of up to (Cha Mod +1, 1 Minimum) additional companions, penalizing attempts to track you. You may also leave more complicated trail markers to communicate facts about the trail.
    • Survival: You may remain warm or cool, or improvise a fairly secure camp, in the wilderness. You may also effectively remove or evade vermin such as leeches, army ants, and similar creatures and identify dangerous and/or toxic animals. You can also start fires under difficult conditions, build an effective cooking fire and keep it from spreading, construct basic shelters, and otherwise be a well-trained boy scout.
    • Tracking: You may recognize what planes or deities an item or place is linked to or determine your current location. If you happen to be a ghost or astral projection, you can determine both your spirits current location and that of your body.
    • Walking The Walk: As a man of the wilds, you need no longer worry about basic living expenses. Your casual activities as a trapper, gatherer, collector of herbs, and similar can be expected to provide for your needs wherever you may settle without placing further burdens on you.
  • DC 20:
    • Create Trap: You may spend half an hour to assemble a basic trap – swinging logs, spiked pits, punji sticks, snares, deadfalls, etc – from found materials. These only affect a single target or square however.
    • Harvesting: You may locate uncommon or highly dangerous plants and herbs (provided that they occur in the area) and correctly harvest them, as well as gather meat, hides, poisons, and other products from dead animals. You may also obtain honey or similar products without serious harm.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may roll to get a warning from the game master about upcoming natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, avalanches, and similar problems. Oddly, creatures of Int 2 or less can do this at DC 15 without a stunt.
    • Improvise Gear: You may pack efficiently, increasing your effective Strength score by 8 when calculating your carrying capacity. This does not stack with Muleback Cords.
    • Pathfinding: Swift Trails. Your overland travel rate increases by 50%. At DC 30 it doubles, at DC 40 it triples, at DC 50 it’s x4, at DC 60 it’s x5, at DC 75 it’s x10, and at DC 100 any given trip on the same land mass is completed after a brief travel montage. +2 DC per additional character taken along. You may also mark a trail so that it communicates some message or emotional impression to those who travel it.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Enhance Herb or Spirit Call (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may hold your breath for up to (Con Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Minutes or cause a bleeding wound to clot. You may ignore the effects of natural weather (similar to Endure Elements) for up to an hour (twenty-four hours at DC 25, for up to a week at DC 30). You may also construct log cabins and other intermediate structures.
  • DC 25:
    • Create Trap: When defending an area you may spend an hour to arrange (Int Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Basic Traps (as above). You need not, however, specify where they are until you want them to go off.
    • Improvise Gear: On The Woad Again. You may apply war paint, tattoos, or scars to yourself that grant a +3 Armor Bonus, increasing to +4 at DC 40, +5 at DC 60, and +6 at DC 100. Tattoos and scars can be enchanted further like any other armor. This will, however, cause most people to consider you a barbarian, savage, or primitive and gives away your ethnicity, culture of origin, and profession. If tattoos or scars are further enchanted opponents may make a Spellcraft check to determine the nature of those enchantments.
    • Pathfinding: You may find safe trails, reducing the chance of encountering a creature or natural hazard by 50%. At DC 40 this reduces the chance by 75% and at DC 75 by 90%. Cursed areas increase the DC by +10/+20/+30 for Minor/Notable/Major curses however.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Summon Fetch or Channel Nexus (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may hold your breath for up to (Con + 2, 5 Minimum) minutes, go into deep hibernation to survive being frozen solid, sleep for up to a month with no physical requirements, resist the need to sleep for a day, or go up to a week without food or water with no ill effects. If you die anyway, you may haunt your personal belongings and remains as a Spirit.
    • Tracking: You may identify creature types by logically insufficient traces, track without penalty while moving at full speed, and accurately determine the number of creatures being tracked and how fast they were traveling.
  • DC 30:
    • Hazard Recognition: You may determine what type of plants and creatures are likely to be present in an area and how large a population it might support. You may also predict what damage a natural disaster or storm will do, such as where lightning is going to strike or what areas will be swallowed up by crevasses or flooded.
    • Pathfinding: Swift Sailing. Your seafaring travel rate increases by 50%. At DC 40 it doubles, at DC 50 it triples, at DC 60 it’s x4, at DC 75 it’s x5, and at DC 100 any given trip on the same body of water is completed after a brief travel montage. This also applies to travel by vehicles designed for air or space travel.
    • Planar Adaption: You may draw on the natural energies of a plane to adapt yourself for comfortable survival under the planes base conditions for (Con Mod +1, 1 Minimum) days. Sadly, applying this to additional creatures increases the DC by +10 per additional creature instead of +2.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Spirit Of Place or Tap Conjunction (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may obtain food, water, and shelter from the elements while traveling at full speed, as well as gaining (Wis Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) chances to harvest herbs or other materials along the way. Your campsites are protected by the equivalent of the Hide Campsite spell.
    • Tracking: You may trace a magical link such as a scrying sensor, determining it’s place of origin and the magical signature of the creature that created it. You may also determine if an area is linked to a land-ruler, is someone or somethings magical domain, or is otherwise claimed by some supernatural force.
  • DC 35:
    • Harvesting: You may harvest rare resources of the land, such as dyes, exotic fruits, surface and placer deposits of gems and precious metals, fine furs, and similar items. While finding a buyer may be additional work, you may expect to make (Check Result) silver pieces with a few hours of work.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may immediately determine the threat level and general attack routine of any creature you can get a look at. If you are operating from an audiovisual recording the DC increases to 40, a picture or detailed description increases the DC to 50, and working from rumors and general information increases the DC to 75.
    • Improvise Gear: You may improvise a dose of any alchemical Balm, Medicine, Tonic. Herb, or Plant worth up to 50 GP or up to a total of (Check Result + 5) GP worth of such materials. These are, however, of no use to anyone else and will only remain potent for twenty-four hours. Given a day in the wilds you will be equipped with a spear, staff, and club, in two days you will also have some javelins and an atlatl if you want one, and in three you will also have a longbow and arrows – all crude, but functional.
    • Pathfinding: Traceless Passage. You leave no traces of your passage, making conventional tracking impossible without supernatural aid.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Warlock Pact or Focus The Land (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may ignore environmental penalties to movement, including those for being underwater, for steep slopes, for difficult terrain or overgrown, and similar. You may also attempt to panic the local wildlife in a radius of (Charisma x 10) feet, although a Will save applies. You may roll Survival instead of a Fortitude Save against poison or disease.
  • DC 40:
    • City Founder: You may select a good site to found a city – choosing a defensible location with access to water, better than average resources, on a likely trade route, or whatever. The spot you pick will prove to have two Foundations. At DC 60 it will prove to have three, at DC 75 it will have four, and at DC 100 it will prove to have five or more.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may subtly position up to (Cha Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) targets so that they will be exposed to the effects of some ongoing disturbance, such as being caught up in a riot or stampede or being struck by lightning.
    • Pathfinding: You may find a trail leading to another plane, although there are likely to be three encounters along the way. You may also determine the direction to a given destination, whether or not you have ever been there.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Great Oathbinding or Celestial Rune (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may construct a Sturdy Tree Fort or equivalent as a campsite. In an emergency you can add a +4 Alchemical Bonus to one or more of your Strength, Constitution, or Dexterity for 3d6 rounds, but this causes you 2d6 damage per attribute so enhanced after it wears off. You may remove or expel parasites through various unpleasant home remedies.
    • Tracking: You may Track creatures through teleportation, plane shifts, and gates. You may also track vehicles and those using extraordinary means to conceal their tracks.
  • DC 50:
    • Create Trap: Given an hour to prepare a location you may arrange (Int Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Major Traps – piles of rolling logs or small avalanches, deep pits with spikes or wild animals, and similar items – each of them capable of affecting a modest area. You need not, however, specify where they are until you want them to do off.
    • Child Raising: You are considered to have the Leadership (Eclipse) ability, but only to raise the level of your and your friends children. This is independent of any other Leadership abilities that you may have.
    • Harvesting: You may spend a day to locate or create a personal Charm (as per The Practical Enchanter) and may use up to seven Charms even if the setting does not normally support them. At DC 75 you may similarly locate or create personal Talismans (also as per The Practical Enchanter) and use up to three of them even if the setting does not normally support them.
    • Pathfinding: Mass Guidance. For the next twenty-four hours you may extend the benefits of your Survival skills to up to (Charisma x 10) individuals without penalty.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Forest Pact or Distillation (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You can render yourself immune to a specific toxin, to the heat and fumes of traveling through a volcanic landscape, or even to drowning. This does require a minute of preparation, but lasts a full day once invoked.
  • DC 60:
    • Hazard Recognition: You may evaluate an area to gain a detailed evaluation of the plants and creatures there, their general population, and the lands basic resources.
    • Pathfinding: You may find a trail leading between settings and worlds at intergalactic ranges that can be traversed in days to weeks. Such trails are often, however, difficult, dangerous, and present major environmental hazards.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Spirit Of The Beast or Circle Of Power (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may survive in areas without breathable atmospheres, including space, find food and water on barren asteroids, and construct necessary survival systems, such as airlocks and air-tight shelters. You may automatically succeed on all weather-related saves for twenty-four hours.
    • Weather Witching: You may predict weather and – as long as it isn’t completely absurd – have it come to pass over the next few days.
    • Tracking: You may extract unnerving amounts of information while tracking, determining things like a starship engines type and fuel efficiency, the weight and likely general contents of a wagon, exactly what happened during a fight, and similar items, verging on postcognition.
  • DC 75:
    • Colony Founder: You may show a settlement how to survive in a normally impossible area, such as on an asteroid, in the depths of the ocean, on the surface of Venus, floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter, or similar.
    • Harvesting: You may harvest small tokens in which magic has become temporarily trapped. You may hold tokens containing a maximum of 12 total levels of spells at any one time, may refresh your collection once per day, and may only stabilize tokens containing spells of level two or less enough to collect. One half of the spell levels harvested in any one day are determined by the one using this ability, the other half are determined by the game master. Such spells are released as if they were use-activated at an effective caster level equal to the user’s level. At DC 100 the limit on the effects increases to level three.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may take advantage of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, tidal wave, tornado, forest fire, or major storm, that you “saw coming”. While the worst effects are relatively localized – covering a small town at the maximum – this can still bring down walls and ceilings, damage castles and towers, wash away squads of soldiers, cause avalanches, and otherwise do a great deal of damage. The disaster will arrive 1d3 rounds after you decide to “predict it”.
    • Pathfinding: You may find a trail leading between game systems. Anyone following it will be automatically “translated” into the new system upon arrival. The time required is unknown, since travelers on such journeys invariably travel at the speed of plot. You may also find trails across water, allowing you to Water Walk.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Spirit Quest or Gates Of Myriddin (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: Personal Evolution. You may spend a day to acquire (Con) character points worth of physical, survival-related, enhancements, maintaining them until you change them again. You might thus purchase Immunity to Aging, or Water-Breathing, or increased Strength, or any of many, MANY, other abilities.
  • DC 100:
    • Create Trap: Given an hour to prepare a location you may arrange (Int Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Grandiose Traps – pits dropping victims into magma or dangerous underground labyrinths, gargantuan falling rocks, massive gas explosions, and similar events. Each can affect up to a 30′ radius. You need not specify where they are until you want them to do off.
    • Pathfinding: You may find a trail leading across both time and space. You may also find trails through the air, allowing you to Wind Walk or walk on clouds.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Greater Pact or Planar Invocation (Paths Of Power).
    • Second Breath: Once per week you gain the benefits of a Revivify Spell immediately followed by the benefits of a Heal spell when the player feels that it is necessary. Both have an effective caster level equal to the user’s level.
    • Survival: You may survive and function in any consistent environment, including the hearts of stars, on the surface of neutron stars, and in similar impossible environments – although this may require some instant evolution. This takes a little time, so it can be treated as Returning with Rewrite (Eclipse). Your campsites cannot be located by anything incapable of dimensional travel.
    • Worldfounder: You may establish a colony in a normally impossible area, such as on an asteroid, in the depths of the ocean, on the surface of Venus, floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter, or similar and provide it with up to four Foundations.

Epic Skill Stunts:

  • Beastspeech (Spell Level 8, DC 42): This is a perpetual effect, but is otherwise equivalent to Speak With Animals.
  • Caravan (Spell Level 9. DC 46): You may extend the benefits of your survival skill to groups ten times as large as usual for the next twenty-four hours. The Level 15 Grand Caravan variant covers a group fifty times the usual size.
  • The Sensuous Lion (Spell Level 10, DC 50): For the next week you live a life of luxury, with many (if possibly primitive) comforts, plenty to eat and drink, expert services, and compliant sexual partners. You and up to a dozen others you opt to include will be completely refreshed and healed when the spell expires.
  • Life Leech (Spell Level 11, DC 54): You may target up to (Level) targets within medium range with a ranged touch attack. Each target “hit” suffers 12d6 damage. Such damage is applied to any wounds you currently suffer from as healing, once you have no wounds they provide temporary hit points up to a limit of 120 temporary hit points. The healing is permanent, but any remaining temporary hit points vanish after twenty-four hours.
  • Grand Hunt (Level 12, DC 58): You may lead a group of up to (Cha Mod x 100) people in a three-day hunter-gatherer outing to automatically acquire enough food and supplies to last them for 3d6 months.
  • Hardship Surviving Spirit (Level 13, DC 62): As per Universal Energy Protection (Mass) (The Practical Enchanter), but with a duration of one hour/level and Universal Energy Resistance (also from The Practical Enchanter) 30 – which applies before the limited protective function is depleted.
  • Invictus (Level 14, DC 66): When you or a companion dies, you may automatically cast this spell (if you have any slots left) to send them to an afterlife of your choice – including a new incarnation as a level-appropriate creature.
  • Evolutionary Adaption (Level 15, DC 70): A target group (up to the size of a small city) of a species will swiftly adapt to a radically altered or new environment. For example, a herd of horses being overwhelmed by the sea might spontaneously evolve into sea creatures.
  • Find The Lost World (Level 16, DC 74): You may locate (or call into existence) a hidden realm, ancient plateau, cavern complex, pocket dimension, or similar location. It’s general description, and where entry can be found, is up to you, but the details are up to the game master. Also known as “summon adventure”.
  • Set Hearthfire (Level 17, DC 78): You may ignite a blazing pillar of flame, suitable for providing heat, light, power, smelting services, hot water, cooking fires, and similar services for an entire city. It will burn for one hundred years. If you choose to sacrifice the slot for one year, it will burn for a thousand years. If you sacrifice the slot permanently, the flame will burn eternally. The residents can sacrifice spells and valuables to the flame occasionally to keep it going as well.
  • Dynastic Founder (Level 18, DC 82): All of your descendants for three generations will inherit a +2 ECL Template of your choice. The effect will start to fade thereafter unless they use magic to choose matches who will maintain the bloodline, but occasional throwbacks will occur for many centuries to come.
  • Gathering (Research Level 19, DC 86): You may gather natural resources from extreme range in refined and processed form. You may collect rare woods, extract metals from ore or veins, pull gems or crystals from the earth, pull perfume from flowers, quarry useful stone, or extract other resources. Sadly, this only works on unrefined and unclaimed or loosely claimed resources; a wild jungle that is loosely claimed by an absentee landlord is fair game; a cultivated or mined area is not. In general, this will get you up to 20,000 GP worth of raw materials. After all, if you are tossing around epic stunts like this and are still scrambling for gold pieces, something is very, very, wrong.
  • Eternal Freedom (Level 20, DC 90): You (only) enjoy perpetual Freedom Of Movement.
  • Planetary Adaption (Level 21, DC 94): The biosphere of a target world can adapt to a radical change in it’s environment. If a nearby supernova has turned the place radioactive, the creatures there can adapt to it. Or to a thinning atmosphere, or rising temperatures, or a sudden overlap with the negative energy plane, or a plague of wraiths, or whatever.

Survival is pretty fundamental – and in a world of magic involves quite a lot of magic in its own right. As such… it’s Stunts are quite powerful and flexible. If you drop a true master of survival in the wilds naked… you can expect him or her to soon live in a well-fortified redoubt, equipped with primitive but effective weapons, with stockpiles of food and water, and defended by an array of deadly traps and harvested magic – if he or she did not decide to simply go home. Given a little more time there will soon be a thriving colony.

So don’t upset the survivalists, OK? You don’t want Burt on your tail.