Shadowed Galaxy – Second Stage Vampire Template

Second Stage Vampire (Acquired Template, +32 CP / +1 ECL, requires First Stage Vampire):

The trouble with the Second Stage Vampire template is that – at least for any individual Vampire Core – either a good deal of it isn’t working any longer or there were different designs in the first place. While it is possible for a Vampire to upgrade – either being granted or absorbing a missing subfunction of -functions from another Vampire or Vampire Core – this can cause serious programming conflicts, strange power malfunctions, and even temporary (or permanent) madness.

In any case, a when one Vampire creates a new one, the new one gets its sire’s version. Of course, mutations can occur, and be passed on – meaning that various competing evolutionary lines of the basic template exist across the galaxy. Fortunately for other life forms, however, Vampire evolution tends to be a bit slow.

Temporal Selection: The flow of time charts the course of entropy cascading towards timelike infinity. But where energy vanishes, entropy flows briefly backwards, where it appears, it may spin into a whirlpool of closed loops, the future echoing into the past. And anchored as they are in the steady flow of time in the middle realms, a Vampire may extend it’s reach into subspace and find a handful of moments and echoes out of time to turn to it’s own purposes.

  • Adept (Bullet Time, Logistics, Networking, and Tough It Out), Specialized for Double Effect / only applies to Racial Bonuses (6 CP). Skill Boosts: Bullet Time +10 (2 CP), Logistics +10 (2 CP), Networking +10 (2 CP), and Tough It Out +10 (2 CP).
    • So far, this seems to be a foundational ability; appearing in every second stage vampire as yet observed.

Entropic Scrutiny (Witchcraft, The Secret Order, 6 CP). The second-stage Vampire Template builds on whatever affinity the user / victim has for informational effects. This seems to be a basic requirement (minimum of class D); creatures with no ability to access Informational effects at all (class E) cannot become second stage Vampires. Each line possesses five of the following possible abilities:

All of these abilities are, of course, Specialized and/or Corrupted versions of basic Witchcraft abilities.

  • Cyberwarp (Elfshot): You may briefly disrupt (2d6 Rounds or one minor long term malfunction for 1 Power), damage or slightly modify (2d6 damage per Power), or even usurp control of or perform minor repairs (3d6 rounds, 3 Power) microtronic systems. Individual systems may be targeted at a range of 60 feet or the user may spend +1 power to affect everything within thirty feet. The first seven Power points worth of effects generated in a day do not count against the user’s power reserves.
    • It is believed that this effect is a precursor to the effects that a “Spacefield Mine” uses to bring spaceships under it’s control – unless it’s sufficiently “stackable” to simply be applied over and over again across many years, in which case nothing else may be needed.
  • Element (Specify) Master (Witchfire, specialized in manipulating a particular elemental force for double effect). Known variants include Ice, Fire, Electricity, Radiation, Water, Blood, Earth and Stone, Chemical Catalysis, and even “Darkness”. The affinity is apparently informationally based, as conventional physics seems to have little bearing.
    • A fairly powerful, but rapidly draining effect, often serving as a sort of hold-out weapon or as a tool. Each branch of Element Mastery is a separate ability, making it possible for occasional vampires to have more than one elemental affinity.
  • Entropic Will (Elfshot): The ability to cause minor disruptions and malfunctions in informational effects, damaging creatures that exist primarily on that level and warping effects. This is Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (The first seven power worth of effects used each day do not count against the user’s power reserves) points. Unfortunately, this can only be used against Informational Beings and simply damages such beings, rather than causing specific effects.
    • This is a very common ability. While not as useful as a proper informational weapon, it is one of the few other ways to readily inflict long-term harm on many informational entities given that – for most such beings – any “physical form” they may take is merely being puppeted.
  • Entropic Blast (Infliction, Corrupted for increased effect (may be employed once per round as a defensive reflex)/ negative energy effects only): This ability drains energy into subspace – aging larger targets, disintegrating smaller ones, and negating energy.
    • An expensive, but useful, way to open sealed doors, get rid of evidence, and counter incoming energy attacks. Interestingly, it can also provide the negative energy “spark” needed to activate a warp drive or subspace portal swiftly.
  • Eyes Of The Night (The Inner Eye): You may see through the eyes of animals in a 120′ radius – and even understand and influence them very slightly, gaining a +6 bonus on relevant rolls to understand or manage them. In general, no roll is required to get them to glance at something they normally would not care about, or peek at something before hiding – but asking them to go much beyond that point will require appropriate skill checks.
    • While classic tales of Vampires commanding swarms of beasts exist, Vampires with such talents are probably supplementing this ability in other ways. At its base, this is most useful for short-range spying and may explain why so many tales mention heavy infestations of rats, spiders, bats, and similar creatures in Vampire strongholds.
  • Informational Perception (Dreamfaring): Specialized in detecting informational creatures and effects and allowing the user to intuitively grasp some basic information about their nature. This is a continuous ability with no cost.
    • Another very common ability, this is a considerable aid in combating informational entities and the various weapons they littered the galaxy with.
  • Masque of Life (The Adamant Will): lower-grade Informational effects will not reveal that the user is a Vampire. This has no cost and is a constant effect.
    • A rare, and fairly highly specialized, ability, but very useful when it does happen to come up. . Many vampire lines with this ability are hardly even aware of it.
  • N-Space Adaption (Hyloka): You may make the necessary adjustments to survive hyperspace and subspace travel. This is a constant effect with no cost.
    • Normally Hyperspace and Subspace travel are dangerous, damaging, and potentially fatal for creatures with hyperspace and/or subspace templates. Simple objects and even most devices with such extensions can handle the shifting energy levels, but living creatures have much more delicate metabolisms and systems. This is most often seen linked with the Subspace Piloting ability (below).
  • Plague Carrier (Hyloka): The Vampire may virtually wipe out a victims immune system with a touch and the expenditure of 3 Power. While their bodies will recover given time, few survive long enough to do so. An inverse form – helping the target throw off diseases and bestowing a copy of the user’s own immunities – exists, but is even rarer.
    • A subtle but powerful weapon of assassination and terror, the fabled “Death Touch” can leave a victim apparently unharmed, only to see them sicken and die days or even weeks later.
  • Predatory Gaze: You may spend 2 Power to generate Fear in a 30′ cone, a 60′ line, or a 20′ radius. While a standard Witchcraft save (Will, DC 13 + Cha Mod) applies, success only reduces the effect to Shaken and the Duration from 2d6 rounds to one round.
    • While blatantly overt, and easily resisted by those with strong wills, the ability to terrorize a nearby group with a mere glance can be very useful in more primitive settings. Modern weapons, however, greatly outrange this ability – and even at close range, frightening people equipped with modern weapons is not always a good idea.
  • Sense Life (The Inner Eye): You may detect the presence, and general health level, of unshielded living creatures within 60 feet. In general, “signal strength” is determined by the size and metabolic rate of the organism in question. Slimes are barely detectable with concentration, grass can be “seen” as a vague carpet, trees are translucent phantoms at best (wrapped around black cores), and animals “glow” more or less brightly. Individuals can be identified, but it usually takes some practice.
    • While modern sensors can do much the same thing, this is a marvelous ability to have in close combat, in the dark, underwater, or in a primitive setting, where it can usually compensate for lack og sight in a fight. Sadly, while this will negate the effects of soft cover, hard cover works better than ever since it usually has no life of its own to let it be “seen”.
  • Stalking Death (The Adamant Will): If a Vampire with this ability is placed under a compulsion or similar effect from something other than a higher-stage Vampire it will simply make whatever is attempting to use such an effect the Vampires top-priority target.
    • While this is a specialized defense mechanism, so far nine out of ten groups of adventurers agree that – when some mind-manipulating menace has frozen everyone in place or something – seeing the look on it’s face as one of its “hypnotized” victims goes berserk, shoves a hand grenade into its mouth, and starts unloading every weapon in the party into it, is well worth putting up with the group vampire.
  • Subspace Piloting (Witchsight): You may spend 2 Power to gain a +18 bonus on a Subspace Piloting check. You may also automatically sense the presence of major subspace creatures, if a vehicle is currently “haunted”, and serious subspace disturbances.
    • While this is usually a marginal ability, it becomes far more useful in combination with N-Space Adaption and a starfaring civilization.
  • The Dark Hand (The Inner Eye): You may share the senses of your subordinate vampires as needed and are automatically aware of their status and locations as long as they remain within a radius of (Cha/3) miles. If they are destroyed, you may sense that from hundreds of miles away.
    • While awareness of your troops locations and activities is useful, this does not automatically provide a communications link – unless it is selected twice, to add a Glamour component.
  • Transfusion (Healing, Specialized for Double Effect / only usable on others, produces various addictive effects, long term applications cause psychological disturbances).
    • While infusing others with a portion of a Vampires pool of stored life-energies is a useful talent in emergencies or on the battlefield, long-term applications tend to cause slowly cumulative distortions in the recipients mind and body.

Finally, second stage vampires may select any two abilities from among those available to first stage vampires (The Dark Flame, Voice of the Dead, Venomed Touch, Breath of Puruza, Wrath of the Sea, Bones of Iron, Dance of Flames, and Darksense) or from the following list:

  • Blood Draught: Some second stage vampires can imitate the abilities of those they drain energy from. That’s Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect: / can only mimic the abilities of creatures they’ve drained energy from, can only mimic supernatural or extraordinary abilities as selected by the game master, may only mimic one ability per creature (6 CP for 6 CP worth of mimicking). The changeover can be near-instant when they have just drained someone, otherwise it will require the usual amount of time to get an imprint out of their ‘library”. Imprints do fade eventually, but it usually requires several years.
  • Cloaking: May vary how old and powerful a vampire they seem to be (6 CP). This is a pretty specialized talent, but is occasionally useful for impressing other vampires and various creatures. It can also be ueed to simulate the presence of a Haunt or Vampire Core in an area or aboard a ship, warding off Subspace Mines and other vampires.
  • Deathly Armor: DR 3/-, versus both physical and energy damage. A simple application of negative energy to negate kinetic and other energies, this is a powerful advantage in more primitive settings, but modern weapons and armor often surpass it handily.
  • Ghula: Second stage vampires can control a limited number of the first stage vampires they create and a selection of servants infused with a small portion of their own energies. That’s Witchcraft, Lure of Darkness, Specialized for Increased Effect / Subspace-tainted servants and Lesser Vampires only (6 CP).
  • Night Terrors (Witchcraft / Birth of Flames): The user can project a portion of his or her own mind into a minor subspace entity, creating a deadly entity at his or her beck and call. Such entities most often manifest as a quasi-“demonic” companion or familiar, but fearsome steeds and such are also fairly common.
  • Subspace Shroud / Costly: Complex effects directed at the user often fail as their energies are shunted away into subspace.
  • Umbral Draught (Witchcraft / Grounding). The user may shunt nearby energies into subspace.
  • Vigor of the Night: Add +4d6+2 Vitality / Power, Corrupted/only to power Vampire abilities (6 CP). This is straightforward, simple, and virtually always useful.
  • Wraith Step: The ability to briefly draw their material forms partway into subspace can render a second-stage vampire shadowy and immaterial and allow them to use that realms distorted space-time to shift from place to place or to provide brief bursts of incredible speed – but that realms energy drain, distortions of entropy and probability, and apparently-malevolent nature render such tricks somewhat dangerous. Ashen Rebirth (Shadow/Negative Energy variant) with Dimension Door (9 CP) and Leaping Fire (Corrupted; cannot heal damage, remove fatigue, or remove exhaustion, 4 CP), both Specialized / moving partially into subspace can have all kinds of negative consequences besides the basic vitality drain of powering the ability (6 CP in total).

In general, it’s safe to use Wraith Step up to (Con Mod +1, 1 minimum, use Cha Mod +1 if no Constitution score) times per session. After that… roll a DC 20 Fortitude save. On a failure, roll 1d4 plus the number of such saves failed so far in the session.

2) Drained. The user is drained of 2d6 power. If the user lacks sufficient power, take damage instead.
3) Touch of Decay: Some of your items carried suffer the ravages of time and decay; Lose 1d6 points worth of game-master selected equipment (usually the most sensitive high-energy stuff) from whatever you carry.
4) Energy Cascade. Lights dim or go out, energy cells are drained, and systems fail in a wide radius. Sadly, this includes the user’s own weapons and equipment.
5) Entropic Cascade: Equipment, vehicles, and materials are destroyed in a wide radius. Sadly, this focuses on those the user has a personal connection to.
6) Dark Mutation: One or more creatures nearby becomes a twisted and malevolent monster.This may also result in a creeping mutation to a character.
7) Entity: Something gets loose from subspace. Depending on their level of materiality, these may be known as haunts, demons, possessing spirits, or even result in the creation of quasi-vampires (although such creatures are unstable and rarely survive for long).
8) Twisted Realm: Inanimate objects in a wide radius become hostile, computers develop malevolent programming, and robots start trying to kill people.
9) Time Shift. The user vanishes, to reappear weeks (or occasionally much longer) later.
10) The user ages 1d4 x 10 years.
11+) Spontaneous Existence Failure: The user falls fully into subspace, and probably ceases to exist.

While this is obviously less a “template” and more of a grab bag of thematically-related abilities, Vampires can fill a wide variety of roles in society beyond “monster” or even “super-soldier” – if they happen to belong to a “bloodline” with the appropriate abilities.

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Second Stage Vampires of the Shadowed Galaxy, Part I – Background

The Shadowed Galaxy game is currently taking a break – but the group has determined how the “life cycle” of the local version of Vampires works.

Stage I is the infection – and weaponization – of a material entity by a Subspace Template. There are a couple of ways that that can happen including secondary infection by a carrier, direct infection by a late-stage Vampire Core, and (no doubt) weird accidents and experiments – but the results almost always fall into one of three categories.

  • Primitive animals die. Evidently there has to be a certain level of complexity and size to support the template/infection.
  • More complex animals usually die, but some (usually animals that are already predatory, sizeable, and dangerous) will become extremely dangerous (if still mostly animalistic) vampire-themed predators with flashes of intelligence.
  • Sapient entities still fairly often die, or go mad, or suffer some other serious complication – but the survivors emerge as First Stage Vampires.

If a first stage vampire survives for long enough, or focuses on developing their abilities, or absorbs (or is granted) additional subspace energies and programming from a higher-stage vampire, they may develop into second stage vampires.

Stage II Vampires are more powerful – and are able to create groups of first stage vampire followers as well as enjoying several other social advantages. (This may not have been an original part of the design, but it has almost certainly been selected for over the generations).

A very old second stage vampire, or one that suffers “death” in some way it can’t recover from, loses it’s physical body and link to the material realm – and drifts out into interstellar space (since they are repelled by nearby planets and suns) as what was at first labeled a “Subspace Mine”. Such “mines” are drawn to ships using Warp (but not Hyperspace, Subspace, or Informational, although normalspace drives may or may not be targeted) Drives – and if they contact one in flight will attempt to infect it, disposing of the crew along the way.

The original mind may or may not survive, but even if it does… it will usually be strongly influenced by the array of expert programs that normally takes over at this point.

A Stage III Vampire – or “Haunted Ship” – is a dire presence in a multi-century long process of integrating itself with the structure, systems, and power supplies of a starship (or occasionally a space station or other vessel) and rebuilding it to suit itself. As such, it can animate the structure of the ship, direct it’s energies, weapons, and drives, drain other sources of energy, and defend itself with vigor.

At the end of the process… important systems will have been tightly integrated and compacted, the materials used for such useless items as crew quarters and life support will have been converted to extra armor, weapons, and power systems, and the new Stage IV Vampire Core will seek out a planet hosting an appropriate sapient race, land, conceal itself – and start spawning a force of Stage I Vampires.

Obviously enough, any permanent solution to a planetary vampire plague starts with destroying the vampire core or cores – but given that they are generally functioning starships as well as possessing a high-powered array of subspace-based powers that’s a difficult proposition at best.

For good or ill however… it has been long enough since the Vampire Plague was set in motion across the galaxy for both mutation and evolution to play a role. Some Vampire Cores find it difficult or impossible to maintain control of the vampires they create, others bestow bizarre variations on the usual abilities, others have lost important parts of their targeting or behavioral programming, and still others retain far more of the original hosts mind than was (presumably) ever intended. Not surprisingly, some strains have adapted to fit into, or conceal themselves in, civilizations more effectively. Some may not even really resemble the original design any more.

The group has not yet deciphered the full programming of the Vampire Cores – but has observed that they seem to treat Informational Creatures – such as “Mummies” as primary targets, and rarely attempt to exterminate other targets. There is even some indication that they intentionally “cultivate” species that can produce effective informational weaponry and/or technological starships suitable for conversion to more vampire cores – ensuring that the former remain in constant conflict (and thus producing more weapons) and that the latter continue to produce starships.

They have also discovered that Subspace Mines will not attempt to take over a ship that is already “haunted” or which already has a Vampire Core aboard. Sadly, this consideration does not extend to First and Second stage vampires.

While the exact history of the galactic wars has lost millions of years before humanity evolved, the internal evidence strongly suggests that the subspace species involved lacked direct access to the Informational level of reality – and so were drafting proxy warriors from matter-based species that had at least SOME access to that level of things.

Given that the vampires have a vested interest in the survival of civilizations with informational capabilities and/or the ability to build technological starships to possess, as well as a sizeable population to recruit from, there is a strong likelihood that they have been gradually evolving towards a symbiotic relationship with appropriate host species. The jury on the “Mummies” is still out.

The second stage vampire template got complicated enough – and took long enough to write – that I’m splitting things here. Part II will be the Template, and Part III will be some of the types.

Eclipse d20 – Dweomer, Thaumaturgy, and Wizardry

I was playing around with ‘what would a high level dweomer based primary caster look like and blanked. I was able to maybe get something somewhat workable by multiplying what the Karthos build had but…

I generally understand how the system is supposed to work, but what a ‘dweomer wizard’ looks like is something that I don’t really know. I feel that I could probably design a specific character, but would likely require frustrating fiddling around with no real ‘baseline’ for how much mana to buy etc.

Could a dweomer based caster do something similar to what the Runesmith does with making Lerandors Rule spells just based off a single skill (since the descriptions for making a fireball with Lerandor’s Rule seem to indicate that there are a number of essentially “metamagic adding effects”) and what skill a dweomer user would use for that (spellcraft, the relevant dweomer skill?)?

-Jirachi

The most basic question here is what should a high level Dweomer-based caster look like if they spend about what a Wizard does on spellcasting?

Well, the Wizard spends 286 CP on Spellcasting over twenty levels – gaining a Wizard Caster Level of Twenty, a total of 180 spell levels plus 34 spell levels for having a high Intelligence (assuming a “24″, which is likely enough for a straight wizard at level twenty) plus cantrips worth of magic to use each day and a selection of spell formula. They have access to an extremely wide array of spells of levels one through nine. On the other hand…

  • They have to prepare their spells in advance, and so can only equip themselves with a limited selection of them at the same time.
  • They are limited by spell levels, rather than just having a pool of magic to work with.
  • They have to maintain and back up their spell books – an expensive proposition.
  • They have to find or research and record their spells. This also gets expensive.
  • They require components. Dweomerists do to of course, but it’s not so strict.

A moderately optimized twentieth level Dweormist might look something like this:

  • 20 Caster Levels, Specialized in Dweomer = 60 CP. Basic, straightforward, and required. It is important to remember that the rule on page ten – “Casting a spell or using a power normally requires a minimum Caster Level equal to (twice its level -1). The Game Master may or may not enforce this. If not, it may be possible to cast very powerful spells with very low Caster Levels and spells with fixed, rather than per-level, effects become far more valuable.” still applies; simply being capable of producing an effect does not guarantee full control or being able to do so safely.
  • Rite of Chi with 8 instances of Bonus Uses = 56 CP. That allows the user to recover an average of 115.5 Mana (+1 for natural recovery) each day – enough for a Dweomerist to match the Wizards daily spell allotment.
  • 16d6 (52.5) Mana = 90 CP. This is a bit different from a Wizard. Our Dweomerist has just as many spell levels available daily as the Wizard (even more if he or she starts off well-rested), but only has about half of those spell levels available at any given moment; then they’ll have to spend a little time recovering. On the other hand, they won’t have any slots full of spells that aren’t currently useful or which aren’t of high enough level to be useful. This also has a subtle advantage; Mana can be used to power Hysteria or a lot of other special abilities, and so can provide a useful power-up. Having a lot of Mana available is a good thing.
  • Dweomer x 2 (12 CP). Select two fields.
  • Adept x 2 (12 CP). Select eight of your sixteen available Dweomer skills.
  • Mastery (6 CP): May “Take 10” while under pressure for (3 x Int Mod) skills.
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP).
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Use Int Mod as a base for your Dweomer skills) 18 CP:
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Add (Another Attribute Modifier) to (Int Mod) when computing skills points, Specialized for Reduced Cost / the extra skill points may only be used to buy Dweomer skills (9 CP).
  • Luck with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for Dweomer (12 CP). The makes sure that your upper-end spells work reliably. That’s more important at low levels than high ones, but will remain reasonably useful. It’s even better if you later buy off the limitation and start using it to make critical saves and such.

That comes out to 281 CP rather than 286 – but that’s quite close enough. Buy a few more skill points or something.

OK: Presuming that same 24 Int and a chosen secondary attribute (probably constitution) boosted to 18, this means 12 “free” skill points per level – with Adept, enough to keep all sixteen available Dweomer skills maxed out. In practice, there will probably be a few that any given character doesn’t use very much, so there will be at least a few skill points left for buying other things, even before buying any. In any case… our twentieth level Dweomerist has a +29 and can “take 10” under pressure for all of his or her Dweomer skills.

So, the Dweomerist can reliably produce “Grandiose” effects in his or her two Dweomer fields at a cost of 5 Mana. They can’t find ways to stack on “free” metamagic like a Wizard, but they’re free to invent their effects on the fly – albeit only within the limits of their skills. They also get first level effects for free at level 16+ – not that huge a benefit at that level, but still pretty convenient.

There are plenty of ways to optimize further of course; even just working with this build. You can Specialize the Mana and Rite of Chi so that they can only be used for Dweomer – but then you miss out on whatever form of natural magic you would have selected and lose all of the versatility that comes of working with a Mana pool. Of course, once you go that far… you might as well go with TommyNihil’s suggestion and use the Wilder progression to power things – although the actual savings aren’t that large in the long run simply because Mana is a very efficient power source for the Dweomer/Thaumaturgy system. You can even use skill boosters to pump up a particular Dweomer skill or two – likely whatever you usually use to attack or defend.

Still, in general, a Wizard has a much wider range of effects available than a Dweomerist, and – given time to prepare – may use metamagic and other boosting effects to prepare far more highly-optimized special tricks. On the other hand, a Dweomerist is using a freeform system. While he or she is admittedly focused on immediate effects and can’t play with metamagic beyond simply making higher-level spells, within his or her fields he or she is free to come up with just the effect needed – often allowing them to get along with clever use of lower-powered magic.

Overall, a Dweomerist is roughly equivalent to a Wizard of similar levels of optimization – but requires more coming-up-with-clever-stuff-on-the-fly than research and pre-planning to play well. On the game masters side, a Dweomerist (unlike a Thaumaturgist using the same mechanics) calls for some pre-planning. After all, if you let a character mess around with – say – nucleokinesis, you’ll need to have a fair idea of how atoms, radiation, and atomic nuclei work in your setting to decide what happens.

Now in actual play, the fields such a character selects are far more important than most of the details of the build. A little more mana? A little less? That kind of thing pales before the differences between a character who’s using Forest Mastery and Weather Control (probably with Leadership to command a force of Ents and forest beasts, a wilderness sanctum, and a few forest-themed tricks) and a Lensman using Psychokinesis, Telepathy, and the Pulp Hero Template to get his own starship in which to bring justice to the galaxy and fight the evil Empire of Boskone – and neither of them will much resemble the often-incorporeal Planewalker who uses Warping and Mysticism as he walks the dimensions in search of the fabled pan-dimensional city of Cynosure.

From my point of view… that’s one of the major advantages of Thaumaturgy and Dweomer. It’s so EASY to build a unique character with highly distinctive abilities that way.

As for Lerandors Rule? Well… according to that, a higher level effect can be built up from lower level ones with the number required being 2 to the (Level to be accomplished – Level of spells being used) power.

So it’s perfectly possible to – say – string together a mere 256 first level spells to duplicate a ninth level effect (presuming 100% efficiency. You might need quite a few more than that if your sequence is less than optimal). Of course, the effect produced by each such spell must be stable enough so that you can build on it with the next spell, must be within the power of a first level effect, must be in an appropriate order, and must fit under one or more of your skills.

Presuming that the player can figure out a sequence of low level spells to accomplish his or her goal… it shouldn’t be more than a ten to twenty page writeup. Once they’ve come up with it, and you’ve had time to go over it, and see what you think what they’ve come up with will actually do… then they can start casting!

I have had players do that – one healer / spiritualist came up with a series of eighteen well-chosen first level spells (as I recall it went something like re-assemble body, preserve body, repair body, restore blood, freshen body (getting to very freshly dead with several repetitions), clear lungs, remove bacteria, oxygenate, feed (adding cellular nutrients), transfuse life force, remove preservation, start heart, restart respiration, contact spirit, let spirit speak through body, enhance body-spirit link (repeated several times), ease spirit travel, and anchor spirit) to push his freeform first level spells up to the equivalent of a fifth level “raise dead” – but that was really quite exceptional. Most players simply do not want to bother with that sort of thing.

Equally unfortunately, you need the proper skill for each individual subspell. You could do a straight Fireball with just the Pyrotics skill. To do one from string of first level spells… you’d probably want something like Summon Fire (Pyrotics), Project Fire (Telekinesis), Boost Spell (Amplification, from Mysticism), and Expand Effect (Spatial Warping, under Warping). There are other sequences that could do the same thing of course – but it’s going to be difficult to squeeze everything together under a single skill.

And I hope that helps!

Terminator IV T-3000, The Apo-Hypothesis

Finally, we have the T-3000 – arguably either the “Ultimate” Terminator or not really a Terminator at all.

The T-3000 is the result of infecting a human with “machine phase matter” (apparently some type of nanotech), which turns them into a improved version of the T-1000 with all their skills and memories intact. Unfortunately for Skynet, up until the transformation of John Connor all such attempts simply drove the subjects insane and killed them without creating a functional Terminator, making the attempts a waste of time.

Wait, what? You’re killing them anyway, and absorbing their memories into a computer system. Why should their sanity – or even their deaths (which are coming in moments anyway) matter? And what makes John Connor unique? Sure, he’s well-trained – but didn’t he pass that on to most of his followers? Isn’t he physically and neurologically just another human? Why waste time on something that’s been repeatedly determined not to work? Isn’t Skynet a computer?

Anyway, at the end, the T-3000 is destroyed by a prototype time machine – it being strongly implied that few other sources of magnetic fields are powerful enough, although there is some evidence that enough hits with specialized weapons could wear it down eventually.

Overall, a T-3000 acts a lot like the T-1000, but…

  • It is supposed to be stronger than the earlier model Terminators.

OK. Another bonus to Strength. There’s no problem there. After all, the latest model is generally supposed to be the strongest.

  • It can easily withstand vast amounts of damage (it can’t be infinite; energy attacks and bullets and such will destroy a few of its nanites each time, but that’s like trying to kill a human with a tiny needle. It’s going to take a lot of poking). Still, “tougher” is pretty much the Terminator theme, so the latest model is generally really tough. There’s no problem there.

So… more hit points, maybe boost the T-1000 resistance to damage a bit but make it vulnerable to attacks with magnetic properties.

  • It’s really fast.

OK; throw in Personal Haste in it’s innate enchantments. Kill some of the self-repair functions (which make no sense for it) to help make room.

  • It’s actually relatively hard to hit, since it phases through some attacks.

So it has a higher AC. Fair enough again; it IS the big boss Terminator. Buy some more AC.

  • It can use it’s magnetic field to walk up metal walls and such.

Well… OK. Given the lack of strain on the walls from this, this is probably actually purchased as really limited flight, but it still makes some sense. It could even be expanded to non-metal walls, given that a T-3000 can easily stick anchors out of its feet.

  • It can enlarge it’s “muscles”, and thus strength, in combat.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not like those “muscles” have any bones to pull against or actually do anything; it’s supposed to be moving and holding it’s shape because of a magnetic field that it generates. Wouldn’t it’s “strength” be limited by that field, not by it’s non-existent “muscles”? And why doesn’t that magnetic field attract magnetic materials when it doesn’t want to?

  • It can turn into a mist, and – in that form – move through solid matter (or at least through another Terminator).

Wait, what? It’s supposed to be made of nanomachines the size of human cells. If those moved through matter… they’d turn it into a swiss cheese of microscopic holes, destroying any older-model Terminator (and pretty much anything else solid) that it moved through.

Yet that didn’t happen. And THAT is flatly silly. Sure, it IS possible to make matter pass through other matter, but the kind of forces that involves are not going to leave nanites and electronics intact. They’re not going to leave ANYTHING intact in a considerable radius.

Magnets. How do they even work?

Well… it’s not anything like THAT.

OK; looking at what this actually seems to do… It allowed the T-3000 to stand instantly (a quick turn doesn’t matter in d20, which has no facing) and to step “through” Pops – which either briefly “stunned” him or was shown in slow motion. Judging by the other shots of this ability in use… it was probably shown in slow motion so the audience could see the neat special effect. Far more importantly… it was never used when it would actually have done something, such as getting aboard that bus. Maybe the power demand was too high to use it often?

Anyway, I’m going to assume that John Connor knew a martial art with “Instant Stand” in it and just had a nifty new special effect for it. A short range, very limited use, teleport effect may be in order too.

Overall, d20 is very appropriate for this particular template, because, while the T-1000 was physically absurd, you had to know some physics and engineering to know why. The T-3000 blatantly jumps straight into fantasy. It’s super-fast, super-strong, can only be injured by specific means, can turn to mist and reform even if you chop pieces off, it falls apart into dust when destroyed, recovers incredibly quickly from most attacks, starts “burning” and dissolving into “smoke” when exposed to it’s weakness, and is made by transforming a living human into a monster – or more precisely, by possessing a fresh corpse (even if most of the the attempted conversions fail). On the weakness side… It has trouble with areas with strong magnetic fields, can be held back by powerful magnets, has minor troubles with electrical shocks (which also generate strong magnetic fields), and suffers some (if also relatively minor) injuries from weapons with magnetic properties.

Doesn’t that sound pretty familiar? The Terminator was basically a modern version of a Golem, To quote Kyle Reese in the first movie… “Listen, and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

That’s a classical golem right there.

But the T-3000 has had a villain upgrade to Vampire, substituting (or adding) “magnets!” for “holy!” on it’s list of vulnerabilities. After all… if you shoved a supermagnetic metal pole through it, wouldn’t it be incapacitated until something pulled it out?

Not too surprisingly, this modern rendition of Dracula versus Frankenstein (complete with Frankenstein protecting the girl) winds up like it did in 1971: Dracula rips apart Frankenstein, but is then destroyed by exposure to his weakness. Of course, Frankenstein – being a good guy from the beginning this time around – winds up being thrown into a tank of magic mad scientist goop that puts him back together, while there are the inevitable hints at a Return of Dracula.

So for our T-3000 Acquired Template…

  • Attribute Modifiers: Str +8, Dex +4, Int +2, Wis -4, Cha -6 (30 CP Attribute Shift, 24 CP Purchase)
  • Immunity to Mind-Affecting Effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects of level seven or below, with a +8 bonus to saves against higher-level effects, does not work against ECM, Hacking, Computer Viruses, and other electronically-based effects (24 CP).
  • DR 6/- and 12/magnetic weapons (12 CP).
  • Energy Resistance 12, Reduced to 6 versus Electromagnetic Attacks (12 CP).
  • Celerity with Additional Movement Mode (Flight), Specialized /only to allow walking up walls and such (9 CP).
  • No Constitution (0 CP).
  • +80 Hit Points (48 CP, purchased as Immunity to Damage (Very Common, Severe, Legendary, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Specialized for Increased Effect: / provides only two-thirds the usual protection, the protection is degraded by incoming damage in a one-to-one ratio, and can only be restored by repairing it as if it was hit point damage.
  • Adds (Str Mod x 1.5) to AC as a Natural Armor Bonus, although this is not cumulative with external armor bonuses; only the best bonus applies (12 CP).
  • +2 in each save category (18 CP).
  • Low-Light Vision (6 CP)
  • 60′ Darkvision (6 CP)
  • +5 BAB (30 CP).
  • Expertise (Power Attack version) (6 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (12 CP) (up to 11,500 GP Value)
    • Advanced Military Programming: +3 Competence Bonus to Heal, Intimidate, Perception, and Knowledge (History, the Military and Weapons in particular) (1400 GP).
    • Anklet of Translocation (1400 GP). This covers the occasional “flash step” maneuver.
    • Hat of Disguise x.8 (no longer usable if the unit has taken 20 or more points of actual damage, 1440 GP)
    • Iron Strike: The user’s hands are treated as +2 Hand Axes (1400 GP). Note that this can look like a wide variety of weapons, but the default of +2 to Attacks and 1d6+2+Str Mod damage works well enough for most things.
    • Large and Heavy: Enlarge Person: Only to be considered Large for the purpose of breaking doors and other objects, grappling, and carrying things (x.5) (700 GP).
    • Lightspeed Computation: Boost Armor: Reduced Defense VII (+0 AC, -14 DC), Segmented III (+6 DC, no non-proficiency penalty), Max Dex +4 (-), Speed +10, +4 Str, +2 Reflex Saves (Net purchase DC 10 = 120 Credits or 6 GP). (This is a very cheap trick, but so be it).
    • Nanite Structure: Enhance Structure: +2d6 + 2 x Str Mod Temporary HP to a construct, x.7 no more than half of each rounds buffer is effective against any one attack, use makes it obvious that the user is not human (980 GP).
    • Personal Haste (2000 GP): +30′ Movement, +1 attack when making a full attack.
    • Weapons Catalog: Masters Touch, x.7 Weapons Only (1400 GP).
    • Secondary Equipment: Advanced Smartphone (10 GP), GPS (20 GP), Radio Scanner (10 GP), Lock Release Gun (10 GP), Rangefinding Binoculars (25 GP), Compass (2 CP), Flash Goggles (25 GP), HUD (3 GP), Military Transceiver (20 GP), Vocalizer (Voice Imitation, 50 GP), Power Backpack (5 GP), Multipurpose Tool (4 GP), Remote Surveillance Module (20 GP). High Frequency Sword (25 GP), Grenade Launcher (100 GP), Grapnel Gun (20 GP), Dual, Katanas (20 GP), Chain Saw (12.5 GP). Net total: 380 GP.
      • Net Total: 11,106 GP. There’s room enough for a few conventional gadgets if you wish – perhaps some surveillance and electronic scanning gear?
  • Accursed: Whenever a T-3000 takes extra damage from a critical hit they must make a DC 15 Fortitude save to avoid being stunned for 1 round. If the save is successful, the T-3000 is still staggered for 1 round. They remain immune to other sources of the stunned condition (-3 CP)

That’s 246 CP – a rather high-value template, up in +8 ECL territory. Fairly obviously, some major limitations are in order – and they’re going to have to be pretty serious to justify bringing that +8 ECL modifier down to something reasonable.

So what are those limitations?

Honestly, we can’t be sure. The one example we’ve seen was unique – and we weren’t given all that much information on it at all, much less a breakdown on what made it unique, or what carried over from the original person, or what it’s precise limits were. Worse, what little we got was strictly within a science-fantasy framework with no magic, psionics, or other odd methods of bending reality. Ergo, it’s going to be mix and match; take four of the Major Limitations and three of the Minor Limitations and consider the entire template Specialized – reducing it’s cost to 123 Points, a +4 ECL Acquired Template.

Major Limitations:

  • A T-3000 cannot ever truly heal; it’s nanites are the unique products of the conversion of a specific persons cells, and are irreplaceable, Otherwise, why can’t it absorb more people? And why would some conversions fail? It will require a Wish, Miracle, or some highly-specialized effect to repair any actual damage it suffers.
  • A T-3000 is effectively undead, and is powered by negative energy (it certainly has no apparent technological source of enough energy to maintain and manipulate it’s own massive magnetic field). As such, it can be damaged by holy energies, blasted with positive energy, manipulated by certain negative energy techniques, cannot be Raised or Resurrected, and is automatically evil and implacably hostile to normal life, even if freewilled. As an undead, it can infect others – but it apparently needs their cooperation to do so.
  • A T-3000 can be effectively paralyzed by a strong magnetic field and may take damage from such exposure depending on the strength of the field and GM fiat. It can also be affected by electronic jamming. Treat these as “holy” effects against the Undead.
  • A T-3000 takes 1 ½ times damage from effects with the Acid, Electricity, or Light descriptors. Like it or not, those will destroy nanites much more effectively than bullets and such.
  • A T-3000 cannot purchase magical progressions, mana, active spellcasting, psionic powers, witchery, or similar abilities. They may still take Innate Enchantments and Inherent Spells, but only to represent various pieces of built-in equipment. Of course, NPC units don’t need to worry about purchasing new abilities.

Minor Limitations:

  • A T-3000 cannot purchase abilities that represent briefly pushing past normal limits, including Hysteria, Berserker, and similar abilities, without game master approval to use them to simulate an appropriate subsystem.
  • A T-3000 cannot purchase the Leadership or Companion abilities and always suffers a -6 penalty on it’s social skill checks.
  • A T-3000 is easily detectable electronically or by other Terminators – even far more primitive models. It’s readings are simply nothing like a humans.
  • A T-3000 conversion must be paid for on the spot; the transformed creature must drop enough abilities – normally psychic, supernatural, biological, or otherwise uniquely “living being” traits – to pay for it’s new template on the spot. If it has insufficient resources to do so, it dies.

John Connor (at level five pretty much at the level cap for “badass normals”), presumably had lots of luck, a reality-editing effect, leadership, the equivalent of precognitive tactical insights, and some sort of immunity to paradox to sacrifice – effectively burning off four levels to survive picking up the T-3000 Template. Of course, his reality-editing, paradox-immune, death throes were enough to create a temporal nexus and really mess up the timeline.

Now at roughly CR 9, the T-3000 was a deadly danger to Pops/Guardian (A CR 5 T-850 model with two or three levels) and two well-prepared and trained elite humans (Level 3 to 4, and so CR 5 to 6).

Terminator III – The Life Of A Machine, the Terminator Racial Template

For a playable Terminator build… we have a problem. Terminators that do not have their learning circuits turned on are pure automatons – slaves to their programming. They can be reprogrammed and then will do exactly what their new programming says.

Once you turn on their learning circuits they may at any point learn the value of human life and start defending people instead of killing them. Apparently learning the value of art, or gardening, or wildlife conservation, or anything else that isn’t precisely the opposite of what they were made to do is not an option. Otherwise – given that there are hundreds of thousands of possible interests – only one out of hundreds that went rogue would be actively opposing Skynet, and that is not what the franchise tells us.

So… even with the learning program, Terminators have no real free will; they simply either accept or invert their programmed imperatives. Skynet is evidently smart enough not to create other self-aware machines with potentially different goals if it doesn’t have too – which is why it didn’t make a bunch of T-1000 units which (we’ve been told, if never definitely shown) DID have that potential.

You can play such a character of course. It has a standardized set of motives and a very limited array of solutions, but you can play one. Unfortunately for long term play, however, I’ve had only one player out of hundreds in nearly forty years who’s sole and only interest in gaming was tactical combat. Unless you’ve also got a player with interests that limited, a playable character really needs free will.

I’ve had a few other players create automatons of one sort or another, starting with “Mr Chips” (for Shadowrun I, in the early 1990’s). And Mr Chips was fairly typical; the player had a lot of fun trying to assassinate the party, being hacked to work with the party, and then rolling dice to see if his programming came up with what he wanted to do or if the game master decided what his character did at the moment at first – but Mr Chips got old fairly fast. Rolling to see what his character was going to do was only amusing for a few sessions since a bad roll meant that the player had no decisions to make; all he could do was eat the snacks and (possibly) make a few rolls as requested by the game master. And while seeing how Mr Chips was messing things up was funny for a while, it soon got quite boring – and the rest of the players kept trying to install programming upgrades or make sure that Mr Chips had nothing to do outside of being pointed at a target wherever there was another fiasco.

The player soon made another character (“Mr Lizard”, a dinosaur-obsessed decker who’d had his body rebuilt into a cyborg-stealth-raptor with a built-in deck and who worked out of his personal movie theater where he showed old dinosaur and giant monster movies on a continuous basis) – and Mr Chips continued as a party fire support robotic drone until he got destroyed, which no one really worried about.

Several other automaton “characters” have followed the same general trajectory since then. It’s always amusing for a bit, and that amusement always seems to run out shortly.

So player characters need to have functional minds, the ability to develop their own interests, and actual free will to be really playable in the long run – and yet we probably shouldn’t have Skynet put in an “Install Soul” button, if only because doing it would make no sense whatsoever.

So that’s step one: lightning strikes, and Number Five is Alive. Your player-character Terminator (or important NPC Terminator) has just been hit with some equivalent of “Awaken Construct” and has gone from “Extensively Programmed Automaton” to “Person” – and gets to start off by generating some attributes.

Now “normal” Terminators are mass-produced machines. There may be some variation between models, but your basic new terminator is going to have a its attributes and abilities pretty much preset. Player characters, however, get Attribute Modifiers, not specified attributes.

For a Terminator, that’s going to look something like this:

  • Attribute Shift x 5 (30 CP): Str +6, Dex +2, Int +2, Wis -4, Cha -6. The +2 Pathfinder attribute bonus goes to Dex, for a total of +4.

This would give a standard Machine Soldier-based Terminator a base attribute array of Str 12, Dex 11, Con —, Int 11, Wis 7, and Cha 7. In Pathfinder point buy that actually has a negative cost – and pretty much any common method of generating attributes is likely to result in an improvement. Presumably that’s part of why a free-willed Terminator has an advantage over the standard factory models – and why Skynet has to send specially-built hunter-killer models to get rid of rogues instead of just sending two or three (much cheaper) regular models .

The next problem comes from a lack of information. The Terminator Franchise doesn’t really include psionics, magic, or weird science beyond a bit of time travel, plasma weapons, and the Terminators themselves – and it doesn’t show us any entirely free-willed Terminators at all. Thus we have no idea of whether or not a fully-intelligent Terminator is vulnerable to mental powers or not. The d20 precedents are mixed; AI’s are, but clockwork creatures are not, living constructs are, but robots do not seem to be. And none of those really match.

I’m going to go with “not”, simply because the “emotionless and implacable” bit is a defining feature of the entire franchise.

  • Immunity (Common/Major/Great) to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects), Corrupted for Reduced Cost (24 CP) / not versus ECM, Hacking, Computer Viruses, and other electronically-based effects. This covers effects of up to level seven and provides a +8 bonus to saves against effects of level eight or higher. A freewilled Terminators mind CAN be reached electronically or by sufficient power, but it isn’t easy.

Terminators are tough to damage; they get Hardness, totaling 12. This subtracts directly from all damage taken (unless the game master feels that a particular object is especially vulnerable to something), like Generalized Damage Reduction. That fits nicely, so buy…

  • DR 6/-, Specialized for Increased Effect (12/-) versus physical attacks only. Given that armor-piercing ammunition is supposed to be more effective, and Adamantine is d20’s usual equivalent, the first 3/- (effectively 6/-) points are purchased normally (6 CP), the rest is Corrupted/Not versus Adamantine (6 CP).

According to the SRD, objects take half damage before hardness from ranged weapons – unless they’re siege weapons or the GM thinks that they should work. Of course, this is mostly talking about arrows, shuriken, and similar hand-propelled stuff and doesn’t normally apply to anything which can be classed as a “creature”, Even if it did… Terminators are full of delicate little vital components and the movies show a Terminator being speared quite effectively and some being eliminated with projectile weapons.

  • DR 6/-, Specialized for Increased Effect (12/-) versus energy attacks only. Since Terminators are shown to be somewhat vulnerable to various forms of energy (just what depends on the model), this uses the same structure as the physical damage reduction, being less effective against a some form of energy (12 CP).

Normal objects only take half damage from energy attacks BEFORE hardness – again, unless the game master feels that there is a vulnerability. On checking the letter of the rules… this probably (I cannot tell for sure) doesn’t apply even to baseline Terminators since they’re technically “creatures” even if they DO have a Hardness score and I was probably wrong to quote it earlier. I suppose that I’m just too used to high-end fantasy d20 games, where a 10d6 fireball is a fairly basic energy attack. I should have been thinking about d20 Future and the 3d10 Plasma Rifle.

Terminators aren’t alive, even in the very loose d20 sense. That’s No Constitution (0 CP), giving them immunity to ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, and effects requiring Fortitude saves unless they work on objects or are harmless. They can’t tire, and thus can move, work, or remain alert indefinitely. On the other hand they can’t be Raised or Resurrected and are instantly destroyed at 0 HP

As a note, this inherently covers immunity to disease, death effects, most necromancy effects, poison, sleep effects, death from massive damage, nonlethal damage, and stunning, as well as normal forms of paralysis given that those pretty much all involve ability damage or drain, being alive, or fortitude saves. Similarly, not being alive eliminates the need to breathe and eat. It does NOT bestow an immunity to Critical Hits. Since technologically-based (and possibly other) Terminators are full of complex, interdependent, active systems, they are subject to critical hits. That fits, since “Robot” style constructs are explicitly vulnerable to critical hits.

Terminators come with a fair number of hit points as a base. That can be purchased as…

  • Immunity to Damage (Very Common, Severe, Great, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Specialized for Increased Effect: / provides only two-thirds the usual protection, the protection is degraded by incoming damage in a one-to-one ratio, and can only be restored by repairing it as if it was hit point damage – effectively buying +40 HP (24 CP).

“Immunity to Damage” usually isn’t allowable – but limiting it to acting as extra hit points makes it reasonable enough given that there are plenty of other ways – many of the more efficient in the long run – to get extra hit points. It’s also another way to build the usual bonus for Constructs since 12 CP worth of this “Immunity” buys +20 hit points – just what a medium construct gets for upgrading its “No Constitution” modifier (for 12 CP) to get bonus hit points.

Terminators are treated as having a fair amount of natural armor; This kid of overlaps with their Damage Reduction / Hardness with a special effect of “hit but didn’t hurt” given that the entire franchise focuses on the implacable, unstoppable, war machine grinding onwards.

  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Adds (Str Mod) to (Dex Mod) when computing AC, Corrupted for Increased Effect and Specialized for Reduced Cost / limited to a maximum total of +6, treated as a Natural Armor bonus, not cumulative with external armor bonuses; only the best bonus applies (9 CP).
  • Terminators – like most constructs – have lousy base saves; the Machine Solder is presumed to have one level of Fighter, but a fully intelligent one might have something else. Ergo, +1 in each category (9 CP).
  • Occult Sense (Low-Light Vision, 6 CP)
  • Occult Sense (Darkvision, 6 CP)
  • BAB +4 (24 CP).
  • Expertise (Power Attack version) (6 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (12 CP).
  • Accursed: Whenever they take extra damage from a critical hit they must make a DC 15 Fortitude save to avoid being stunned for 1 round. If the save is successful, it is still staggered for 1 round. They remain immune to other sources of the stunned condition (-3 CP)
  • Accursed: They take 150% of the usual damage from some type of energy. For technological units, that’s usually Electrical attacks (-3 CP).

So that gives our “Terminator Template” a base cost of 30 (Attribute Shift) +24 (Mental Defenses) +12 (Damage Reduction) +12 (Energy Resistance) +24 (+40 hit points) +9 (Natural Armor) +12 (Occult Senses) +24 (BAB) +6 (Expertise) +12 (Innate Enchantment) -6 (Disadvantages) = 159 CP.

That’s maxed out +4 ECL territory – which, with +1 level of fighter – gives us our basic CR 5 Terminator.

Still, Terminators suffer from a lot of limitations as player characters in more fantastic settings that really don’t have much effect on NPC robot troopers in more realistic ones.

  • They cannot be Raised or Resurrected. This is a big one that doesn’t matter to NPC units because they’re just machines; there’s no unique personality THERE to Raise or Resurrect anyway.
  • They do not heal naturally, or via the usual spells and powers. Again, that’s unimportant to NPC units, which tend to either be destroyed in their first battle or can go in for repairs offstage.
  • They are Immediately destroyed when reduced to 0 hit points or less. Of course, for disposable troop-automatons, Skynet doesn’t need to care. For game purposes… out of action is pretty much equivalent to destroyed when it comes to disposable troops (and they have a power to get around this anyway).
  • They cannot purchase magical progressions, mana, active spellcasting, psionic powers, witchery, or similar abilities. They may still take Innate Enchantments and Inherent Spells, but only to represent various pieces of built-in equipment. Of course, NPC units don’t need to worry about purchasing new abilities.
  • They cannot purchased abilities that represent briefly pushing past normal limits, including Hysteria, Berserker, and similar abilities, without game master approval to use them to simulate an appropriate subsystem.

If all of that applies it makes the Terminator “Racial” Template Specialized – for a net cost of 82 CP, making them a +2 ECL race. Overall, a Terminator character makes a fairly strong Fighter or Rogue-type character at first, but all those restrictions are soon going to start to hurt in a fantastic game. In a realistic one… they’ll have an advantage. It will still fade at higher levels, but it will be very important early on.

After all, John Connor needed a Terminator protector until he grew up.

Next time around on this… it will be the T-3000. Sadly, that may or may not make a lot of sense; it was a unique plot device opponent with a unique “only one thing can stop it!” vulnerability, which is really a pretty big “No!” in adventure design since a bunch of player characters is far too likely to try a hundred other things, get really frustrated, and then completely overlook the one thing that will work.

d20 Terminators II – The Questioning

And today, it’s a bit of followup on the first Terminator article – in this case, addressing some things brought up by Alzrius.

Thanks for taking on this particular series!

I have to admit, it didn’t initially feel intuitive for the Terminator to be, in d20 terms, a relatively low-level creature. And yet, the points you raise are salient ones; since the series takes place in a (relatively) realistic universe, where the major enemies are ordinary humans (albeit action-movie “ordinary” humans) who tend to defeat them in the end (Skynet did lose the war, after all), it makes sense that most Terminators are going to be relatively minor monsters in terms of the d20 power scale…which I suppose is why so many fan-crossovers have the T-800 losing to Robocop.

That said, I do have some minor quibbles with a few of the entries you’ve listed:

The T-850, for instance, has two fuel cells that, when ruptured, create large explosions. While it can apparently function just fine with one (and apparently operate for at least a short time without any, presumably due to auxiliary power), it does use this as an offensive tactic at one point.

Likewise, if I recall correctly, it’s stated that the T-X cannot be melted down the way the T-1000 was, which would suggest that there’s some greater degree of hardness (or perhaps energy resistance) in play there.

(Oh, and don’t forget to give these builds Immunity to antimagic, dispelling, and magic detection – and Immunity to the XP cost of Innate Enchantments – too!)

-Alzrius

Ah, Terminator versus Robocop! Always fun! (Although I’d have to say that the transmitted impacts would have turned Murphy’s brain into goo fairly early on in this, but movie physics).

More seriously… this does bring up a major note. And it’s about what the Terminators use for a power supply.

Terminators have been described as drawing on a variety of power sources. Most notably, the T-800 is usually supposed to be powered by a nuclear or “Iridium” power cell. The T-900 uses a “Plasma Reactor” – and the T-850 is supposed to have two Hydrogen Fuel Cells which will keep it running for 120 years (each) – much longer than the T-800’s nuclear power source.

Wait, what? Fuel Cells burn fuel using atmospheric oxygen. This means that a Terminator must be lugging around a tank of hydrogen big enough to keep it running for more than a hundred years. Yet I didn’t see them dragging around any tanker trucks, much less the ten to a hundred or so a quick order-of-magnitude calculation suggests would be necessary.

OK, presumably the writers meant that it was using some sort of miniature fusion process (how this differs from a “Plasma Reactor” is hard to say at this point). The trouble is, damaging such a power source cannot result in a fuel explosion. it’s quite difficult to make hydrogen fuse, the amount undergoing fusion at any moment is incredibly small, and damaging the system will make it stop fusing.

So where can we put a lot of stored energy in a form that (1) can come out to create an explosion shortly after the system is damaged, and (2) makes some tiny bit of sense?

Well… many fusion power systems call for massive magnetic fields to keep the hydrogen plasma compressed enough to fuse at a useful rate. The easiest way to get fields that strong is to use massive electrical currents circulating in a superconductive coil. But if the coil is damaged, all that energy will emerge as heat, light, electrical arcs, and an electromagnetic pulse – a lot like a small-scale nuke. This doesn’t explain why such power cells never go off except when it’s convenient for the plot (one for exposition and one to destroy a target) since a bullet in the wrong place should do it, or why Skynet would fit it’s troops with internal bombs that could easily destroy masses of it’s own troops rather than settling for a few years worth of power and having them resupplied during normal maintenance – but it’s close enough for action movie logic.

Hm… this also tells us what a “Plasma Reactor” is; it uses even more advanced handwavium to sustain a fusion reaction without having to use superconducting coils and massive magnetic fields – and so isn’t explosive.

In any case, T-850’s thus have two primary power sources; if they lose both they’re down to backup power, which always lasts for long enough. There’s some talk of them being slower and less powerful when working on only one (or presumably no) fuel cells – but no such limitation is ever actually shown and we’re never shown them actually shutting down for lack of power. Perhaps their backup power supply is a T-800 power cell? That would say that the fusion cells are a quick upgrade to the old design – which makes a lot of military sense. That’s just adding an extra item, rather than redesigning and retooling your factories for a completely new model – explaining why this is a T-850, rather than being a completely new series.

So in actual game terms… T-850’s are basically carrying two very powerful hand grenades or bombs that are hard to replace and so are used only as a very last resort. That’s Equipment, even if it is in a hidden pocket.

So how can we build a couple of lightweight but powerful bombs?

Consulting the d20 Modern SRD… take 8 Lbs of C4 ($400), plus a Detonator and minor components (about $200), to wind up with a base Purchase DC 16. Since this weighs ten pounds, it counts as being Small. Throw in Minaturized (+5 DC, to reduce it to Diminutive – a few ounces and easily palmed) for a net Purchase DC of 21 – $2750 or 137.5 GP. That’s 18d6 in a 24-foot radius, for an everage of 63 points of damage – quite enough to make a small mushroom cloud and to easily take out most Terminators. It’s also enough to do serious damage to a Skynet facility – providing an excellent reason to go on to the T-900 series, even if they were a bit less effective.

This being d20 of course, Terminators – even using the Pathfinder Robot Soldier base – don’t necessarily need a particular power source, or have to be technological. If you want them to be constructs of flashing crystal and psionic energy, or monstrosities of hellish black negative energy flames coursing through the bones of the dead, or suits of armor covered with magical runes to animate them… You’re simply changing the special effects.

In Eclipse you do that by applying a relevant variant of the “Eldritch” modifier at no cost. The Practical Enchanter (under Cybernetics) simply says “no cost”.

Whether or not it makes any difference at all is up to the game master; by default Pathfinder generally assumes that psionics, magic, and “weird science” are more or less interchangeable – taking the old magic/psionics transparency rule to it’s logical extreme. Personally, given my interest in just how things work… I tend to treat them as very different power sources. At least in my games…

  • A technological “robot” is subject to high-voltage shocks and to electromagnetic pulses instead of Dispel Magic, can be picked up by radi0-frequency sensors, metal detectors, and similar effects instead of Detect Magic, and is subject to anti-technology effects instead of Anti-Magic. It’s subject to overheating, rust, and similar mundane hazards.
  • A psionic construct is can be disrupted by psonic effects and Dispel Psionics instead of Dispel Magic, is detectable by various psychic senses, and is subject to Anti-Psionic effects. It’s subject to Shatter and Sonic effects due to it’s crystaline construction and it’s programming may be altered if it’s exposed to weird psychic environments or sits around long enough to develop consciousness.
  • A construct powered by negative energy is essentially undead – and so is subject to positive energy effects, to being cut off from the realms that power it, and can be detected by effects that detect the undead. They have a nasty tendency towards program corruption and towards being malign for no good reason.
  • If they’re purely magical constructs… well, all the usual magical means of detecting and manipulating them will work just fine.

Now, the basic formulas for creating constructs – (CR x CR x 500 GP) x 1.5 (Robot) suggests that a basic CR 5 Terminator would cost 18,750 GP, which I’d round up to 20,000. Of course, that’s only a base. Ergo…

  • T-600: 15,000 GP.
  • T-700: 16,000 GP
  • T-720: 17,500 GP
  • T-800: 20,000 GP
  • T-850: 25,000 GP (throwing in it’s two bombs).
  • T-888: 22,000 GP
  • T-X: 35,000 GP (Probably CR 6 thanks to all those weapons. If you’re throwing in the 20 HP/Round buffer… probably 60,000 GP and CR 8).
  • T-1000: 50,000 GP (Probably CR 7 thanks to that 20 HP/Round buffer).

So if you want a T-850 robot buddy / bodyguard it’s a suitable “magic item” at about level fifteen – where it will still have it’s uses, but will (appropriately enough) be heavily overshadowed by the actual player characters. If you went with Leadership… it’s probably about +2 to +3 ECL (an item to be worked out in detail for the next Terminator article I think) and so makes a suitable companion at about level ten.

For a minor note… according to the Sarah Connor Chronicles the T-X is built with Coltan to improve it’s resistance to high temperatures. Sadly, using a high-temperature alloy in it’s frame won’t do a thing for hydraulic fluid, insulation, computer chips, and all it’s other components – which makes this a factor only in short-term, limited-area, exposures. Given that a Terminator’s base hardness (12) already means that a ten-die Fireball can only be expected to do (35/2 – 12 =) 5 1/2 points of damage to a unit, that’s already fairly well covered. Immersion in molten metal will still cook all the other components in short order though.

Finally, since we’re using a Pathfinder monster as a base… nothing has an XP cost, so there’s no need to worry about that. I will probably include the immunity in the templates for 3.5 though.

And I hope that makes sense!

Next time around on Terminators.. Actually building them as (semi-) playable characters.

D20 Terminators

And for today, it’s a question:

I admit I’m curious about Apocalypse after you mentioned him in your write-up for Cable, but really…while I know you meant with regards to the New Mutants (or similar groups), reading these over has reminded me of another action series that started in the 80’s and is still going today: The Terminator. While not quite the same, it deals with a lot of the subjects (killer robots, time travel, and advanced weaponry), so it strikes me as being in the same vein. More specifically, I’d love to see your take on the following:

  • The T-800 (and the T-850 variant),
  • The T-1000
  • The T-X
  • The T-3000

I think those would be a lot of fun.

-Alzrius

Well, why not? There’s already a fairly good book on this topic on the net, but – of course – it’s not as if I agree with everything in it.

Thanks to an incredibly tangled mess of alternate timelines, there are dozens of different “Terminators”, many of them mutually exclusive – and the movies aren’t too consistent about which ones are better or what they can do. That actually isn’t the big problem. Converting the Terminators to d20 is awkward for one major reason:

Terminators are designed to deal with reasonably realistic normal humans using personal weapons. In d20 terms that’s basically NPC classes and – at the top end – second level Fighters and Rogues with small arms.

For example, the classic T-800 is highly resistant to small arms. (generally up to 2d8). Only a lucky shot that hits a joint or exposed component was likely to do any actual damage. Yet small arms fire could take one down. It just took a LOT – or rather less armor-piercing stuff. And they certianly weren’t hard to hit, which let out armor class.

They seemed to be fairly resistant to energy too. The T-800 was able to handle lots and lots of being on fire (generally 1d6 to 3d6) but was unable to handle molten metal or magma (up to 20d6 on immersion).

Yet a pipe bomb (4d6 if you’re being generous) blew one in half. Admittedly that didn’t stop it, but it would be pretty hard to deny that eliminating the lower half is – by definition – probably about 50% damage. Even if we assume that Kyle Reese had some bonuses against Terminators (he can’t have too much though, since his small arms don’t work; perhaps about +1d6 with small arms, +2d6 with explosives?), that he got a good roll, and that the thing already had a little actual damage on it (as opposed to its disguise being ruined)… a Terminator can’t have more than twenty-five to thirty-five hit points. After all, we also know that anti-tank weapons – 8d6 to 10d6 – can damage them easily, and a solid hit (a good damage roll) can take them out in a single shot.

So, since we’re looking at Constructs here… we’re looking at Hardness of between 8 and 12. The standard for “Metal” is 10, so we’;; go with that.

Strength? Well… t-800 variants have been shown bracing a bus to keep it from falling off a bridge, stopping some enormous blast doors from closing, smashing down a large security door, punching through sheet metal, and smashing through cinder block walls.

Still… vehicles can hang partially over drops on their own, so that doesn’t tell us much. The blast doors… well, they were much bigger than the crusher which eliminated the first T-800. So why didn’t they crush the T-800? Perhaps they worked like elevator doors and stopped when firm resistance was registered? The shot didn’t seem to be show any strain or anything.

The large door… came down in one piece and wasn’t much damaged. Evidently the hinges broke. So that’s “break down strong door” (DC 23). Punching through sheet metal… I can poke an awl through sheet metal and hailstones can dent the sheet metal of my car. Sheet metal is simply not a major obstacle to something made of metal. Really, the cinder block walls are probably the most impressive item on this list.

d20 Modern (lifting from the fantasy SRD) lists the “burst” DC for a Cinder block Wall as 35 (Hardness 8, HP 90) – but that’s the same as a one-foot thick masonry wall and that, to put it bluntly, is baloney; I’ve worked with cinder blocks. Once we subtract the hollow part… Hardness 4, HP 20, and a burst DC of 24 is more like it. It might be less; I’ve had cinder blocks break when dropped a couple of feet.

The first movie didn’t show the Terminators as being especially good marksmen, or very stealthy, or extremely clever, or even all that fast. They WERE decent shots (especially when shooting unprotected people at point blank range while they were standing still – or when using a minigun to hose down parked cars with a stream of lead), had basic human level intelligence, were somewhat faster and considerably stronger than a normal human, were capable of using humanities clever machines against us, and they were very, very, determined.

Humans are Persistence Hunters. And the Terminators… are better at it. Plus, they were walking skeletons, classical images of death. They were humans plus, and they were bringing the same kind of death to humanity that humanity had brought to everything that stood in its way. They were stronger, and better adapted to humanities ecological niche, and they wanted us dead. They tapped into the same kind of fear that Godzilla – an avatar of natures uncontrollable wrath and atomic devastation – did.

S0… at a quick approximation: Medium Sized (which goes up to eight feet tall and 500 Lbs), Hardness 10, 30 HP, AC 15, Move 30, Darkvision and Low-Light Vision, Construct, BAB of somewhere between +1 and +4, basic Intelligence. can be temporarily “stunned” by damage. Str 20, considered “Large” for purposes of encumbrance, breaking things, and grappling. Dex 14 (they’re fairly fast and accurate, but they are not Jackie Chan), Int 10 (effectively anyway), Wis… had to say, but likely low, Con — (Construct), and Chr… probably 1 – although those that go rogue and develop personalities of some sort get normal rolls.

We can add a bunch of minor boosts and systems, but that’s our basic T-800 Framework – and the T-800 is a mainstay of the entire franchise.

The quick way to convert a Terminator into Eclipse is not to bother: Pathfinders standard Robot, Machine Soldier is pretty much an exact match (and may well have been meant to be). A T-800 has just been fitted with a high-quality disguise, has access to better weapons, and varies its tactics more.

And that’s a problem, because – while that’s capable of wading through first level Aristocrats, Experts, and Warriors (and even Fighters and Rogues) by the swarm – we want them to be formidable opponents. And many specialized or higher-level d20 characters are quite capable of taking and inflicting a lot more damage than that. It’s downright embarrassing when a mid-level barbarian takes a Terminators heavy weapons shot to the chest and shrugs it off before cutting the thing in half with his axe.

If you want to get sophisticated… drop the Machine Soldiers Two-Weapon Fighting and Weapon focus feats in favor of 12 CP worth of Innate Enchantment and start adding functions in search of 11,000 GP. As a partial Eclipse adaption, it’s probably best to upgrade the CR to 5.

  • Advanced Military Programming: +3 Competence Bonus to Heal, Intimidate, Perception, and Knowledge (History, the Military and Weapons in particular) (1400 GP).
  • Armored Framework: Enhance Structure: +12 + 2 x Str Mod Temporary HP to a construct, x.5 (only to a Construct, only to remain repairable after being reduced to 0 HP (700 GP).
  • Emergency Power: Enhance Attribute: +2 Enhancement Bonus to Strength (1400 GP).
  • Enhanced Servomotors: Boost Armor: Reduced Defense VII (+0 AC, -14 DC), Segmented III (+6 DC, no non-proficiency penalty), Max Dex +4 (-), Speed +10, +4 Str, +2 Reflex Saves (Net purchase DC 10 = 120 Credits or 6 GP). (This is a very cheap trick, but so be it).
  • Hyperalloy Endoskeleton: Crystal of Adamant Armor, Least (+2 Hardness) (300 GP). This increases the units hardness to 12.
  • Iron Strike: The user’s hands are treated as +2 Hand Axes (1400 GP).
  • Large and Heavy: Enlarge Person: Only to be considered Large for the purpose of breaking doors and other objects, grappling, and carrying things (x.5) (700 GP).
  • Reroute Systems: Repair Light Damage (3 uses x .6, recovers only when refurbished x.4, Self-Only x.7, requires 1d6 rounds to trigger after being reduced to 0 HP (ignoring Enhance Structure) x.5, if the first use is insufficient to get the unit up, further uses must be externally triggered by attempts at repair or an application of Mimetic Polyalloy (168 GP).
  • Self-Repair: Repair Light Damage (3 uses x .6, recovers only when refurbished x.4, Self-Only x.7, requires at least one minute of work (x.5) (168 GP).
  • Targeting System: +2 to BAB with Small Arms (1400 GP).
  • Weapons Catalog: Masters Touch, x.7 Weapons Only (1400 GP).
  • Secondary Equipment: Advanced Smartphone (10 GP), GPS (20 GP), Radio Scanner (10 GP), Lock Release Gun (10 GP), Rangefinding Binoculars (25 GP), Compass (2 CP), Flash Goggles (25 GP), HUD (3 GP), Military Transceiver (20 GP), Vocalizer (Voice Imitation, 50 GP), Power Backpack (5 GP), Multipurpose Tool (4 GP), and Remote Surveillance Module (20 GP). Net total: 200 GP.

That’s a total of 9250 GP worth of Innate Enchantment. It’s also significantly stronger and tougher than is really justified for a T-800 – but that’s all right given that quite a few of the variant models are supposed to be slightly stronger, or faster, or otherwise better – although there’s rarely any actual evidence of this. It also leaves 1750 GP worth of innate enchantment (up to 2250 GP if taking advantage of rounding) to add model details.

T-600:

  • The earliest “humanoid” Terminator, the major point of this model was to go into all the places that humans could – wading through water, crawling though holes and pipes, and otherwise getting into their hiding places. It had Tracking (even if it wasn’t all that good at it) instead of one of the Innate Enchantment feats, and so only has 5000 GP worth of boosts. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much information as to what – so you’ll just have to pick your own package.

T-700:

  • This model was apparently an experimental one, and is a bit less durable than the T-800. It has no Hyperalloy Endoskeleton, and so only has Hardness 10. It may have other limitations as well (possibly including the T-600’s tracking feat instead of other benefits), but there’s not a lot of information on them. It was often outfitted with good, but nowhere near perfect, disguises.

T-720:

  • This upgraded T-700 simply has heavier armor. To represent this, upgrade the Enhanced Servomotors entry to actually provide an armor bonus (variable cost) and – presumably – add some built-in weapons. As such, it cannot be effectively disguised. Unfortunately, it’s far more practical to simply deploy armed drones if you can’t disguise your units anyway, so T-720’s are rare, having mostly been upgraded from surviving T-700’s.

T-799:

  • These are basically identical to the T-800, but – not yet being standardized – were more expensive. Few were produced.

T-800:

  • For game purposes this is the basic model. Interestingly, quite a number of “rogue” T-800 units have added various upgrades to themselves – presumably making use of that 1750 GP worth of additional allowable improvements. If nothing else comes to mind… give them a +1 Resistance Bonus to Saving Throws (700 GP) and an Internal Inertial Compass that always lets them know True North (700 GP).

T-850:

  • Add Data Archive (+4 to all Knowledge Skills, all skills are treated as class skills, 750 GP).
  • Upgrade Armor Crystal to a Lesser Version (+5 Hardness, for a total of 15, 1000 GP).
  • Add Morphic Disguise Kit (10 GP). With an extra +6 bonus – and Taking 20 – a T-850 can slowly repair / regrow its human disguise.

T-888

  • Add Expeditious Retreat (1400 GP).
  • A +3 Bonus to Disguise (Thanks to a knowledge of human psychology, 700 GP).
  • Add Built-in Katanas (20 GP).
  • Another 30 GP worth of weapons is likely, but never demonstrated.

The T-900 and T-950 are supposed to be improved somehow, but seemed notably inferior to the 850 models in actual combat. I’d presume that while they are, in fact, somewhat inferior, they are also more stable and far less expensive to produce – a very worthwhile upgrade indeed during wartime, but not something that costs points.

T-X

  • Add Built-In Weaponry: Plasma Rifle (75 GP), Flamethrower (45 GP), Twin Thunder Machine Gun (175 GP), High Frequency Sword (25 GP), Grenade Launcher (100 GP), Laser Sniper Rifle (140 GP), Taser (3 GP), Katana (10 GP), Chain Saw (12.5 GP), minor melee weapons, for a net total of 600 GP.
  • Add Holodisguise (25 GP), since a T-X can perform minor modifications, but cannot change its basic internal structure.
  • Add a Wireless “Neural” Jack (20 GP) and a Neural Computer Link (450 GP), used to override other systems and control them remotely.
  • If it matters, the remaining 650 GP represents the units munitions stockpile; the weapons that require ammo can only be used until the units ammunition reserves are exhausted, whereupon it must restock.

T-1000:

  • Drop the Emergency Power (1400 GP), Hyperalloy Endoskeleton (300 GP), Iron Strike (1400 GP), Armored Framework (700 GP), Large and Heavy (700 GP), and Reroute Systems (168 GP), saving 4368 GP.
  • Add Disguise Self (2000 GP), Reduce Person (x.5, only to fit into and through small places, 700 GP), Summon Weapon (1400 GP), a selection of melee weapons (160 GP), and Reforming (Enhance Structure: +12 + 2 x Str Mod Temporary HP to a construct, reduces the base Hardness by 20% x.8 Personal Only x .7 = 1120 GP) at a cost of 5380 GP.
  • This effectively negates the first twenty-odd points worth of damage that a T-1000 takes each round, but reduces its Hardness to 8 and limits some of its other functions. In theory it leaves about 700 GP worth of Innate Enchantments to go, but I can’t think of anything at the moment. Perhaps a +1 resistance bonus to saving throws (700 GP)?
  • The T-1000 model is very difficult to physically damage, but lacks a solid internal structure to give it shape, strength, and support things like a concentrated energy source, computation, sensor systems, and more. All of those functions have to be distributed across every one of the nanites that makes it up – and it can only be as tough as the links between its nanites. Nanites that have to be able to do everything are always going to have a hard time matching dedicated systems. Unfortunately, it is also extremely resource-expensive to produce and the nanite swarm is highly unstable – making the system extremely vulnerable to program corruption. It may at any point malfunction, change its priorities and goals, subdivide, or even decide that it needs to replace Skynet, That’s why Skynet only deployed wholly-polymetal based Terminators as a last resort.

The T-1000 is also where the franchise makes the transition into complete fantasy; there are an awful lot of physics-related problems with the T-1000, even making allowances for future tech and nanites. Fortunately for Skynet, the Terminators get to run on movie physics instead of the real stuff.

T-3000:

  • The T-3000 does have many of the same abilities as the earlier Terminator models, but it is – quite blatantly – an acquired template, rather than an independent creation. I’ll be covering that template – and making the earlier models playable – next time around.