Valdemar D20 Part III – Building Heralds and Companions

So what about game statistics? Well…

Companions:

Statistics for Companions are actually almost irrelevant. Companions aid, support, and advise their Heralds – but they don’t straighten out their love lives, or offer divine guidance, or make their decisions for them, or use direct magic on their own. They’re COMPANIONS, not protagonists – and generally aren’t player characters. When a Herald is dealing with human stuff, or holding a war conference, or in a building, or at court… their Companion is out in a field, or getting carrots from kids, or off being a horse. Companions live like horses, eat like horses, run around and play like horses, fight like horses (or a little better), and – for that matter – breed like horses. They don’t even go looking for most of the privileges and diversions that a normal human would look for if they were stuck in a horses body. Many of them can’t even mindspeak enough to participate in conferences, even if they have no problem communicating amongst themselves.

They’re not a character attribute either. They’re independent, free willed, allies. They choose to bond with people who are Altruistic, Energetic, Faithful, Helpful, Honest, and Principled (often to the point of being hopelessly unrealistic, which is one reason why they tend to pick youngsters) and recruit them into service to Valdemar. They then encourage those traits – which is one reason why most Heralds don’t live to retire. They aren’t a class feature, or mystic mount, or anything else you buy with character points or feats. They are looking for particular Character Traits – even if they’re masked by circumstances – and so fall under the (admittedly, rarely-used) Character Traits and Granted Powers option in Eclipse (Pages 153 and 154).

Companions are basically Modified Light Warhorses.

  • Intelligence and Charisma are both 2d6+6. This doesn’t exactly have a cost; companions may be smart and good-looking, but their options for applying either are pretty slim. This also makes them incredibly conspicuous. It’s very hard to disguise a Companion for long.
  • Spell/Power Resistance (6 CP). They don’t seem to have a lot, but they seem to have some. Ergo, the basic level.
  • Mindspeech, Corrupted for Increased Effect (Can provide +/-3 on Trait Checks, can get people to forget details about themselves) / only effective according to the GM’s whims for each Companion (6 CP).
  • Tireless (6 CP). No reasonable amount of work will Fatigue or Exhaust a Companion.
  • Innate Enchantment: All Caster Level One, Unlimited Use Use Activated. +2 to Str, Con, and Dex (4200 GP), Immortal Vigor I (+12 + 2 x Con Mod HP, 1400), and Know Direction (700 GP) (7 CP). Companions are better and tougher than normal warhorses and never get lost.
  • Improved Celerity: +20′ Ground Movement (9 CP).
  • Immunity/Having to know a language to understand it (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • Occult Sense / Personality Traits (6 CP).
  • Usual Disadvantages: Dies with chosen Herald (Counts as two), Very Restricted on when they can intervene (-10 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge / Heraldic Traditions (1 CP).

Net Total: 32 CP / +1 ECL. Companions are pretty formidable against normal animals, but they aren’t built for independently fighting monsters.

While all Companions are supported by the Crown, they’re also all in Service to the crown – so this is essentially just having a job. They have little use for money anyway.

Grove-Born Companions only show up for major figures of destiny, and not all of them. Given that player characters make their own destinies, there is no reasonable way that one of them will ever have such a companion. If you happen to need attributes, they get…

  • +2 to All Attributes (36 CP).
  • Add Force Shield I (1400 GP), Sustenance (1400 GP), and Endure Elements (1400 GP) to their Innate Enchantments (4 CP).
  • 2d6 Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized / Only for Spell Enhancement (6 CP) and Rite Of Chi 1/Day, Specialized/only to recharge Spell Enhancement Pool (3 CP).
  • Blessing (Specialized and Corrupted / only to lend Mana and Spell Enhancement to his or her Herald (2 CP).
  • Privilege/Recognized by other Companions as their natural leader. Also, extremely fertile (3 CP).
  • Occult Sense / Finding their Destined Rider (I’m counting this as Specialized and Corrupted, since it really doesn’t do much of anything helpful (2 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge / Theology of the responsible god or goddess (1 CP). (No, I don’t know which one it is).
  • Specific Knowledge / Valdemar (1 CP).
  • Any one Bonus Feat. Each Grove-Born is at least a little different straight out of the Grove (6 CP).

Net Total: 64 CP, so another +2 ECL for a total of +3 ECL.

Heralds:

Gifts are another problem. Heralds don’t usually seem to use them for mere convenience, so there’s probably a cost to using even the most basic functions. Yet they use those same basic functions freely when it’s convenient for the plot – so that cost cannot be very high. Higher order abilities, of course, are quickly exhausting to use. In a game, of course, the players will have their characters use their gifts whenever it’s even remotely likely that they will help – and they will try to use them in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways. On the other hand… Heralds aren’t notably superhuman in any other fashion. Most obviously, an arrow, bolt, or sword stuck in some critical bit of anatomy can kill them instantly. They don’t have the kind of superhuman resistance to injury that even mid-level d20 characters do and it’s hard to blame the players for wanting to use whatever special powers they do have to the limit. It’s also notable that most Heralds gain their Gifts very early on. They gain more control with training – but are generally reasonably skilled by the time they are out of school and are often as powerful as they are ever going to get. Gifts tend to turn up at level one, or even level zero – so they can’t be all that expensive.

So: your basic Gift will look something like this.

  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (Level Zero Effects) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to produce effects in a very narrow field (4 CP).

And, for quite a lot of Heralds (and even more non-Heralds) that is where it stops. A Firestarter can light (and possibly extinguish) candles, torches, and fires, craft small images out of flames, treat nasty cases of frostbite, make bright flashes of light, send up smoke signals, keep warm in cold weather, heat tea, and do a lot of other things. If the game master is agreeable, he or she might even be able to “remove fire” from things and cool them or protect himself or herself against a bit of fire damage.

So what about more powerful gifts in general and Lavan Firestorm in particular?

Well, for that buy

  • 1d6 Mana with Spell Enhancement (+1 level per mana spent), Specialized and Corrupted / only to enhance Gifts, only applies to one gift per purchase even if the user has more of them, may only spend one point per time this is purchased, three, or (Cha Mod) points (whichever is least) on enhancing a Gift (2 CP per time taken).

With that, a Herald can occasionally use his or her gift for higher level effects – and with rest and meditation can recover two points of Mana per day, so if they burn themselves out it may take days to recover but they can use a higher-powered effect once or twice a day consistently.

  • A Healer can work a lot of healing cantrips, although the general Path Of The Dragon rule that they start losing effect after 2d6 per patient per day still applies – but even the Hedge Wizardry spells like “relieve illness” and “relieve poison” are going to be limited use. Epidemics are not going to be easily stopped.
  • A Telekinetic can guide arrows, move small items, and play a multitude of tricks – but major blasts of telekinetic force are not going to be particularly common.
  • And so on, for all the other gifts. Gamers will doubtless come up with a lot more than grace the original books.

Mage-Gift:

For Mage-Gift… Well, Mages draw on external energies, and – according to some of the books – don’t need to use their own energies until those external sources are exhausted. On the other hand, most of them seem to know very few spells and there are plenty of examples of mages exhausting themselves simply using the available power. They need more training to use their powers effectively, so they are generally of higher level.

  • Their basis is Occult Talent (6 CP) and/or Improved Occult Talent supplemented with Mana. Thus they can take spells (anything that the game master is willing to allow) that require Mana expenditure to cast. Apprentices may have 6 CP worth of Occult Talents, Journeymen 12, Masters 18, and Adepts 24 – but you don’t HAVE to have more than the basics.
    • Apprentices or “Hedge Wizards” have no Mana.
    • Journeymen generally have 1d6 Mana, may spend 1 Mana to reduce the level of a spell for casting purposes, and may use Rite Of Chi once per day to recharge from Ambient Mana.
    • Masters have 2d6 Mana, may spend 2 Mana to reduce the level of a spell for casting purposes, and may use Rite Of Chi twice per day – once to recharge from Ambient Mana and once more if a Ley Line is available.
    • Adepts have 3D6 Mana may spend 3 Mana to reduce the level of a spell for casting purposes, and may use Rite Of Chi three times per day – once to recharge from Ambient Mana, once to draw energy from a Ley Line, and once to draw energy from a Node.
  • Journeymen through Adepts also have Magesight (Occult Sense/Magic, 6 CP).

As noted in Part II, Final Strikes seem to be available to everyone, so they’re presumably a World Law.

To price this, buy…

  • 1d6 Mana with Spell Enhancement (+1 level per mana spent), Specialized and Corrupted / only to enhance Occult Talents, may only spend one point per time this is purchased, three, or (Int Mod) points (whichever is least) on enhancing a Spell (2 CP per time taken). So that’s 2, 4, or 6 CP spent on Mana for Journeymen, Masters, and Adepts.
  • Rite Of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / Only to recharge the Occult Talent enhancement pool, only to tap the energy sources permitted by the characters level of mastery / number of dice of Mana purchased or to recharge through blood sacrifice, may not be bought up further (3 CP).

So being a Hedge Wizard or Apprentice costs 6 CP, being a Journeyman costs 11 or 17 CP, being a Master costs 19-31 CP, and being an Adept costs 21-39 CP. Throw in some disadvantages – lingering pain from having your “channels” blasted open and emotional distress due to a broken lifebond perhaps? – and you can easily have a child who just so happens to be a basic adept even if they don’t know many spells yet. You could even put that, and a handful of basic Gifts, into a +1 ECL Template and drop it on some unfortunate kid.

Really skilled mages may know either Ritual Magic, Hedge Wizardry, or Create Relic (all 6 CP) as well – but not more than one of those.

  • Ritual Magic tends to be the mark of blood mages or archmagi, and can be used to craft mighty mystical weapons, create new species, make permanent gates bound to nodes of power, raise mighty towers, and summon demons (a speciality of evil mages).
  • Hedge Wizardry (from The Practical Enchanter) tends to be the mark of low-powered but very practical magi, who have learned a multitude of practical spells across the years.
  • Create Relic tends to be the province of mage-smiths and artificers, such as the creator of Need. It’s most often used to make focus-stones, which allow +1 use of Rite Of Chi daily. These have no CP cost, because that would only cost 2/6 CP – and so rounds down to zero.

If Spirit Magic is in play, that’s another 24 CP – but, as noted earlier, it vanished from the system very early on. It was just too flexible and potentially too powerful for easy writing. And while it can be a lot of fun in a game… it will seriously overshadow Gifts if you let it in.

  • For mages, the common spells are Light (L0), a basic Shield (Immediate Action, L1 in a L0 slot so 1 Mana, blocks 15 points of damage), various forms of energy attacks (L2 Scorching Ray, 1-2 Mana depending on slot), and a couple of utility effects. Vanyel, for example, has one that transfers mana from his Magical Pool over to his Gifts (given that he’s got only one brain, probably a L0 effect to start with). He also had Dispel Magic and… I can’t recall if he could make Gates (L4 thanks to all their limitations) or not. I’ll say he can – so that makes five effects. He could be a minimum-cost adept. Throw in Ritual Magic for his various ritual workings, and we pretty well have him covered.

This also explains why Mages and Herald-Mages tend to spend a lot of time with the military. A “normal” Herald may have some tricks – but they’re very limited use and take a good deal of time to recover. Great for special missions, riding circuit, and espionage, but not so good for a military campaign. A Herald-Mage can use his or her magical powers to their full extent EVERY DAY – and two or three Fireballs a day can make an enormous difference in a war where the troops are mostly made up of first or second level people with swords, spears, lances, and bows.

  • Characters on Velgarth should generally use the Low-Level Adventurer Template. People there just do not achieve godlike levels of power – and even action movie hero levels (6+) are pretty exceptional.
  • Most Heralds are decent fighters (helped a lot by riding intelligent warhorses) and have a lot of skills. They’re not much for armor, massive, heavy, weapons, or exotic martial arts or other oddities. They do tend to have a lot of skills and some royal authority and are good at parrying attacks. Some of the tricks from the Dark Ages Man At Arms may be appropriate.

And really… that’s about it for Heralds and Companions. They’re a lot more mortal, and more limited, than a standard-issue high level d20 character.

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Valdemar D20 Part II – Gifts And Spells

For Part I, go HERE.

So what sort of powers do the books actually show Mages and Heralds using? Looking at the books, for Heraldic Gifts and Spells we have…

  • Animal Mindspeech: You can “speak” with animals. That’s pretty basic.
  • (The) Bardic Gift: Rather ill-defined, but it seems to be able to convey feelings, suppress pain, and convey impressions – so possibly subtle, internally-directed illusions. One of the few gifts that can directly affect a crowd though.
  • Bonding: You can bond with something. Like a Hawk. Or Warsteed. Or Companion. Or Firecat. Or Lover. Or Twin or other Sibling. Or you can settle for a lesser version and fall in Love with pretty much anyone. This seems to be pretty much universal. Bonding with a Companion seems to allow the use of Truthspell – but that also relies on Vanyels old web-spell which creates a link with the Vrondi.
    • Personally, I’d forget about the Truthspell in any game setting. Heralds in the books often refrain from using it out of political considerations, or respect, or being forgetful, or not wanting to give people the impression that they aren’t trusted. Gamers will FIND an excuse to use it ALL THE TIME – and there go all your intrigue and manipulation plots. Mistaken identity? Falsely accused? Hidden traitors? We’ll have none of THAT.
  • Channeling: The ability to act as a pipeline for raw magical energy that other people can direct or use. Rare and generally useless until the author decides that it’s needed as a plot device.
  • Earthsense: You can vaguely detect damage and disturbances that affect the land and the creatures that live there. If they are suffering, you will do so as well.
  • Empathy: Picking up emotions, truthsensing, and – for those with powerful gifts – the ability to compel weaker-willed individuals to speak the truth. Powerful empaths may be able to cause mental damage, which is best represented as some sort of curse.
  • Farsight: Clairvoyance. When controllable, it seems to be fairly short ranged. It also shows visions to suit the plot.
  • Final Strike. You can ramp up your power enormously by dying. Of course, EVERYONE with ANY kind of special power seems to be able to sacrifice themselves for a big boost when they want to save others, or take revenge at any cost, or whatever. Probably a world law or bit of divine assistance in recognition of your sacrifice or some such.
  • Gift Of Tongues: Companions have this, but it’s rare among humans. You understand all languages but can’t bypass speech impediments (such as having a horses voicebox). So… a L2 version of comprehend languages?
  • Mage-Gift: The ability to sense and manipulate the flow of life-energy about you. Doesn’t let you pick up the presence of living things nearby though. Why not? Because it would make mages hard to ambush. Comes in three stages – ability to handle ambient magic, ability to handle ambient magic and ley lines, and ability to handle ambient magic, ley lines, and ley line nodes. A good focus-stone seems to help somewhat in making things less tiring. Now here we have the good stuff! Generate Lightning! Make reasonably bright lights! Uhm… What other spells do we see?
    • Make a tent nice and warm! Or you could carry blankets with your adventuring supplies. Just Sayin.
    • Make a willing male gryphons body temperature stay low long enough for them to produce fertile sperm! Or sit in a cold bath for a while.
    • Summon Elementals! Abyssal, Air, and Fire elementals are mentioned – although they are quite small, none seem especially powerful, and most are timid.
    • Make new magical creatures or golem-things! Presuming that you are a master biologist as well as an uber-archmage or a blood mage villain, and even then it takes decades or centuries to make new creatures, they rarely reproduce well, and most of them have quite a lot of serious flaws and weaknesses. Golems and Frankenstein-constructs are easier, but are full of weaknesses and can never reproduce.
    • Open Gates / Teleportation Portals! Well, if you have some major power sources to draw on. Like being an adept using a node, killing a lot of people for blood magic, or having a big team of very well-trained mages. And you don’t mind being exhausted afterwards. And have time for it, since it often seems to call for a ritual. And there are no major magical disturbances in the area to disrupt your gate.
    • Summon Magical Creatures! If there are some about anyway. And you have enough raw power to gate them in (see Gates). And controlling them is quite another matter.
    • Make amplifiers for magic or other gifts! Which are expensive, unreliable, and take a lot of charging up – which is why they’re terribly rare.
    • Make a big magical greenhouse! If you have a node to tie it to, help in setting it up, and a lot of time. This may also provide some defense against divination, if only in the same way that a houses walls help against people spying on you from afar.
    • Summon or drive off magical entities! Given time, knowledge, and various rituals.
    • Make Videophone Calls! Well, if the people on both ends happen to be Adept or Masterclass mages of the White Winds school and they don’t mind throwing up a beacon of “here I am”, opening themselves to magical attack, and getting drained or exhausted in the process.
    • You can perform a ritual that will allow those betrayed unto death by an Oathbreaker to come back as spirits and take vengeance! If you’ve already captured and restrained the target, and have the help of a Priest, a Mage, and a Common Man of Goodwill who have all been betrayed by the Oathbreaker, and have lots of time, and the targets oathbreaking has resulted in other deaths. Or you could stab them a few times. Again,I’m just sayin…
    • Entrap other Mages in constraints that reflect their own magic back at them! If you have it all set up in advance for your targets and they don’t know how to get out. Given that the inventor made sure to spread knowledge of the spell around after using it, so that everyone WOULD know, this makes it a lot less useful.
    • You can Create Daggers Of Light! They last for a few moments after you let go of them, so you can throw them at people. Their effects are… exactly identical to those of any other decent dagger. You will always have a backup weapon though.
    • Throw various forms of Energy Blasts. Lightning. Fire. Er… maybe Force. I can’t recall much in the way of Cold, Sonic, or Acid blasts though. Usually targeting an individual or a small group. For a lot of “mages” this is about their only combat technique.
    • Spells Of Mass Compulsion! You can brainwash and compel entire armies! If you don’t mind being an irredeemably evil blood mage and performing lengthy rituals of human sacrifice. This also makes you a prime target for assassination of course.
    • Start Fires! Like with a match/tindertwig! Or, in advanced cases, like Alchemists Fire!
    • Hide Your Magic! So that the extremely rare people with Mage-Gift can’t automatically notice it if they look. Also, this only works if you’re an adept. Mostly only turns up in the Vows & Honor series before the magic system changed but I think that it got mentioned later.
    • Create Illusions! Well, this one is a bread-and-butter effect in many places, mostly being used for disguises. Larger scale, combat, or beyond-the-visual illusions seem to be much rarer. About the biggest combat effect seems to be the “Blur” spell.
    • Slow or Reverse Aging! Well, mages can live a long time; it comes of tapping into extra life energy. Few of them seem to die of old age though and getting younger seems to involve stealing other peoples lives or bodies. How often do RPG characters die or old age anyway?
    • Reincarnate! Like normal, except that you get to keep more of your memories at the cost of stealing one of your descendants bodies, driving yourself madder and madder, being evil, and being judged by the gods or possibly having your soul annihilated at some point.
    • Put low-resistance people to sleep! Like… you know, a Sleep spell!
    • Create an Adept Manifestation! Basically a Psychic Construct. If you happen to be an adept and are willing to put so much power into it that you endanger yourself if it is destroyed. Yet another effect that is used once in an early book and never really comes up later except to show “I am an adept!”. Mostly only turns up in the Vows & Honor series before the magic system changed.
    • Summon small Whirlwinds! Like… Dust Devil or Wall Of Wind. Mostly only turns up in the Vows & Honor series before the magic system changed, and so may be an air elemental effect.
    • Make Walls of Fire! Like… Wall Of Fire, but generally smaller and weaker. Probably a third level version.
    • Perform minor Divinations, drawing on notions of Sympathy and Contagion! Mostly only turns up in the Vows & Honor series before the magic system changed. Perhaps an air elemental effect?
    • Create a Dueling Circle, which contains your own attacks and prevents outside magical interference. Turns up in the Vows & Honor series (once I think) before the magic system changed and did not prevent multiple forms of cheating and external interference.
    • Empower your other Gifts with energy from Ley Lines and Nodes! If you’re Vanyel Askevron, and have had all those magic and gift “channels” blasted open in a horrible magical accident. Otherwise this doesn’t seem to happen much at all.
    • Project your spirit into the void between gates! Where there is… well, where there normally isn’t anything at all except a massive energy drain. Unless a mega-adept has hidden something there – which turns up ONCE – this is effectively “I can sink into a trance I might not awaken from and accomplish nothing!”.
    • Create a country-wide alert/spy system connected to all the other Heralds! Using the help of several other mages, a node focused through a Heartstone, and a small legion of divinely-empowered plot-device Companions… So no, this isn’t going to work for you.
      • Advanced Masters can set spells on triggers, to go off later. Almost like they know a bit of Metamagic.
  • Mind-Healing. Well, this is SUPPOSED to cover a boosted understanding psychology, calming emotions, treating traumas and mental control effects, and so on. In the actual books it’s more heard of then seen, because stories about mentally healthy, well-adjusted, sensible people tend to be BORING.
  • Precognition: This usually comes in a specialized variant; tactical precognition that gives you bonuses in a fight is very different from dreaming the distant future – and neither have much relationship to being able to predict the weather weeks in advance.
  • Psychometry: Ability to “read” information and impressions from objects. Like that minor psionic discipline.
  • Pyrokinesis: Mostly limited to the equivalent of “throw alchemists fire” if you can do anything beyond getting along without a cigarette lighter or match. A few people with this as a major gift show up, and can do things like start forest fires very quickly or perhaps throw fireballs.
  • Shields: Pretty much all Heralds are taught to stabilize their mind and resist being influenced by effects resembling their own gifts. In d20 terms, they invest a bit in Will Saves. A lot of the more subtle stuff apparently automatically fails against anyone with a decent will save bonus. Mages use the same technique to help them resist magical attacks. Like… you know, buying up your saving throws.
  • Summoning Rituals: What little is left of the old “call on entities from other planes” magic system. Mostly minor, easily turned back on the user, and dangerous. Mostly used by bad guys to summon “demons”. Since “Demons” never actually put in an on-stage appearance in most of the books beyond the Vows & Honor series – and that was before the magic system changed – we know little or nothing about them save that “they are bad”.
  • Telekinesis: Usually minor, but handy for guiding missiles, snagging cell keys, and similar tricks.
  • Telepathy: Usually fairly short range, but some few can check in on people they know at great distances. Often limited to either receiving or projecting, but it’s not too uncommon to do both. Stronger gifts can be used to cause insanity, charm people, make suggestion effects, and so on.
  • Teleportation: Usually short range and of small objects to and/or from the user. Under great stress, and with a powerful gift, you can move something as large as a small person a short distance. Like a one-shot blink or very short range, low-capacity, Dimension door.

In case it wasn’t sufficiently obvious… most Gifts basically cover first level stuff. The occasional Major Versions of those Gifts cover a rather limited selection of stuff of up to level three or four. We aren’t talking vast cosmic power here. Next time around I’ll look at actually building this stuff.

Valdemar D20 – Part I

Today it’s a question about Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar / Velgarth setting – how to build Heraldic Gifts and Companions in Eclipse D20.

The first thing to remember about the Valdemar / Velgarth setting is that – like the vast majority of fantasy novels and novel series settings – it’s a low-magic world.

What’s that you say? Most of the major characters have magical gifts?

Yes. Yes they do. Yet there are large groups that have very little magic. Magical devices are extremely rare, and what magic there is tends to be low powered, at least by d20 gaming terms.

For example, we have Healing Magic / Gifts (Psionic Magic). What can be done with this?

  • Resurrection from a centuries-old fragment of bone? No.
  • Raise the recently dead? No. Gods can do it, but, they generally aren’t protagonists and they don’t hand out this kind of power; it’s a special miracle.
  • Instantly wipe away major wounds? No.
  • Instantly Neutralize Poison? No.
  • Instantly Cure Blindness, Deafness, or Disease? No.

In Velgarth the most powerful healers can accelerate natural healing, slow the progress of poisons while looking for an antidote or treatment, and bolster the bodies resistance to disease. Maybe they can do some equivalent of vaccinations. They can usually compound and administer medicines, although that’s training not magic. In the books, even with healer assistance, recovery from major injuries can require months. Plenty of people suffer long-term crippling effects.

In D20? Any injury you can survive will generally heal completely, and without any complications, scarring, or long-term effects, within a weealk, even without any help beyond – perhaps – applying some bandages. In d20 terms, the most powerful mystical Healers in Velgarth simply have a reasonable bonus on their heal skill.

There are excellent reasons why most fantasy fiction limits things that way – and it’s not just so that injuries are actually threatening hindrances to the characters (although that is another reason) since it tends to apply to all magic.

It’s because every time you introduce another magical power, you need to keep track of it. You need to consider it’s effects on the setting. You need to out-think all your readers, because if that power could be used to solve a problem that you put in later, then a lot of readers will wonder why it wasn’t so used. After all, if they could think of using it (even at leisure and under no stress) why couldn’t that spellcaster who’d devoted much of his or her life to the study of magic think of it under pressure?

You certainly don’t want to wind up considering the ramifications of a level fifteen d20 Wizards spell load-out, or even a Sorcerers. Sure, you can have major magical events – but they’re going to be the result of divine intervention, or ancient megawizards, or otherwise safely out of reach of the main characters. Just like that continent-spanning magical cataclysm that apparently even the gods cannot just step in and stop and all those magically-spawned species.

In d20 terms… you generally don’t want anyone to have even reasonably reliable access to Raise Dead, Heal, Plane Shift, Polymorph Other, Create Undead (at least not with anything less than MAJOR rituals and fetch-quests), Teleport, easy Scrying, Awaken, Battlefield Spells, Bestowing Curses, Werecreature Transformations, Mass Burrow, Call Avalanche, Call Nightmare, Cloudkill, Commune, Contact Other Plane, Contagious Touch, Control Winds, Dimension Door… The list goes on and on. All of those effects can easily wreck plots and foul up your setting.

What you want is very limited access to a modest selection of level five and six effects via major rituals limited to near-archmagi, well-organized teams of lesser ritualists with access to major sources of power, and to cheaters calling on dark powers and blood magic that the heroes won’t want to use.

  • REALLY powerful grand master mages may have access to a modest selection of level three and four spells – carefully leaving out most of the more problematic effects.
  • Master Mages can have access to a lot of the second level stuff, although any given mage will usually only actually know a limited part of whatever is available. The kind of stuff that generally isn’t all that multipurpose, is effective but not overpowering, and only affects a limited number of targets at a time. That gives them some pretty amazing super powers without making them unmanageable in the story.
  • Journeyman Mages get access to most of the first level stuff – although any given Journeyman will probably only know a dozen or so notable spells.
  • Apprentices get Cantrips – the level zero stuff. In a low-magic setting that’s still pretty impressive. Summon water in the desert? Remain buoyant in a storm? Produce a knife when you’ve been disarmed? Create light in the darkness? Start a fire with wet wood in the freezing cold? Mitigate pain? Stop someone from bleeding to death? All potentially lifesaving,

So now that we know what we’re looking for, it’s on with the details.

The first detail is the magic system from the Vows and Honor trilogy. It involved…

  • Mind-Magic – personal psionic powers that were generally inborn. Noted as being used in Valdemar, up north.
  • Life-Energy Based Magic, which was later divided up into Personal Energy Magic (used by Apprentices and up), Ambient Magic (used by Journeymen and up), Ley Line Magic (used by Masters and up, dangerous if you weren’t talented enough to use it), and Node Magic (Used by Adepts, fatal if you weren’t talented enough to use it). Most user’s were limited by their (mostly fixed) level of Mage-Gift / Natural Talent / Ability to Sense Magical Energy and by their level of Training.
    • Blood Magic was a variant that wasn’t so limited. It didn’t even call for Mage-Gift, since you knew that – when something died – a big burst of power would be there to harvest and use. Of course, since things die all the time, contributing their energies to the ambient level – which flowed into ley-lines and nodes – all Journeymen and up used some level of blood magic. Personally I always wanted to see a blood-mage healer, who lived by a slaughterhouse and said “What? That’s the way my powers run! Why shouldn’t I use the life energy released by the slaughtered cattle’s as well as eating them? They’re dying anyway!”.
  • Otherplanar Magic involved exchanging favors with the creatures of the four Elemental Planes, the “Ethereal Plane” (roughly equivalent to d20’s “Positive Energy Plane”; it’s creatures – fey like things and possibly the “Tribal Totems” that were brought up later – could not be compelled or bound, but would trade), and the Abyssal Plane (roughly equivalent to d20’s Negative Energy Plane, the home of demons and abyssal elementals. They could be compelled to serve with raw willpower or bribed with evil acts and blood sacrifices).
  • Low Magic, which apparently used the “natural” magical properties of herbs and such. It seemed that “High Magic Constructs” were especially vulnerable to such countermeasures because it showed one character that Scholars were very useful to have around.
  • Priestly Magic was basically “any of the above” with a religious theme or asking the gods for minor miracles – which were fairly commonly granted. The gods tended to respond if you were in their service or desired to enter it and what you asked for was sensible and reasonable, even if they sometimes demanded a price for it.
  • There were also adept-duels over adept status (how this worked was never really explained).

The vast majority of that was quietly dropped quite quickly. There are a few mentions of elementals and demons later on, and not-quite-divine Tribal Totems granting some powers got mentioned, but that system had too many undesired real-world “occult” associations and was far too complicated to keep up with. We never even really got to see what kinds of magic otherworldly creatures might provide outside of assisting in combat against other such creatures.

If you want to include otherplanar magic in your version of Velgarth, you’ll probably want a version of the Shamanic Magic package:

  • Path of the Dragon / Shaping (Specialized: only as a prerequisite, 3 CP)
  • Path of the Dragon/ Pulse and Heart of the Dragon: The user may make pacts with, and call upon the services of four of the seven different types of Elemental Spirits, channeling their powers into the physical world. Pulse of the Dragon brings in one spell level worth of magical energy per round, while Heart of the Dragon allows it to be shaped into level one effects. Corrupted: The user must call on the six types of elemental spirits for magic other than Spirit Sight and Spirit Contact effects. Each type of spirit may only be called on for a total of (Cha Mod + Level/2) spell levels worth of magic before the user must rebuild his or her “pool” of “favors”. Fortunately, if the user fails to manage a spell for some reason, it doesn’t use up any of his pool of favors. Specialized: The user may only renew such “pools” slowly. The user regains [Cha Mod + Level/2] points per day through minor rituals and respect for their spiritual patrons. They user may also regain [Cha Mod] points by:
    • Fulfilling a special request from the Spirits. For example, fire spirits might want the user to arrange a fireworks display, while water spirits might want a spring cleaned out and purified. The user may simply ask the GM each day about possible tasks; there will usually be two or three available, but there’s no guarantee that any of them will be even remotely practical.
    • Enacting a ritual in honor of some type of spirits. You might sit out in a storm meditating on it’s power for a night in honor of the air spirits, burn rare woods, incense, and oils in honor of the fire spirits, or conduct a religious ceremony in honor of outer-planar spirits.
    • Promising to undertake a later mission for the appropriate group of spirits. It’s wise to take a few rounds to find out what they’re going to want you to do, but sometimes people are just desperate.
    • Talking the spirits into it. This requires 1d4 hours of quiet meditation and a DC 18 Diplomacy or Knowledge/Religion check and can only be done once per day.
  • In any case, the saving throw DC’s against such effects are based on the user’s Charisma and they overcome magic resistance with a roll of (1d20 + caster level + Cha Mod). Exorcisms (“Turning”) are L2, creating minor supplies costs 1 SL/2 GP and is permanent, and counterspells are always specifically tuned, requiring a spell of only (target spell level – 2).

This has a base cost of 24 CP, 8 CP after being Specialized and Corrupted to reduce the cost. As the character goes up in level he or she can spend another 8 CP to turn the Specialization from “Halved Cost” to “Doubled Effect” and call on the spirits for second level spells – and still later, another 8 CP to turn the Corrupted modifier from “Reduced Cost” to “1.5x Effect” and get third level spells. Unfortunately, that’s as far as you can go with this on Velgarth.

I usually say that…

  • Air spirits deal with Intelligence, Movement, Thought, and Divination.
  • Animal (Totem) spirits deal with Shapeshifting, Enhancements, Senses, and Adaption.
  • Positive Energy spirits deal with Charisma, Purification, Truth, and Life.
  • Negative Energy spirits deal with Strength, Negation, Death, and Compulsion.
  • Earth spirits deal with Constitution, Plants, Healing, Binding, and Stasis.
  • Fire spirits deal with Dexterity, Light, Energy, and Transformation.
  • Water spirits deal with Wisdom, Animals, Absorption, and Emotion.

This system was dropped before it showed what the author thought was appropriate, so you’ll have to either go with my ideas or come up with something. There’s no canon to go on.

Divine Powers aren’t worth discussing, simply because they are literal miracles, are in no way under the protagonists control, and bail the characters out of impossible jams however the plot demands. Characters don’t USE them, they get used BY them.

Partially under this category we have the Heraldic Companions – magical spirit-horses that choose the Heralds of Valdemar, boost their powers, and provide both transportation and companionship throughout the series.

So what do we know about Companions?

Well, they’re horses. Intelligent, constantly bleached-white, horses with pretty hooves, some special powers, and memories of prior lives – but physically they’re basically horses. As for those special powers…

  • They draw on magical energy to be far more enduring and heal more quickly than normal horses. Of course, everything in d20 is more enduring and heals more quickly than any normal creature. Maybe they’ve got the Tireless ability (6 CP / 1 Feat), or they could just have higher-than-normal Constitution scores.
  • They’re mostly reincarnated ex-Heralds or fragments of divine powers. They understand various languages and have various skills from their prior lives, even if they can’t speak or use most of them with hooves. Some books say that they have the Gift of Tongues, and can understand things spoken in any language – still without being able to talk to humans. They don’t admit this though. We’re told in early books that many of them can’t communicate with their Heralds at all except when first bonding with them or through the use of a deep trance – but in later books the notion that they have trouble communicating becomes less and less prominent, and they start mentally communicating with anyone when they need to. That’s not too surprising since writing mute characters is a horrible nuisance.
  • They can inflict laser-guided amnesia on their Heralds and possibly on others to keep their true origins, their semi-divine-messenger status, and other bits of troublesome or socially-distorting information secret. Why? Because it would ruin the setting if the people in it ever started to put all the clues together and making the primary characters all selectively stupid on the details about the most important things in their lives makes for lousy storytelling.
  • Some Companions have claimed to have known from the beginning what partnering with a given individual would lead to. On the other hand, Heralds and companions often seem to die in stupid and readily-avoidable ways. Others have to do a lot of hunting for their partners. This may be a comforting lie told to Heralds, or it might be a special power of individual Companions, but it certainly isn’t a general ability.
  • They travel more quickly than horses. Mostly they’re just fast and enduring, a very few seem to use a short-range teleportation effect to speed up even more. On the other hand even those few never seem to be able to just bypass hazards or simply teleport to where they need to be even if it’s quite nearby. They don’t even dodge attacks with a Blink effect. Their “teleporting” is only for faster out-of-combat overland movement. In d20 terms this is just a boost to movement. It can’t be too big a one either; Valdemar is not really that huge, and allowing Companions to cross it in a day or twos easy run (Say twice the speed of a horse, kept up for twenty hours since they are effectively tireless… five hundred miles a day would be quite possible) messes up the stories quite a lot. You could cross a CONTINENT in a week that way, much less a rather small and isolated kingdom.
  • They normally live as long as their Herald does – although none of them in the books have partnered up with anything but humans. Would they live as long as an Elf? Who knows?
  • Some (Most? All?) of them can feed energy to their Heralds. This may explain why a Heralds Gifts tend to get stronger after they are chosen by a Companion. On the other hand… most Gifts are fairly minor things. Sure, you can point at Lavan Firestorm – but his greatest achievement was losing control and spewing enough fire around in a (highly flammable) pine forested mountain pass to start a big forest fire, killing both himself and the enemies who were trying to get through. So… Fireballs and maybe a few Walls Of Fire? It should be no surprise that we’re back at level three and four effects again.
  • They have some way of picking good Herald-prospects – decent people with at least a little psionic potential who will be of use to Valdemar. It can turn out badly though, so this is hardly infallible. It could even be a disadvantage; “bound to destiny” is very, VERY, much a thing in the setting. Trying to implement that in a game where a bunch of unpredictable players are doing things instead of a single author? That won’t work so well.
  • The bond with their Herald is so vital to them that they will die if they must repudiate their Herald or he or she dies. This is loosened up a bit for Grove-Born Companions, but then they seem to be direct divine emissaries anyway. Those are kind of expected to break the rules.
  • They may be somewhat magic resistant.
  • They’re generally a bit better all around than a normal horse. In d20 terms, that’s probably slightly boosted physical attributes.
  • They may have individual mental powers, but most of whatever they had as a Herald does not seem to automatically carry over.

And… that’s about it. And while they HELP their Herald, they’re freewilled and independent. You don’t get them with a Feat or as a class feature. They picked you – and that isn’t exactly an unmixed blessing.

You have been selected by a Companion to be a Herald Of Valdemar! You will be supported by the crown and nobody will care how randy you are, but you will have no free time and will almost certainly die young doing something stupidly heroic! Really experienced Heralds are very rare!

Eclipse and Skill-Based Partial Casters II

And for today, it’s another offline question…

Is there a way (other than Stunts) to cast spells or otherwise empower magic with your normal skills?

Well, yes; of course. This IS Eclipse after all. Even discounting the Martial Arts Skill Magics that Kelelawar uses, you could buy:

  • 30d6 Mana with the Unskilled Magic Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Unskilled Magic, cannot spend more mana per day on unskilled magic in a given field then one point per rank in an associated skill (60 CP). That’s about 105 points of Mana, An approximation, but many characters have few skills and others are unlikely to be called on much. How often are you going to need your full supply of Knowledge/Geography spells?
  • Rite of Chi with +48 Bonus Uses, Specialized / only to restore the mana pool for unskilled magic (39 CP). Even with seriously below-average rolls that ought to do it. The total of 49D6 will pretty reliably beat the total of 30D6 – reliably enough so that there is little need to bother rolling.

Of course, unskilled magic eventually starts becoming ineffectual. You’d want some Augmented Bonus or Berserker (or both) to boost it, and perhaps an Immunity to wasting Mana with side effects, and so on. Worse, since this covers every skill… so eventually you’re going to start wondering what kind of magic “Profession/Lawyer” and “Craft/Carpentry” cover. Not all skills are really that well-suited for powering spellcasting.

Worst of all… this involves extra bookkeeping since your Mana pool is very unlikely to match your skill ranks exactly and you’ll need to keep track of both. This only approximates what is wanted.

As is fairly common when someone wants a new magic system, The best option here is to go with Immunities: Admittedly, these will be natural-law immunities, and so will require permission from the game master, but – as such things go I suspect that these are going to be relatively low powered compared to most natural-law immunities. Permission shouldn’t be a problem.

So first up…

Crafting Skills should probably be better at empowering items than at spellcasting – although you could do both. Why can’t you use Smithcrafting Magic to produce a “Heat Metal” effect? Still, the number of suitable spells for “Craft/Perfumer” is going to be fairly limited. Ergo, take…

  • Touch Of The Svartalfar: Immunity/The Normal Limits Of Craft Skills. Each Craft Skill now provides “points” equal to it’s base rank. These may be invested each day in personal magical devices suited to the skill in question. It takes 1 point to empower a Charm, 2 for a Talisman, and (2+ Value / 2000 GP) to empower a more powerful item – although item slots are not relevant, since these run on personal magic. (Very Common, Major, Variable: 5 CP to empower 1-point items. 10 CP for 1-3 point items, and 15 CP for up to 5-point items (6000 GP). After that… this starts becoming prohibitively expensive. It’s 30 CP for up to 7-point items, 45 CP for 9-point items, and 60 CP for up to 20-point items.

This is very useful at lower levels, where a handful of low-powered items can be a major power boost, but becomes less relevant at higher levels – although a handful of slot-free minor items can still be fairly handy. Whether or not that’s worth 15 CP and keeping some Craft skills up is up to you.

For most other skills we’re going to want actual spellcasting. To get that, take…

  • Occult Master: Immunity / The normal limits of 2-4 Skills (2 for low magic settings, 3 for moderate magic settings, and 4 for high magic settings – like most standard d20 games). Each affected skill now provides daily “points” equal to it’s rating. These “points” can be used for Unskilled Magic, but only for effects appropriate to the skill. The point cost can be halved, and the side effects eliminated, by using the points to set up prepared spells instead of using them spontaneously. Very Common, Major, Trivial (maximum of level one effects, 5 CP), Minor (maximum of level three effects, 10 CP), Major (maximum of level five effects, 15 CP), Great (maximum of level seven effects, 30 CP), Epic (maximum of level nine effects, 45 CP), and Legendary (maximum of level 20 effects, 60 CP). Of course, since this is still limited by the rules for Unskilled Magic (below), this means that most characters might as well stop at the 15-point level – and they’ll likely need to buy further boosts to fully exploit even that.

Unskilled Magic:

  • Whatever-it-is you’re trying to do will cost 2 Mana (“Points”) per level of the effect – half of which is wasted and a quarter of which goes into random side effects.
  • The Casting Level equals the user’s level or (Int/3 + the effect level), whichever is less.
  • The maximum level of effect which can be produced equals the user’s base Will save bonus or (Wis/3), whichever is less.
    Keeping the side effects down to displays and inconvenient effects (rather than dangerous ones) requires a Cha check at a DC of ([2x the Mana used] + 6). The side effects are always up to the Game Master

 

This Immunity is useful, and actually reasonably powerful – but after going for the most obvious set of skills (Knowledge/Arcane (Wizard Spells), Knowledge/Religion (Cleric Spells), and Knowledge/Nature (Druid Spells), you’re going to be trying to figure out what can be done with spells appropriate to Profession/Lawyer, Survival, and Perform/Woodwinds. I can think of plenty of useful things to do with all three of those – but few of them are going to be major contributions to any specific adventure and most are extremely situational. Worse, at lower levels… if you have +10 in Knowledge/Arcana, you’re going to run out of your spontaneous Wizardry after five levels of spells – and while a timely Fireball, a Magic Missile, and a Grease spell are all very useful, that’s not going to carry you through an adventure.

Just for fun, you can give these individual names:

    • The Lotus Of Jade for Knowledge Skills. Probably the first choice, since it provides classical, broad-themed, spellcasting.
    • Channeling The Dragon Lines for Physical Skills, such as Acrobatics, Escape Artist, Ride, and Martial Arts. This will let you pull off anime-style stunts like a cut-down Tome Of Battle character.
    • The Cunning Man for sneaky skills – Bluff, Disguise, Intimidate, and Stealth. If you want illusions, enchantments, and shapeshifting, this is for you.
    • The Secret Arts for skills like Diplomacy, Handle Animal, Heal, and Survival. With this you can fascinate and persuade, summon and control animals, heal, and create traps and camps.
    • Master Of The Secret Order for Profession skills.
    • Master Of Sleights for Disable Device, Linguistics, Sleight Of Hand, and Use Magic Device. Go ahead, destroy your enemies weapons, speak power words, teleport items about, and enhance and manipulate devices.
    • For Perform Skills…there is nothing at all wrong with simply using art-based magic. Still, you might want to consider taking either Mystic Artist (6 CP Each) or Performance-based Ritual Magic (6 CP) – perhaps committing a few rituals to memory with the remaining (3 CP).

To be an even halfway decent spellcaster, you’re going to want to take three or four versions of Occult Master – totaling 45 to 60 CP. You’ll also need to take…

  • The Immaculate Will/Immunity: Loss of Mana/”Points” to Side Effects when using unskilled magic (Very Common, Major, Variable Trivial (the first point, 5 CP), Minor (the first three points, 10 CP), Major (the first 5 points, 15 CP), Great (the first 7 points, 30 CP), Epic (the first 9 points, 45 CP), or Legendary (the first 20 points, 60 CP).

Once again, the first 15 CP worth of this is generally sufficient. Still, we’re now up to 75-90 CP.

Lets now throw in…

  • Tongue Of Magic/Augmented Bonus: Add (Att Mod, Choice of Cha Mod, Con Mod, or Dex Mod) to the calculated Minimum Caster Level and (Att Mod/2) to the Maximum Spell Level when using Unskilled Magic – both Corrupted for Increased Effect (adding an Attribute Modifier to things that don’t normally get one) / this will not increase the caster level above the user’s level and only increases the maximum spell level by half the relevant attribute modifier. Sadly, this will not let the user exceed the spell level limits of the purchased immunities that let him or her use this version of Unskilled Magic in the first place (6 CP).

Without this, even a high-intelligence character is going to peak out at around caster level eight or so. With this… they can keep up for a few levels longer, which is pretty reasonable for a cheap power.

After that, they’ll need…

  • Occult Focus/Berserker with Enduring: +6 to effective Caster Levels, +4 Charisma, -2 AC for (Con Mod + 3) rounds, activated as a free action (1 + Level/3) times daily (9 CP).
  • At really high levels they’ll need to add Odinpower and Odinmight for Berserker (increasing the total to +12 Caster Levels, +8 Charisma, and -2 AC for +6 CP). They’ll still be using lower-level magic, but at least it will be reasonably EFFECTIVE low-level magic.

Finally, of course, to make this build work you’re going to need to keep 9-12 (or even more) skills at or near maximum. That’s going to call for both permitted instances of Adept (12 CP), Fast Learner Specialized in Skills (6 CP), and Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Add a second Attribute Modifier to your Intelligence Modifier for Skill Purposes, 18 CP).

Which takes us up to… 126-141 CP. Plus any more skill boosters or Mystic Artist you decide to throw in.

That puts us firmly in the “Partial Caster” category – which, with a maximum of fifth level effects, fits nicely. The Skillmaster Caster will have quite a lot of magic to work with at high levels – but it will be divided into many small special-purpose (if freeform) pools, so they’ll have to be pretty clever about using it if they want to be effective at really high levels. Still, they’ll have a much easier time remaining relevant than most skill monkeys.

You could pursue things up to the “Full Caster” level with skill boosters, but at least those are dual-purpose; higher skill bases are generally useful for more than magic. As a better alternative… Take a Companion (Familiar) with a +4 ECL Template (18 CP): Returning (Corrupted / must be resummoned by master), Occult Master x 3 (45 CP), and The Immaculate Will (15 CP). Since a Familiar has your skills – if not all your bonuses – this will let it cast spells too, if at a much lower caster level. Getting to routinely cast two spells a round, even if they are lower level spells  and the second one is at a lower caster level, can be quite useful. It probably still isn’t a match for the ability to cast ninth level spells, but even at 160+ points its still notably cheaper than spending 280 CP buying the full Wizard spellcasting progression.

A Skillmaster Caster neatly breaks down the boundaries between Skills and Magic – which is entirely sensible in a world of magic. I think I’d welcome one in any one of my fantasy-based settings.

Caercrwydryn, The Citadel Of The Wanderer

Today it’s a minor special request – a personal citadel (or at least a fortified manor) for a 13’th level character who is already a master of Architecture and Engineering with a +26 permanent bonus. The character wants to build the place using the Sanctum ability with another 6 CP thrown in (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the abilities they provide only work in the Sanctum) – thus investing a total of 12 CP to gain a fairly impressive base of operations. The characters very high Charisma (the character should have a +7 charisma modifier by level 13) also translates into a high level of Leadership. This is, of course, a practical application of the “Mighty Fortress” article, so lets see how it goes!

So…

While it may be called a “Citadel”, Caercrwydryn is actually more of a noble villa – a beautiful manor built around a fairly modest tower / shell keep set on an outcropping of rock that overlooks a nearby village – but it’s not like the mere physical details of a structure mean much in d20. Such an estate is MUCH easier and quicker to build than a classical castle, and it has plenty of room for adding additional staff, residents, cottages, farms, orchards, and all the other stuff that makes an area prosperous. Of course, hopefully the properties of Caercrwydryn will do a lot towards that goal. Sadly, however, since the place IS built on a single characters personal power… if the builder does not produce a powerful heir willing to take up the mantle of maintaining the place after he or she dies, many of the facilities will start to fail soon after the original builders death. In this case, the health of the “King” really IS the health of the “Kingdom”.

Of course, this also means that – all too soon – there will be another ruinous dungeon filled with monsters and malfunctioning magic just outside yet another decrepit small village, but you kind of had to wonder where all those things came from anyway didn’t you?

Sanctum Abilities

  • Occult Construction Methods: Action Hero/Crafting, Specialized and Corrupted/only for construction and repair of the holding (2 CP). This will provide 15 AP at level 13 – enough to simply complete the construction of the place on the spot without further expense given that “a nice home” has no real direct game effects in itself. Further points may be used to add things.
  • A Master Engineer: Skill Emphasis (Architecture +4), Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only counts to decide what Mystic Artist features you can have in your sanctum, can only be applied to the sanctum rather than – say – several rooms with individual properties (In this case, this results in effective skill of 30+) (2 CP). Without this, the creators Architecture skill would not be quite high enough for A Mighty Fortress, below.
  • Transcending Mortal Skill: Mystic Artist/Architecture with Seeking, Specialized for Double Effect/the user may only create one structure at a time, Corrupted for Reduced Cost/all abilities must be at least quasi-military and must target either the Residents / Defenders or the Attackers (8 CP). This, of course, uses Harmonize to provide two functions:
    • A Mighty Fortress (Heroism, Skill 30): All Residents/Defenders gain +4 Positive Levels (+4 BAB, Saves, and AC, +24 CP: Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/Only for Innate Enchantment (Up to 5500 GP Value, 6 CP), Immunity/the XP cost of up to 5500 GP worth of Innate Enchantment (Common (since they will be changing regularly), Minor, Trivial, 2 CP), Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized in Physical Damage for Double Effect (4/-) (3 CP), Grant Of Aid (6 CP), Speak (any convenient obscure language) (1 CP), Occult Sense/Attacks (always gain two rounds to prepare and a +1 Insight bonus to AC and Saves, 6 CP).
    • Glorious Bells (Serenity, Skill 18): When these bells ring (up to twice per week), all Residents/Defenders gain the equivalent of a nights rest – eliminating fatigue, regaining hit points, attribute points, restoring uses-per-day powers, being able to prepare spells, and so on, in an instant.
  • Attracting Followers: Leadership/Specialized in Stronghold Staff for Reduced Cost (3 CP). At L13 with a +7 Cha modifier this provides 20 ECL worth of followers, although none may exceed level ten. In this case… two x L8 (a master alchemist/advanced maker of potions, talismans, and acrolls (the “where does he get those WONDERFUL toys” power package) and a master healer/anti-undead channeler), two s L5 (a seneschal with a high end stipend and a master of arms to handle tactics and militia training), and seven s L2 types (a really good cook/brewer, a pair of Võlur, a Hedge Wizard, a Witch, and a couple of Men At Arms to be sergeants).
  • Manifestations Of Magic: Leadership with Exotic Followers – Traps, Constructs, and Wards, Specialized for Reduced Cost / these don’t heal, have to be repaired if damaged, have to be installed instead of just showing up, are integrated into your stronghold and thus effectively immobile, and must be manually upgraded as you increase in level (6 CP). These include…
    • A Rank Six Ward Major (see The Practical Enchanter) covering the local area (Call it ECL 2 x Rank -2 – which is fairly arbitrary, but works):
      • Minor Powers (4): Industry, Sustenance, Beauty, and Health.
      • Major Powers (2): Teaching and The Distant Gift (Longevity).
    • A Shield Guardian (CR 8).
    • Eight Spiked Pit Traps, with Animated Triggers to self-reset and keep them from bothering the residents (CR 2+.5 each, total 20).
    • Twelve similarly animated Bear Traps (CR 2 in total).
    • A low wall that mostly keeps out normal wild animals has no CR at all; any normal person can climb over it.
  • A Scrying Maze: Cloaking, Specialized for Reduced Cost/Divinations about Caercrwydryn will reveal general information about the place – whether people are in residence, are the servants busy, is there damage, is the garrison up to strength, etc – but never anything precise enough to put to use about the activities or location of anyone important. There shall be no scry-and-die tactics here (3 CP).

Advanced Functions:

These abilities cost six of the builders personal character points, and – as personal abilities – are Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / these abilities only work in the Sanctum when the owner is in residence.

  • Ritual Chamber (Occult Ritual): With the aid of your vast heaps of components you can attempt may feats of ritual magi (6 CP).
  • Occult Foundry (Action Hero/Crafting): Tapping into the resources of the local area, you may produce a modest supply of magical devices at reduced cost (6 CP).
  • The Advanced Dominion (which the builder already has) Ability Wrath Of The Overlord in a variant form – allowing Blessings (6 CP). From your occult seat of power you may spend Dominion Points to shape destiny, bestowing Charm and Talisman Effects (1/0 for 1 DP, 2/1 for 2 DP, 3/2 for 3 DP), make the area generally prosperous, or rarely approached by monsters, or enjoying good weather (for the region anyway) for 3 DP per year per effect maintained, and similar effects.

Caercrwydryn isn’t an especially overwhelming place of power – but it is pretty good for it’s 12 CP cost, and will make a very, VERY, nice home for a party and any locals who hang around.

Eclipse And Pulp Mad Science

And for today, it’s another request – a Witchcraft-based Mad Scientist build.

Well, mad scientists are certainly entertaining – but the first question to ask is where does your mad scientist get his or her power to defy the laws of nature from? While there are plenty of fantastic power sources to choose from – including elerium, kryptonite, protoculture, tiberium, element x, vibranium, quantonium, dilithium, unobtanium, pinotium, auadium, illyrion, protonite, mako, arcanite, naquadah, kittens, magnetic monopoles, “hypermatter”, black holes, and dozens more – using any of them will mean that your mad scientists is utterly dependent on a single vital supply. You’re out of protoculture? None of your stuff works. That works well in a story that’s fully under an authors control, but it’s pretty limiting in a game. players HATE having their character get sidelined for want of supplies.

So we want something more personal – but outside of that the special effects don’t really matter a lot.

  • Do you have some mysterious “Spark”, mutation, or memetic contagion that lets you draw reality-warping power from other realms, singularities, zero point energy, inter-dimensional potential, subspace, or other cosmic sources? (Waldo, Dexter’s Laboratory, Girl Genius, etc),
  • Do you have implants / nanites / crystals in your body or genetic modifications / special skills that let you draw on possibility, quantum, vril, your own emotions (love, hate, friendship, light, darkness, whatever), your own soul, “neuropotential” / psychic, “the lifestream” / vital, will, or A.R.C. reactor “energy” for power?
  • Can you build devices that gather reality-warping power on their own and/or can be fueled by yours? (temporal, nucleonic, hyperspace, possibility, dimensional, electroplasmic, warp, often with “flux” attached to imply something dynamic that can change over time with the needs of the plot. Thus Doc Brown’s “Flux Capacitor”).

Regardless of your justification, you have a pool of power – spark, flux, quantum, or whatever – that makes your mad science work. This also avoids letting you become endlessly powerful, which is also important in a game.

Most mad scientists have a collection of gadgets that they usually use, but only add new ones relatively rarely – and if they do add new ones, they commonly become a permanent addition to their arsenal. On the other hand, their gadgets are often quite versatile, but they’re rarely awesomely powerful. Sure, Doomsday Devices are a classic, but they never really seem to work.

Ergo, this mad scientist build is going to use Witchcraft.

  • Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Restrictions x 2: Mad Scientists cannot use generic “power” devices, but only items especially created for them and they cannot employ clerical magic; the necessary mindset is incompatible with mad science). +10 (Three Disadvantages. Mad scientists are commonly Aged, Compulsive (over-curious, meddling with things they should not, activating things to see what they do), Dependent (stimulants, sappho, supplies), have a History (usually including a list of projects that have gone terribly wrong and are unaccounted for), may be Hunted (outraged villagers are a classic), Incompetent or Inept (Social Skills), Insane (obviously), Irreverent (A god? Ha! Just let me analyze…), Obligations (often a beautiful daughter who is being held hostage), Outcast or Poor Reputation (mad scientist), showman (you fiddle with your gadgets and boast), Unluck (fairly obvious), and Valuable (you know important secrets, which you are usually utterly blind to) +6 (First Level Bonus Feat) = 66 CP.
  • Basic Attributes: Mad Scientists fall into the Adventurous Scholar archetype – so Intelligence is important, and Constitution is next. Dexterity is nice, but Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma are rarely important. For Pathfinder 20-point buy, I’ll take: Str 8, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 18, Wis 10, Cha 8. Tbe build will have to Finesse the Witchcraft saves over to Intelligence, but that’s not too important.

Basics (34 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +0 (0 CP)
  • Hit Points: 8 (L1d8 Hit Die, 4 CP) +2 (Con Mod) = 10
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) = +2.
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +1 (Dex) = +2.
    • Will +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +0 (Wis) = +1.
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons and Light Armor (6 CP).
  • Skill Points: 2 SP (2 CP) +16 (Int Mod x 4), +8 (Fast Learner), Adept x2 (12 CP) = 26 SP.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Leathers) +2 (Dex) +2 (Shield) +4 (Martial Art) = 20
  • Initiative: +1 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30′

Special Abilities (32 CP):

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP). This was presumably purchased at level (-2) using Disadvantage Points, and so provides +8 SP at level one.
  • Finesse (Saves against Witchcraft abilities are based on Int, not Cha, 6 CP).
  • +4 Levels of Int-based Wilder Spellcasting with no Caster Level, Corrupted / provides no disciplines. (+17 + 2 x Int Mod Power) (8 CP). This is a bit cheesy, but most characters have some cheese somewhere.
  • Witchcraft III, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Requires various blatantly obvious Foci that can be taken away (12 CP Base). This provides a selection of seven basic abilities / devices. A mad scientists basic abilities are usually (although not always) Specialized in particular applications for double effect. For some possible examples:
  • The Adamant Will Gadgets:
    • Auric Distortion Cloak: Specialized for Increased Effect / presents a false aura to aura detection effects at no cost.
    • Neural Block Module: Specialized for Increased Effect / Provides permanent immunity to any two of Fear, Possession, Charm, Hold, Mind-Reading, Pain, or Truth Detection effects.
    • Null-Foil Hat: Base functions. This is mildly unusual for a mad scientist, but fits in well enough here.
  • Dreamfaring Gadgets:
    • Afterlife Communicator: Specialized for Increased Effect / Allows the user to sense and communicate with Astral and Ethereal entities at no cost – although it does not bypass language barriers.
    • Cosmic Consciousness Helmet: Specialized for Reduced Cost / Allows the user to project his or her spirit into the Astral of Ethereal Plane for up to one hour for 1 power.
    • Etheric Manipulator Vest: Specialized for Increased Effect / only to let the user see and attack into the Ethereal Plane at no cost.
  • Elfshot Gadgets:
    • Hypersonic Pulser: Specialized for Increased Effect / Panics animals in the area that fail to resist for 1 Power.
    • Neural Dampener: Specialized for Increased Effect / Penalizes a target attribute by -4 for ten minutes for 1 Power.
    • Neuralizer: Specialized for Increased Effect / this device produces some specific short-term effect for 1 Power. Possibilities include Blindness, Deafness, Entanglement, Ghostbane Dirge, Mad Hallucination, Daze Monster, Forgetfulness, Oppressive Boredom, Shadow Anchor, or similar second-level effect.
  • Glamour Gadgets:
    • Cloak Of Radiant Impressions: Specialized for Increased Effect / The user may program this item with a description – “a wealthy merchant”, “an important noble”, “a big man in the underworld”, “a famous military commander”, “just another servant”, or something similar – and anyone who sees him or her must consciously attempt to disbelieve that impression to penetrate it.
    • Harmonic Vocalizer: Specialized for Increased Effect / The user may spend 1 Power to gain a +12 bonus to Charisma-based skill checks for ten minutes.
    • Hypnotic Wheel: Specialized for Increased Effect / Produces a Suggestion effect for 2 Power.
  • Hand of Shadows Gadgets:
    • Kinetic Guantlet: Specialized for Double Effect / May push, punch, and execute ranged combat maneuvers using your (Int + 6) as Strength for one power per minute.
    • Microbot Assistants: Specialized for Reduced Cost / Tiny robots can help you do an hours worth of light work every five minutes at no cost but that is all they do.
    • Vital Flux Charger: Specialized for Reduced Cost / may animate objects (as per Entangle, Animate Rope, Animate Fire, Dancing Lantern, Tripvine, Animate Object (One small item), etc).
  • Healing Gadgets:
    • Bacta Supply: Specialized for Double Effect / only to provide immediate healing (maximum of 6d4/Round for 3 Power).
    • Regenerative Blanket: Specialized for Increased Effect / sleeping under this blanket provides one full days worth of healing per hour at no cost.
    • Universal Antitoxin: Specialized for Increased Effect / taking a dose of this substance (1 Power worth) provides a +10 bonus against Poisons for the next hour.
  • Hyloka Gadgets:
    • Augmentation Harness: Specialized for Double Effect / provides +2 to Str, Dex, and Con for one hour for 1 Power/Hour.
    • Hibernation Drug: Specialized for Double Effect / users may be put into complete suspended animation indefinitely. While so suspended they do not age, breathe, eat, drink, suffer from poison, normal heat, or normal cold, and show no signs of life. This costs 1 Power but does require an unresisting target.
    • Immunobooster Serum: Specialized for Increased Effect / 1 Power provides Immunity to Disease for twenty-four hours.
  • Infliction Gadgets:
    • Ray Gun: Specialized for Double Effect / only one form of energy. Mad scientists almost always have a cold ray, lightning gun, solar blaster, or similar device that can be adjusted to be single target or affect a small area. This may either allow a saving throw for half damage or be a ranged touch attack. (There aren’t any other major examples for this particular basic ability. After all, the Ray Gun is probably THE iconic mad scientist gadget).
  • The Inner Eye Gadgets:
    • Life Sensor: Specialized for Reduced Cost / The user may easily detect the presence of nearby life (or Unlife) forms gaining a +6 bonus to any rolls made to notice or identify them at no cost.
    • Mind Probe Gauntlet: Specialized for Double Effect / provides the results of a full interrogation for 2 Power. The target, however, may resist as usual for an interrogation.
    • Sensory Link System: Specialized for Double Effect / this set of small units allows a group to share their sensory data at a cost of one power for every ten minutes. This provides an automatic Aid Another check for each character in the group when one needs to make a roll with a shared sense and permits the sharing of information from improved senses – thus allowing everyone in a group to benefit from Blindsense or similar effects
  • Shadowweave Gadgets:
    • Disguise Belt: Specialized for Increased Effect / provides a +12 bonus to Disguise and Stealth for ten minute for 1 Power.
    • Holographic Image Projector: Specialized for Increased Effect / may spend 2 Power to generate a Minor Image effect or 4 Power to generate a Major Image effect.
    • Invisible Blade Module: Specialized for Increased Effect / renders a melee weapon effectively invisible, granting the user a +6 circumstance bonus on attack rolls against creatures that normally rely on sight for ten minutes for 1 Power.
    • Prismatic Distillation Crystal: Specialized for Increased Effect / may spend 1 Power to generate a Blinding Color Surge effect.
    • Pyrotechnics: Specialized for Increased Effect / costs 2 Power, otherwise as per the Spell.
  • Witchfire Gadgets:
    • Comfort Module: Specialized for Increased Effect / maintains a 5′ radius at a comfortable temperature, providing immunity to normal weather extremes for 1 Power per hour or 10 points of resistence to Fire and Cold for those within the area for 1 Power / Minute.
      Cryogenic Mister: Specialized for Increased Effect / This simple gadget, capable of inflicting up to 6d6 damage to an individual target for 1 Power or to a modest area for 2 Power.
    • Essence Extractor: When directed at an unresisting creature, corpse, or area of up to a 20′ radius, this device extracts specific substances for 1 Power. It can thus be used to gather poison from deceased monsters, perfume from flower gardens, drugs from various plants, or gold from ore.
    • Molecular Synthesizer: Specialized for Increased Effect / for 1 Power this gadget allows the user to prepare a sizeable batch of some chemical from common raw materials for 3 Power. This can be used to produce drugs, toxins, explosives, and many similar items.
  • Witchsight Gadgets:
    • Darksight Goggles: Specialized for Increased Effect / provides Darksight at no cost.
    • Multioptics Band: Specialized For Increased Effect / Optical Enhancements only, can swap out what is being enhanced (“changing settings”) up to (Wis Mod + 2) times during the abilities duration.
    • Sensor Wand: Specialized for Increased Effect / for 1 Power provides a +36 bonus to checking for toxins, attempting to determine chemical compositions, or checking a fire scene for accelerants.

Most Mad Scientists will also take Pacts, typically

  • Advertising: Mad Scientists are rarely quiet. Many of them want to explain, to demonstrate their mastery of SCIENCE, to shout out the names of their gadgets, and to set up spectacular, attention-grabbing experiments and laboratories. This inevitably attracts notice and tends to give away their plans.
  • Backlash / mad science experiments are ALWAYS running amuck, or having weird effects, or causing unexpected problems
  • Corruption: It’s not like “The Fly” is an isolated incident. Mad scientists are always attempting to boost their intelligence, or giving themself animal powers, or some such.
  • Exclusion: Some mad scientists just refuse to deal with magic, psionics, and similar items, feeling that they are just misunderstood mad science.
  • Guardianship: If you’ve opened some door that should never have been touched, or found some dark and terrible secret, then you have a lifetime obligation to stand guard over the problem you’ve created.
  • Hunted: While it’s hardly required, mad scientists do occasionally really upset people.
  • Isolation: Who needs social distractions when there is SCIENCE to be had? Far better to isolate yourself in some castle atop a jagged peak, undersea laboratory, or other spot where no one will bother you!
  • Madness: Most mad scientists are more than a bit crazy. Some are completely over the edge. A mad scientist subject to “the madness” will soon go completely over the edge. It’s probably best to leave this one to the NPC’s.
  • Possession: While this is rarely literal unless a given mad scientist happens to be a specialist in ghosts or lovecraftian horrors or some such, quite a few mad scientists are subject to creative fits, wherein they become utterly obsessed with something, or build some device with no idea of what it does, or completely fail to consider whether or not implementing some insanely dangerous idea or experiment is really a good idea.
  • Tithe: Buying all that equipment and maintaining a laboratory can be quite expensive. A “tithe” of gold covers THAT.

The two allowable pacts at first level can provide +12 CP worth of Advanced Witchcraft Powers. For some samples there for use with Pacts or with later development consider…

  • Advanced Vital Infusion: (4 CP): Usually an upgrade to the Vital Flux Charger, allowing it to affect larger items.
  • Aetheric Crystalizer / Ice Gun: Nightforge (4 CP). Often purchased as an improvement on a Ray Gun, this allows the user to creature durable structures.
  • An Important Figure: Web Of Shadows (6 CP) provides a support network and influence in an area. It’s most common with drug dealers, poisoners, and other criminals.
  • Anagatic Regimen: Longevity (6 CP). Always a popular project.
  • Augmented Mentation: Spirit Of The Sage (6 CP).
  • Brewing (6 CP): You are good at making potions, narcotics, alcohol, and other useful extracts, giving you a complete pharmacy. This may be used as a gateway to making Pulp Drugs.
  • College Membership: The Secret Order gets you more gadgets and power, so it’s always popular – but it DOES involve hooking up with an actual secret order of mad scientists, who usually have their own agendas. Usually 6 CP.
  • Combat Drug: Wrath of the Sea (4 CP) to provide +6 Strength. Often combined with the similar Essence Of Earth ability (+4 CP for +6 to Constitution) or Dance Of Flames (+6 Dexterity).
  • Death Ray: Mouth of the Earth applied to a Ray Gun (4 CP).
  • Entropic Dissipater (4 CP). As per Grounding.
  • Genetic Augmentation (4 CP), Flesh Like Mist, Specialized for Increased Effect: the user may inject himself with animal DNA to temporarily take on animal powers.
  • Ghost Trap: Seize the Wandering Soul and Spirit Binding usually shows up in the hands of Ghostbusters as a gadget worth 8 CP.
  • Hyperspeed Accelerator (4 CP). Provides access to the Leaping Fire ability.
  • Minions (6 CP). Where would a mad scientist be without his or her faithful minons?
  • Monster Creation: Tulpa, Specialized For Reduced Cost (3 CP) / always material, sometimes goes off on it’s own or doesn’t understand directions, monstrous appearance.
  • Noted Inventor: Tenebriums Coin. Your gadgets bring in a steady income (6 CP).
  • Null-Gravity Boots: Whisper Step (6 CP).
  • Phase Suit: The Umbral Form (4 CP).
  • Planar Sealer (4 CP). This gadget provides access to the Dismissal ability. Specialized versions (for increased effect or reduced cost) are quite common.
  • Technofamiliar: Familiars are fairly rare among mad scientists, but if they have one it will usually have Robotic Template from Eclipse II. Usually 12 CP.
  • Teleportation Belt: Ashen Rebirth with Teleportation, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for the Teleportation function (6 CP).
  • Weather Control Module / Weathermonger (6 CP). Can also be Specialized in specific, more powerful, effects – such as generating Chain Lightning or Hurricane Blasts or some such.

Like most Witchcraft-based builds, a Mad Scientist is most effective at relatively low levels, before they hit the upper bounds of what Witchcraft can do. Fortunately, Witchcraft is also fairly cheap – leaving plenty of points available at higher levels to invest in other abilities.

Eclipse and Exalted

And it’s another question! In this case it’s about Exalted d20.

I’m curious how you’d go about running an exalted game in Eclipse. I imagine there’d be an ‘exalt package deal’, some odd world laws and building most things (as) stunts and reality editing but it seems to be far enough away from standard d20 and superhero stuff to be confusing.

-Jirachi386

Well, Exalted (1’st, 2’nd, 2.5, and 3.0) has a number of distinguishing features. They aren’t all quite the same for each edition, but in general…

  1. You can buy almost anything you want at character generation. You start as a heroic mortal, get handed a can of cosmic power, and then get to throw in things like artifacts, wealth, power, ownership of magical fortresses, followers, leadership of organizations, or being worshiped by a quarter of the world. Maybe not all at once unless the game master gave you some extra points – but you start at the peak of most mortal ambitions.
  2. The action is usually completely over the top. Even extremely skilled normal people are generally irrelevant (and just have to grin and bear it) and you start off on a par with the mighty powers of the universe. You can build characters who can seriously damage the cosmos right out of the gate. This can be a lot of fun, but doesn’t leave much of anywhere to go – which may explain why most of the Exalted games I’ve seen that actually ran by the Exalted rules didn’t all that long.
  3. The special powers are generally based on your skills or attributes being enhanced beyond all reason while still following general themes set by your character class type of Exaltation. That’s a fun concept, even if you did wind up with lists of near-required powers that everyone of a given type tried to buy as soon as possible and occasionally ran into strict power limits based on your characters type and age.
  4. Describing your action in an over-the-top way to get a bonus on it is a fun idea. Of course, it was the normal way of running role playing games until game designers (perhaps influenced by computer games) started writing stricter rules sets and trying to downplay stuff you couldn’t put on a chart. The implementation in older editions of Exalted was a bit of a kludge and made many fights drag on and on, so the current version relegates the effect to nothing but a few bonus dice and relies on it extensively for excitement in combat.
  5. Effective Exalted characters are extremely complicated, with long lists of charms with evocative but uninformative names that need to be used in (unspecified) combinations with each other to work well. They take hours to build and are impossible, even as individuals, for most game masters to run properly without long study. In substantial groups they are nigh-impossible for one person to run properly. This means that small groups of PC’s, with players who are only running one character each, tend to run roughshod over everything.
  6. The characters all have tragic flaws, They may be grand, and powerful, but they have rules for their flaws that will lead them into disaster. Personally I’ve never seen much need for that – the players have their characters cause plenty of tragic disasters without a need for a mechanism built into the game – but the mechanism was basically “you occasionally go completely out of your mind”. I’d have preferred accumulating more limited flaws as your power level went up beyond the limit of a human minds ability to handle it safely and you saw ever further into the chaos underlying reality – but that’s just me.
  7. Attacks tend to be decisive or near-decisive when they do get through the defenses. If you were hit by that twenty-ton giant maul, you were in trouble. Of course, this turned a contest of grinding your way through hit points into a contest of grinding your way through defensive resources. In 3’rd edition fights tend to be short – but that only works because the PC’s pretty much always win. It wouldn’t really be Exalted if “OK, your characters are dead… make some new ones” was a routine part of the game.
  8. The universe, right down to the paths taken by individual raindrops, is 100% run by intelligent, and mostly not-at-all-powerful beings. If they have cheap “perfect defenses” (very few things do), punching them is fairly useless. If they don’t… then almost any problem can be solved by beating on someone. And when almost every problem can be fixed by kicking the stuffing out of someone, and you can begin the game as a Superman/Batman combo buttkicker (with or without a weapon depending on personal style), it doesn’t leave much of anywhere to go – or much point in learning other ways of dealing with problems.
  9. Organizations, overlords, large-scale resources, and managers all tend to be useless backstabbing bureaucratic nightmares that make you long to disassociate yourself from them. That, of course, is because the characters are supposed to do things THEMSELVES. You aren’t supposed to send in ten thousand men to dig a canal. You are supposed to smite the ground to open up a new canal and then fight the river god and make him consent to filling it.
  10. The game master is always supposed to say “yes you can”, although it might be difficult. For example, the rules made it quite possible for an Exalt hiding under a bush in the royal gardens to decide that he wanted to find a fabulously powerful magical nexus there that everyone else had overlooked for centuries – and if he could roll well enough (which wasn’t all that hard), so he did. Whether or not it had existed before was irrelevant; a player had wanted it and rolled well, so it had always been there. This ensured that much of the plot (if any) was in the hands of the characters, but made it VERY difficult to actually prepare for a session.
  11. The PC’s are always supposed to be the best and greatest. Sadly, since PC’s often come up with dumb ideas, this means that any idea short of “I hammer nails into my eyes!” still has to be better than the NPC’s best plans – so all canon NPC’s are incredibly short sighted and blind to obvious consequences – and their plans pretty much amount to “I set myself on fire and wait for it to start feeling good!”.
  12. You can’t go back in time or raise the dead. No do-overs and some stuff can’t be fixed. Of course, a lot of game systems don’t allow this stuff either. D20 usually allows Raising the Dead – but that’s easy enough to ban.

Now, I suppose that any given point might be argued – but those seem to be the core points where Exalted differs from most games.

Now to adapt that to d20…

  1. The power level implies being at least sixth level to start – the point at which a d20 character graduates to being more than mortal. It also strongly implies a maximum of level ten to twelve for anyone and everyone – the point at which d20 demigodhood really starts and about the last point at which a group of well-coordinated sixth level characters may still be able to win. Finally, of course, it means that normal mortals are usually level one and are limited to level two or so for heroes and elite types – mostly to figure out what they might be able to do on their own, since they’re never going to effectively oppose the Exalted.
  2. This is exactly what the Heroic Scaling rule does, so it is obviously in use.
  3. This implies that most “powers” are actually going to be Skill Stunts or something thematic (such as some Shapeshifting for Lunars or low-grade Elemental abilities for the Dragon-Blooded).
  4. This is the “Cinematic Combat” ability. It’s considerably more flexible than Exalted stunts are, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
    https://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/eclipse-cinematic-combat-at-the-narrative-convenience-store/
  5. This… is a bug, not a feature. Now admittedly, Eclipse can be very complicated too – but it can use all that published d20 stuff, doesn’t obscure what stuff does with needlessly flowery names, and rarely relies on complicated combinations of effects to make effective characters. We don’t need to do anything here.
  6. Tragic Flaws in Eclipse are basically either Disadvantages or Witchcraft Pacts. Personally I’d go with some Witchcraft; it’s a great way to pick up personal boosts at a relatively low cost.
  7. While the “decisive hits” idea can be taken to imply a reliance on high-damage weapons and damage boosters as well as on Blocks and Armor Class. On the other hand, “break through the defenses and try to land a decisive blow” is pretty much the classical first edition definition of hit points – they were “luck, skill, divine protection, evasiveness, and so on, with only the last few actually representing a serious physical wound”. This doesn’t match up well with many of the other game systems – such as “cure” spells – but at this level of abstraction it doesn’t much matter.
  8. When you come right down to it, this implies that there is no physics. Now honestly… I don’t like this. Philosophically it runs into infinite recursive loops, it’s a silly way to try and run a universe, and I kind of think that “hitting things is the ultimate problem-solving technique!” is bad for the game. My advice on this one? Go ahead and stress nature spirits and such if you like, but leave some basic physics in play.
  9. This can, once again, be covered by the Heroic Scaling rule. Mortal organizations simply are not important.
  10. Well, if the characters want to take a little reality editing to bend things to the way that they want them, that’s one thing. Rewriting your setting history to accommodate the players whims is a no-go for most game masters. TORG and a lot of other games have done this much better, usually relying on something like “Whimsy Cards”. Go ahead, use something like our own Runecards for this.
  11. NO. Just no. I don’t even do this when actually RUNNING EXALTED, and I do NOT recommend importing it into any other game system. The players will just have to put in a little thought and come up with decent plans of their own if they want to compete with the more competent NPC plans. Sure, NPC’s will do stupid things on occasion – but not ALL THE TIME.
  12. So no time travel and no resurrections – although reincarnations might work just fine. Banning a couple of relatively rare effects is not too complicated.

So:

World Laws:

  • Starting Level Five.
  • Heroic Scaling.
  • Limited Power Sets (Campaign Sheet Character-Building Restriction).
  • All characters are Human, but there are 6 CP Racial Variants. Exalts lose their old racial variant in favor of 6 CP worth of Innate Enchantment. Lunars get the Minimal Werething package. Solars get personal attribute boosts, Dragon-blooded get minor elemental powers, Sidereals get stealth boosts, disguise boosts, and “natural weapons”. Other third edition types get something appropriate, I’m not familiar enough with them to say what.
  • No time travel or raising the dead.
  • Beyond Fate: give every player one Runecard (or Whimsy Card) at the start of a session. Give them another during the session if they do something really fabulous. The game master gets (Number Of Players / 2, rounded up, +1) for his own use.

The Exalted Template: Cinematic Combat (18 CP), Witchcraft (Either as “thaumaturgic talents” or as some specialized personal boosts) with Two Advanced Abilities and Three Pacts (Personal Flaws) (12 CP). +2 Specific Knowledges (Knowledge from former possessors of the Exaltation, 2 CP). That’s 32 CP or a +1 ECL Template.

And that about does it. Your d20 game will now function a lot like Exalted. Just take Exalted’s Artifacts as Relics, Manses as Wards Major, and there really isn’t a lot more you need to do. Like it or not, most of what makes Exalted distinct lies in the descriptions and setting, not so much in the rules. After all, we had no trouble at all running Exalted with the Baba Yaga rules.