Eclipse And What NOT To Do

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Powers

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

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

Unfortunately, the then…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basics (26 CP):

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

Usual Attacks:

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

Special Abilities (46 CP):

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

Skills (18 SP):

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

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

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

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

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

The Advancing Warrior Part VII – Special Tricks

So far this series has covered…

And…

Advancing Fighters:

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

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

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

The Beastmaster Warrior:

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

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

“Drawing Aggro”:

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

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

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

The Totemic Warrior:

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

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

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

The Skillmaster Warrior:

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

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

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

The Spellslayer

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

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

The Spellslayer Martial Art (Wis):

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

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

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

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

The Warrior Mage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Multi-Talented Warrior:

So the overall conclusion?

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the better examples include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tinker Warriors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Technology Exploit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Advancing Warrior Part V – The Archer

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

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

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

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

What to Imbue your weapons with?

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

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

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

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

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

For your other archery-related abilities?

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

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

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

After that, pick a few things from among…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Advancing Warrior Part IV – Two Weapon Fighter, Sword and Board Fighter, One-Handed Fighter, and Critical Fisher Fighters.

The Two-Weapon Fighter:

The point of two-weapon fighting is to get extra attacks with a secondary weapon because you’re using both hands. That seemed reasonable when it was introduced and the choices were basically “Two-Handed Weapon, Weapon and Shield, or Two Weapons” – but then the roster of playable races expanded to include races with more arms, or prehensile tails, or tentacles, or whatever and we started seeing weapons that provided shield bonuses, and rules for using shields as weapons, and ways to use a shield without having to carry it (such as Force Shield Rings, Animated Shields, and the Shieldbearer spell). We even started seeing dual-shield builds, although it’s rather hard to justify those historically.

That’s why later effects that provide more limbs – such as Girallon’s Blessing and various other polymorph effects – only provide a greater number of weapon options instead of extra attacks. After all, the d20 combat system is highly abstracted; it is assumed that characters are fighting to the best of their ability, and that – if a good chance comes up – they will use a secondary weapon, kick an opponents knee, bash them with a shield, or pull whatever “dirty trick” they can. Of course, it’s also assumed that most such maneuvers are simply used to create openings for your primary mode of attack. Like Attacks of Opportunity, if you’re holding multiple weapons… you can exploit your opening with whatever weapon suits you and all that activity is simply assumed to be going on in the background.

Eclipse does not care what you use to attack with; if you wish to buy a damage die for your long, flowing, hair and use it to attack people as a natural weapon, then so be it. If you also have six arms and a prehensile tail and are holding four weapons, two shields, and an unconscious companion… then your attacks are made with whichever of those best suits you at the moment. I do tend to allow you your best shield bonus and a +2 circumstance bonus on your AC if you are using two shields, and a +3 circumstance bonus for three or more – but that’s just me, not an “official rule”. Still, that’s the sort of thing that Circumstance Bonuses are for.

Thus, in Eclipse, classical two-weapon fighting is simple: you buy extra attacks (bump your BAB or buy Bonus Attack, Rapid Attack, Opportunist, et al) and other special weapon abilities – limited so that you cannot have a shield bonus or use a two-handed weapon and have to be holding at least one extra weapon when you use them . That will make getting those extra attacks cheaper – so that you can afford to buy bonuses to your defenses and to the damage you inflict, making up for not using a two-handed weapon. Between that and a Martial Art a lot of the “two weapon fighting feats” become irrelevant: your strength modifier applies normally in the first place, you don’t have to worry about complicated “secondary weapon” penalties, the Eclipse version of Power Attack (Expertise) works the same way for both one- and two-handed weapons, getting an extra attack after (say) disarming someone is simply Opportunist and doesn’t require using a second weapon, being able to Feint as an Attack is just Opportunist again, and so on.

If you want to use two weapons rather than a two-handed weapon… it’s really mostly a matter of style. It might take three or four levels to purchase everything you want – but this is really only a minor variation on the basic Smasher build.

The Sword-and-Board Fighter:

Sword-and-Board – or, more generally, one-handed weapon and shield with armor as available – was pretty much THE favored military melee combat style for thousands of years across multiple continents. There are excellent reasons for that; it’s much easier to focus on a single weapon in your dominant hand than on two weapons, a lot of the use of a shield can be handled by basic reflexes, shields can provide quite a bit of protection for a fairly small investment, shields are a lot easier to pick up than armor is to don, lighter weapons are quicker to train with and cheaper to get. Thus you had the basic selection of Spear-and-Shield, Axe-or-Mace-and-Shield, Shortsword-and-Shield, and even Javelin-and-Shield. That pretty much amounted to Thrust or Trip, Smash or Throw, Thrust or Slash, and Thrust or Throw… and Shield. Straightforward, near-instinctive, and so easily trained. After all, in the real world, where people have messy biology instead of masses of “hit points”… a short sword in the gut was generally every bit as incapacitating and mortal as a mighty blow from a two handed axe. Who cared if your fallen and incapacitated opponent might live a few moments longer after the shortsword thrust? You’d won. In d20 though… opponents can fight on at full strength despite massive wounds. Thus in baseline d20 sacrificing offensive power in favor of a defensive boost is generally a poor idea since it lets your enemies survive long enough to do more damage anyway. So shield users tend to get outclassed by other styles.

For good or ill, however, this is d20 – wherein none of these practicalities have much influence on Adventurers – who are exceptional people to start with and have all kinds of incredible (and often nonsensical) abilities That’s especially true in Eclipse, where offensive fighting power is limited by what the game master is willing to put up with, not by style.

In Eclipse Sword-and-Board is just as simple as Two Weapons: You’re trading in a part of your damage potential for an improved armor class. The trick here is that – in Eclipse – it’s not very hard to get your damage output up to effective levels with pretty much any weapon. It will cost a little more if you start off with a weaker weapon, but the limitation lies in what the game master is willing to put up with, not in your ability to stack up damage bonuses – and what the game master is willing to put up with doesn’t really depend much on whether or not you’re using a two-handed weapon. Sword-and-Board was the historical standard for a very long time. Eclipse makes it the standard again since it gets you improved defenses at very little actual cost. All you need to do is restrict a chunk of your tricks to only be usable with a limited set of favored weapons, and there you are.

The One-Handed Fighter:

One-Handed Fighters are slightly trickier. The major historical reason for such styles was social; if you were somewhere where major weapons, shields, and armor were inappropriate you’d probably only have a single, relatively light, weapon. In later history, you might be keeping one hand free to get out a pistol, bomb, or some other unsporting trick. You might even want to be able to defend yourself while shoving someone behind you, or carrying something you’d stolen, or even while hanging onto a rope, railing, or tree branch. In d20, you might also want a hand free for spellcasting, or tossing out alchemical items, or to use some special power. In Eclipse this is functionally virtually identical to a two-weapon fighter build; you cannot have a shield bonus or use a two-handed weapon while using whatever one-handed fighter tricks you buy.

Critical Fishers come in two basic subtypes.

Massive Damage Critical Fishers:

These builds want a big critical multiplier. At it’s simplest… a +4 Strength Modifier and a Heavy Pick (1d6, 20/x4). Use Improved Critical and Lethal to get it up to 19-20/x5 (12 CP), then throw in Luck with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for melee attacks with your pick (8 CP). Add a Martial Art (at +8 total for +3 Power and some other benefit – perhaps an extra 5′ Reach?) and Aggressive Strike (6 CP) and you can now automatically score a critical hit in melee combat for (1d12+19) x 5 damage a dozen times a day. At a total cost of 26 CP you can afford to buy the entire package at level one. It would be two levels worth of purchases later on though. Three if you want to spend (6 CP) upgrade Aggressive Strike to allow up to (-20) on your AC to get +60 damage instead of the +15 I figured in before, raising the total to up to (1d12 + 64) x 5 damage. And this version can still use a shield just fine.

For further advancement? More bonus uses on the Luck (+12 for +6 CP) and either Imbuement (6-18 CP) or a genuine Magic Weapon. If you want to get elaborate throw in Whirlwind and Lunge (Both specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Whirlwind counts as a standard attack, Lunge provides +15′ Reach) / only with a Pick, damage is divided by the user as desired (instead of all of it to each target) – although choices like “enough to take the target down” are valid (12 CP). That way you can perform your five-hundred point swing of your pick and take out whole swaths of minor opponents.

You’ll need about five levels worth of purchases to fill out the Massive Damage Critical Fisher build – but it will also make a fine substitute for the practical charger builds: all it NEEDS is a single attack.

As usual in Eclipse, the trick is not building an effective – or even a far over-optimized – fighter. It’s in limiting things so as to set up a character who will be fun for everyone – player, game master, and other players – to have in the game. That’s one reason that “optimization” in Eclipse is easy. Why waste time on that instead of actually playing the game?

The Effects Monger Critical Fisher:

These builds are characters who specialize in doing odd things to their targets. That idea actually dates back to first edition, where it was (to go with the much less detailed rules) informal; when someone said “I’m going to try and cripple the dragons leg!” or “Can I hit their head and stun them?” the usual answer was “you can try! Roll your attack at (a large penalty)!” – with the result contingent on the attack check, the level of damage inflicted, and GM whimsy.

In Eclipse this is the fighter version of “save or suck!” effects. While even the basic Martial Arts rules include a selection of “special effect on a critical” abilities, the big item in this area is the “Trick” ability (6 CP, or 4 CP if corrupted to only work with a particular weapon, per instance). It basically says that either three times per day or under special circumstances (defined in consultation with the GM with lesser effects calling for easier conditions) you can make a special attack that forces a save to avoid a dangerous special effect. For a popular example, buy:

  • Dolorous Stroke: Trick (6 CP): Either 3/Day or on a Confirmed Critical against a creature vulnerable to critical hits (user’s choice) your attack inflicts an effect equivalent to Bestow Curse or Blindness/Deafness on the creature struck if it fails to save (Will Save DC 10 + Level/2 + Str Mod). Such a “curse” will go away in 1d10 days thanks to the remarkable healing abilities of d20 characters or can be removed immediately by Healing effects of level three or more or in 1d4+1 rounds by a Heal check against the original save DC. Go ahead and Corrupt this to limit it to your favorite weapon and get it down to (4 CP).

A Death Strike – basically the equivalent of an Assassin’s Death Attack – is similar. It’s either 3/Day or calls for three rounds of study before it can be used, but if your target fails to save… they die. Does your attack leave the victim Paralyzed or Unconscious? Since those conditions are really just another way of saying “I Win!” they’ll be tricky to pull off too – but there are plenty of ways to make them work.

Perhaps Nerve Block prevents the use of spellcasting and psionics for 3d6 hours. Withering Palm dissipates the victims Mana reserves (should they happen to have any). Agony leaves the victim at a -6 on all rolls for 2d4 hours and can be used for interrogation. Petit Mal causes the victim to “lose” 1d4+4 rounds without being aware of it. Amnesia causes the victim to lose his or her memory for 3d6 hours and even after recovery 1d4 hours just before the strike will remain blank.

Depending on the effect, “on a critical hit” – or perhaps “on a hit that would be a critical against an opponent vulnerable to critical hits” – can be a quite reasonable trigger. Want to do some attribute damage? Half an opponents movement? Send outsiders back to their home planes? Cause massive bleeding? Inflict effects such as Sickened, Staggered, Exhausted, or Diseased? Why not?

What you’ll want in this case is a weapon with a good critical range. If you’re going by the basic weapon lists, that will usually be a Kukri, Scimitar, Rapier, or Falchion for a base of 18-20. Buy Superior Improved Critical for your choice of weapon (12 CP) which doubles the threat range and lets that doubling stack with one magical enhancement to the threat range. With Keen (most cheaply available through Use of Charms and Talismans to get a Rune Weapon, 6 CP) that will get you up to a threat range of 12-20. You will then want Specialized Luck (roll twice to confirm critical hits and take the best result, 6 CP). You can Corrupt that down to (4 CP) by limiting it to your favored weapon if you wish. Throw in Dolorous Stroke for your favored weapon (4 CP) and for a total cost of 26 CP – another package a dedicated Fighter could afford to buy at level one – you can inflict some pretty good debuffs on your opponents in every battle. To continue further, you’ll probably simply want to get more Tricks, increase your base attack bonus, and develop your martial arts so that you hit more often and can take advantage of your tricks. Note that nothing prevents you from using more than one Trick at a time if their activation conditions are compatible.

Eclipse – The Advancing Warrior, Part III

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

The Mounted Warrior:

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

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

Summon Mount (Simple Spell Template):

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

Available Mounts from Summon Mount:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Character Optimization in RPG’s and Eclipse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, firmly on the tactical level…

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I hope that helps!

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