Eclipse and Magical Schools Part I: Historical Notions

And for today, it’s trying to catch up on questions.

Looking over your (excellent) series of articles about how d20 magic would shape the nature and growth of cities, I’m moved to ask: what would “wizard schools” look like if you applied the same logic to such a concept?

I ask because the idea of magic colleges is a popular one, ranging from the Scholomance to Hogwarts (to, as we saw in the recent write-up for Trixie, Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns), and yet d20 doesn’t really seem to support the concept, or at least not incentivize it; the only downside or difficulty to being a spellcaster is the advanced “starting age” tables for spellcasters, and the idea that a wizard’s starting spellbook must have been paid for by someone else. Other than that, anyone with the requisite mental ability score of 10+ (to cast cantrips) has no problems learning magic just as easily on their own as they do in a scholastic setting. Especially if you’re using Eclipse.

To what extent do magical colleges make sense in a d20 setting?

-Alzrius

Schools which teach magic are quite popular in fiction. That’s not too surprising; they’re quite popular in reality where they don’t even work. After all, there are few more direct wish-fulfillment fantasies than getting magical powers – and “training” is how you acquired most of your more complicated skills. Ergo, “a school that teaches you how to use magic” seems at least superficially plausible – and you can find plenty of them on the internet to give your money to.

But where did that notion come from? What, underneath the various fictions, are people actually expecting from a school of magic?

The first “schools of magic” were probably shamanic traditions, being passed down in individual small tribes – informal affairs where the tribal shaman taught each generation of kids how to not anger the spirit world (most likely a mixture of practical advice intermixed with tribal myths). Judging by the cave paintings, this sort of “school” probably goes back to the origin of the species, if not to some of our ancestral species. So we’re starting off with “teach the kids how to get along in the world”.

Moving on, Martial Arts traditions date back at least five thousand years (and likely much further, but that’s when our earliest hard evidence dates to). Given a certain lack of understanding as to how things work, magical beliefs and practices were a part of almost any form of organized training at that point – and what tales we have from that period do portray their heroes with a variety of mystical powers derived from their great skill. Thus the notion of “Kung Fu” – “a discipline or skill achieved through hard work and practice”.

The first formal classes, with locations, multiple teachers, and groups of unrelated students drawn from a larger population, turned up after cities (and large, formal, permanent, organizations and structures) developed. They taught priests and record-keepers – a suddenly vital profession given the new need for organization, taxation, and keeping tabs on the population.

And those scribes DID have mysterious powers. They could “hear” the voices of the dead by examining strange talismans covered with equally strange symbols, they could remember more than any man, they could organize the construction of fabulous palaces and temples, they produced incredible remedies (often based to some extent on things that had worked, rather than on the placebo effect), they could know what was happening far away based on the delivery of a few bits of junk from that location… they were mighty wizards, who knew the powers of the hidden words. They could say and write down words which observably made impressive things happen. As far as the general population was concerned… that was magic. Observable, repeatable, WORKING magic.

Yet as the notion of writing spread, and it’s actual effects became more familiar and less impressive and mysterious… the tales of magic didn’t just vanish. Stories of mysterious and powerful secrets and knowledge never do; just ask the “Ancient Aliens” guy. Instead, those stories just pushed the mysterious powers back from general literacy to the “secret stuff” that only very select students got to learn. Hidden and powerful arts!

Not too surprisingly, that’s what “Occult” means. It’s simply a word for “hidden”.

But secret and powerful arts inevitably raise suspicions. Why are they hiding? (“because they don’t exist” has never satisfied anyone except for serious skeptics, and they’re pretty rare). Who is doing the teaching? What secret powers are there? What are they doing to you that they don’t want you to know about? What is their secret agenda?

And so scholarship became suspicious. Anti-intellectualism and the notion that knowledge was somehow unwholesome became popular. Why should another persons opinion be considered better than yours just because they knew more?

This has gotten worse now that there ARE secret (by virtue of being very difficult and time consuming to master) and powerful arts such as “Engineering” and “Medicine”. Just look at all the “they are hiding the simple answers to curing diabetes/ getting free energy / obtaining wealth / becoming more intelligent” from us!” scams on the internet. If those didn’t get a lot of money from people who believe that they’re being exploited by massive conspiracies there wouldn’t be so many of them. This is also why “Harry Potter” produced so much of a frenzy; quite a lot of people believe that that sort of thing is real.

Individual scholars gained reputations as sorcerers and mystics and tales of secret schools or “covens” spread. As education – “schooling” – started to become a normal and necessary part of life, classes grew, multiple instructors and specialized series of courses became the norm – and so the speculative secret schools reflected reality; they became institutions with physical buildings and established locations, rather than secret societies.

For practical reasons most of the literary examples (where things need a lot more logic and justification to satisfy the readers than rumors or popular myths have to have) for youngsters were boarding schools or – as in The Wall Around The World (1953) – were physically isolated. Even most conspiracy theorists have a hard time believing that a bunch of practicing magical kids would be able to keep everything secret without a LOT of help. And if it’s NOT a secret… the world is going to be a lot different than what we see.

Examples of the idea which didn’t keep it secret – such as The Wizard of Earthsea (1968), Operation Chaos (1971), or the Riddle Master Trilogy (1976) – are generally set in alternate worlds for just that reason.

And that pretty well establishes the “secret or alternate reality magical boarding school for kids” notion. The place is going to be filled with wonders and magical stuff simply because no one has ever actually seen such a thing, and therefore their imaginations run wild.

Given that this is for games where few passersby would blink at a kid practicing their magic, “secrecy” probably isn’t a big concern – but at least we’ve established a lot of the expectations and underlying assumptions.

Advertisements

Thera: Magical Basics

   Theran Magic involves three basic factors; raw mystical energy, the occult lore to forge and maintain psychic spell-constructs through which to channel it, and the skill to direct it properly. Since everyone uses magic to some extent in daily life, each class provides a contribution to a characters Base Caster Level, as listed under BCL. That works like a character’s Base Attack Bonus or Saving Throws: you simply add up the contributions from each class. Each class also provides independent access to spells – although, for classes that do not deal much in magic, such access is fairly limited. For that, use the “Spells” column, the first number indicates the maximum level of spell which can be used, the number after the slash indicates the total number of spells which the character may keep readied at any given moment. Class-A spellcasters include Clerics, Druids, Shamans and Sorcerers. Class-B spellcasters include Bards, Monks, Adepts, and Witches. Class C spellcasters include Barbarians, Fighters, Rangers, Rogues and Paladins.

   Thus a Cleric 3/Bard 6/Fighter 5 has a base caster level of 3+4+2 = 9 and a total level of 14. He or she can also ready ten clerical spells of up to level two and eight bardic spells of (coincidentally) up to level two.

Character

Level

BCL

CL-A

BCL

CL-B

BCL

CL-C

Spells

CL-A

Spells

CL-B

Spells

CL-C

01

1

0

0

1/08

0/04

–/—

02

2

1

1

1/08

1/06

–/—

03

3

2

1

2/10

1/06

0/02

04

4

3

2

2/10

2/08

0/02

05

5

3

2

3/12

2/08

0/02

06

6

4

3

3/12

2/08

1/04

07

7

5

3

4/14

3/10

1/04

08

8

6

4

4/14

3/10

1/04

09

9

6

4

5/16

3/10

2/06

10

10

7

5

5/16

4/12

2/06

11

11

8

5

6/18

4/12

2/06

12

12

9

6

6/18

4/12

3/08

13

13

9

6

7/20

5/14

3/08

14

14

10

7

7/20

5/14

3/08

15

15

11

7

8/22

5/14

4/10

16

16

12

8

8/22

6/16

4/10

17

17

12

8

9/24

6/16

4/10

18

18

13

9

9/24

6/16

4/10

19

19

14

9

9/24

6/16

4/10

20

20

15

10

10/25

7/17

5/11

   A reserve of Mana can be developed in several different ways. Mana derived from particular attributes “pools” with any other mana derived from that attribute, and can be pooled with mana from any “unaligned” source.

  Clerics (Wis), Druids (Con), Shamans (Chr) and Sorcerers / Wizards (Int) gain 2x their relevant attribute modifier mana “points” per level, with a minimum of one point per level.

   Bards (Chr), Monks (Wis), Adepts (Con) and Witches (Int) get their relevant attribute modifier mana points per level, with a minimum of one point per level.

   All other character classes gain one point of mana per level, plus one-half of whichever attribute modifier is applicable.

   Other methods of acquiring mana include accepting any of a variety of vows, geasa, or other “special restrictions” (6 points each), giving up attribute points (12 points per two points off a given attribute), and learning the Runecraft skill (QV).

   Temporary methods include Manastones (Cost of (Points Squared)x100 GP [x.25 if not self- charging], they do not take up an item slot), potions (250 GP, provides 3D4 Mana but cannot supply more then 24 in any one day), places and times of power (GMO), and sacrifices (generally 1-2 mana per HD of the most powerful creature sacrificed during a ritual).

The Rule of Three:

   The limitation on Manastones is due to the Rule Of Three; No more then three magic items and/or effects may be applied to a characters ability, attribute, or quality, at a time. No known item or effect evades this restriction; it appears to be a law of nature.

Mana Costs:

   The Mana Cost of casting various spells is straightforward: in general, it depends on the school and level of the spell being used.

Spell Level /

Spell School

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Div, Enc, Ill

1

3

4

6

8

10

12

15

18

21

Abj, Nec, Tra

1

2

4

5

8

10

13

16

20

24

30

Con and Evo

1

3

5

8

10

13

16

20

24

30

40

   Especially “Handy” spells, such as Healing and True Strike, usually cost +1-2 mana points. Narrowly-applicable spells usually cost 1-2 points less mana than the chart would indicate. This is apparently a result of the influence of the Primal Powers.

   Specialists must give up two schools – but may cast spells of their speciality school at one-half the base mana cost.

The Runecraft Skill:

   Runecraft (Dex, Trained Only, In-Class for everyone) is the art of focusing very limited amounts of ambient Mana through gestures and/or magical symbols. Character’s with this skill gain a Mana bonus equal to their skill score, and can cast lesser spells related to whichever runes they’ve mastered in this fashion.

   Any character may “attune themselves” to a single rune, those with a Runecraft skill of 8+, or an Int, Wis or Chr of 14+, may acquire a second attunement. Those who qualify in both fashions may have a third attunement. Per the Rule of Three, no one may possess more than three attunements.

   The runes themselves vary immensely. There are runes of War, Healing, Beasts, Lightning, Earth, Stealth, Fire, Smithcraft, and Plants. There are runes for creatures, themes, ideas, crafts, and professions. While they must be reasonably specific, if you want a particular rune, it’s probably available.

   Runes, at least theoretically, can be used to create any effect within their domains. In practice, of course, things aren’t so simple; using runecraft requires one minute, whatever mana expenditure is appropriate to the effect produced, and a skill check at DC 15 for L0, 25 for L1, 35 for L2, and 45 for L3. Character’s may, however, take 20 at twice the base cost.

   There are – of course – ways to improve on matters. Skill enhancing items can be used, although the skill must be boosted seperately for each rune. Doubling the mana expenditure provides a +5 bonus. Arcane Lore and Spellcraft skills at 5+ provide +2 synergy bonuses

   Runespells can also be engraved, reducing the time required to use a specific effect to one action, or even “quickened” for +5 mana and +5 DC. Sadly, engraved effects are subject to the rule of three; choose them carefully.

Spells And Spell Formula :

   Sorcerous “Spell Formulas” are simply very complicated how-to articles; they may contain weird diagrams, occult notations, and obscure references, and so require skill (Knowledges, “Spellcraft”, etc) to understand, but they’re merely words. Some, just like articles on how to make nuclear weaponry, are banned or other wise restricted, while others are lost, exist only in theory, or are simply impractical. A book of spells is expensive, but it’s the way that specialized or rare books are expensive.

   On the other hand of course, the secret of a rare, lost, or unique, spell formula can be worth a great deal.

   Druids find their magic in the wild places of the world, Shamans in communion with weird spirits, and Clerics in holy tomes and sacred places. In any case, some spell formulas are simple enough to be committed to memory quite easily – while others require the expenditure of a portion of a would-be user’s life force, just as creating a magical item would.

   Once acquired, spell formulas must be prepared for use – transformed from formula into spell.

   Spells are psychic constructs, forged by a trained will as channels for mystic energies. Even the most powerful magi can only maintain a limited selection of spells ready for use – and changing one requires both knowledge of the spell to be prepared, and hours or days of deep meditation. Still, once prepared, a spell is ready for use whenever the user channels mana through it – and it can be re-prepared just a bit more quickly at a later date. Unless some item is a necessary part of a spell – such as the gem required to entrap a jinn – they don’t generally require material components. Many do not require words, and a few don’t require any gestures – although these are rare.

Lesser Circle Magic:

   Lesser Circle Magic employs Runecraft to focus and enhance magical power. It requires a special Feat (Circle Master) or Spell (L4 – “Empower Circle”. This spell is considered a military secret of the Imperium) to use. Some common applications include;

  • Circle Of Protection from “X”: DC 15
  • Circle Of Containing “X”: DC 25
  • Boosting your Base Caster Level
    • For a single spell: DC (10+5x Boost)
    • While within the circle: DC (15+5x Boost)
    • For 24 hours: DC (20+10x Boost)
  • Focusing Mana from ritual participants
    • From up to three people: DC 15
    • From up to seven people: DC 20
    • From up to twenty-seven people: DC 25
    • From up to 210 people: DC 30
    • To store for later use. Such pools dissipate in three days: DC +1/5
  • Distributing EP costs over participants
    • Over up to three people: DC 20
    • Over up to seven people: DC 25
    • Over up to twenty-seven people: DC 30
    • Over up to 210 people: DC 35
  • Acquiring Temporary Metamagic Feats
    • Maximum 3, each costs 20 Mana: DC 25

Item Notes:

   Wands and Staves recharge themselves – but the process is slow; They regain 21 / (Caster Level x Spell Level) charges each week. Wands can be quickly recharged by spellcasters with the Craft Wand feat and the appropriate spell to put in them at half their base price times the (Number of charges restored/50). A staff can be recharged similarily, but at only one- tenth of the base cost. Sadly, the skills to create a staff are very rare and are – at least officially – a military secret of some of the major countries.

   Metamagic can be added to wands and staves by either increasing the spell level – or via building the Feat into the wand / stave, at a cost of 1000 GP + 500/prerequisite and spending the appropriate number of extra charges while using the device.

   Items which grant Feats are special cases; Feats cost anywhere from 4000-8000 GP + 2000-4000 GP per prerequisite, with the exact cost depending on the feat(s) in question… Like Manastones, bestowed feats are subject to the Rule Of Three.

   No device can grant spell resistance. Only living things may possess this quality. Even artifacts do not appear to be exceptions.

   “Bonus Spell” items aren’t – ordinarily – available. See “Manastones”, above.

Thera: Channeling The Primal Powers

   On Thera, Channeling goes a bit beyond the ability to influence the Undead.

   Channeling focuses primal energies through the user’s life – or unlife – force. It’s the oldest of all mystical techniques, by far the most erratic – and is the province of those who have the faith and will to open themselves to the high powers of the cosmos and accept that randomness.

   There are, of course, eighteen “fields” of channeling, sixteen of which are available to mortals (The fields of Light/Word and Darkness/Void are only available to the Celestial Host and the Spawn Of Apophis respectively). Each can be used to simply generate a burst of raw power or – with a successful save to maintain control – to produce more “advanced” effects. Sadly, failing that save means losing control of the powers which you’re channeling through your life force. It’s not a good idea.

   Character’s with Channeling normally get a base of (3 + ChaMod) attempts daily, and access to one field. Those with “special affinities” or cross-training may gain access to a second field at the price of permanently dividing up their daily allotment of attempts between the two fields. Such fields may not, however, be polar opposites in the Eye Of Thoth.

The Primal Powers:

   Creation, A.K.A. “Positive Energy”, can be used to repel those attuned to Destruction or “Negative Energy”, to heal, and to create new things. It’s probably the most common of all fields. A burst of positive energy is used to “Turn Undead”. More advanced effects include:

  • “Turning” the Spawn Of Apophis (DC 15. Works just like turning undead).
  • Blessing items (DC 15. Allows one to create holy water and so on).
  • Healing (Cure Light Wounds DC 12, Cure Moderate Wounds DC 15, Cure Serious Wounds DC 18, Cure Critical Wounds DC 21, and Heal DC 27).
  • Lifegiving (Raise The Dead DC 28, Ressurrection DC 32, True Ressurrection DC 35) and
  • Creation (Of mundane items up to 25 GP DC 18, +3 DC per additional 25 GP).
  • “Exorcisms” usually fall under “Turning”.

   Destruction, A.K.A. “Negative Energy”, can be used to Awe or Command entities attuned to negative energy, to injure, and to destroy… While it’s not inherently evil it’s very easy to abuse – and is the aspect of Thera through which the power of Apophis enters in. It does not have a good reputation. A negative energy burst can be used to Awe/Command undead. More advanced effects include:

  • Aweing or Commanding the Spawn Of Apophis (DC 14).
  • Disintegrations (DC 25).
  • Disrupting other Energies (Generally incoming spells and such, DC 11 + Spell Level).
  • Death Spells (DC 18 + SL).
  • Granting temporary Spell or Power Resistance (DC = desired level +10).
  • and Inflicting Injuries (Inflict Light Wounds DC 12, Inflict Moderate Wounds DC 15, Inflict Serious Wounds DC 18, Inflict Critical Wounds DC 21, and Harm DC 27).
  • If perverted, it can be used to create undead of various types, at a DC of 20 + the Challenge Rating of the undead to be created.

   Transformation can be used to repel beings of order and to influence those attuned to it’s power – but it’s primary function is to alter the world… Attempting to use it on yourself is suicidal; the most subtle items – thoughts and memories, your control of the power flow, your biochemistry, and so on – are the first to go. Advanced effects include:

  • Reshaping Matter (Stone Shape et al, DC 15).
  • Alchemical Manipulation (restructuring substances, DC 18-24).
  • Polymorph (others only, DC 21).
  • Transmutation (DC 28).
  • and Polymorph Any Object (DC 32).
  • The power of transformation is extremely flexible – but it’s also very easy to go disasterously wrong using it. Undesired transformations can make life pretty miserable.

   Preservation can be used to bind creatures of chaos – shapechangers – into stable forms, at least temporarily, and to ward off various disruptive forces. More advanced applications include:

  • Fortification (Boosts the hardness of materials and grants DR to creatures. DC 12 + [+to Hardness/2] or [DR +2]).
  • Creating Stasis Fields (force constructs and Walls Of Force, DC 15-21 depending on size).
  • Induced Hibernation or Paralysis (DC 14).
  • Suspending or Resisting Poisons, Diseases, or Aging for a day (DC 18, or as the effect -4).
  • Armor Of Eternity (Mage Armor effect, +6 AC and +4 to saves).
  • Resisting Death (DC 10-Negative HP/5) and
  • Temporal Stasis (DC 35).

   The use of the four Primal Powers requires Fortitude saves.

The Elemental Forces:

   The Elemental Powers – Fire, Air, Earth, and Water – can be used to repel or disrupt those entities attuned to opposing forces or to awe or command entities attuned to them. Advanced effects relating to the elements are normally fairly straightforward; they involve:

  • Creating (Bolts DC 14, Sphere DC 16, Stable Wall/Shape DC 18).
  • Commanding (“Telekinetic” control of, DC 16-24 depending on scale).
  • Manifesting (infusing inanimate items, or yourself, with, elemental power; assume an Elemental Subtype DC 16, Elemental Form DC 20, Elmental Infusion 1/2/3 D6, DC 12/16/22), and
  • Counters (“Blocking” an oposing elemental effect – only DC 10-16 as a rule, but requires a readied action).

   The use of the Elemental Powers requires a Reflex save.

The Governing Forces:

   Space can be used to create a wavefront or “ripple” of expanding space, that sweeps away unrestrained matter and energy in it’s path. In essence, everything the user “targets” within 60′ will be moved (2x[2D6+User’s Level + Cha. Mod)] feet away. More advanced uses include:

  • Storing Items in an extradimensional “pocket” (DC 10+LB/20)
  • Teleportation (Dimension Door, DC 14, Teleportation, DC 18, Circle Of Teleportation, DC 24 and Gate/No summoning, DC 30) and even
  • Creating a Pocket Dimension (DC 35 – sometimes used as a prison or trap).
  • “Telekinetic” Effects also fall into this field – with a DC dependent on the scale of the desired effect. Micro-scale telekinetics aren’t possible.

   Chaos can be used to repel and disrupt those beings attuned to order, but can’t be used to influence chaotic entities; they tend to just do as they please. It can be used to disrupt spells and complex structures, but it’s primary use is allow the user to briefly “bend” basic laws of nature – allowing users to accomplish things otherwise impossible. Advanced uses include:

  • Dispelling (Dispel Magic DC 14, Break Enchantment DC 18, Greater Dispelling DC 21),
  • Disruption (Shattering DC 16, “Rusting” Grasp DC 18, 2D4/1D4 Attribute Damage DC 20), and
  • Breach Reality (Getting something to work which shouldn’t. Walking thru a wall DC 18, bypassing SR / DR for an attack DC 14, breaking a Wall Of Force DC 18, using a “cure light wounds” spell to reattach a limb / head within a few rounds of it being severed DC 16 /20, breaching an antimagic/antipsionic field DC 35 and releasing imprisioned spirits DC 30).

   Time can be used to generate haste or slow effects – and grants a natural sensitivity to disturbances the flow of time. More advanced applications include:

  • Readings (Object Reading DC 12, Determine Ages DC 14, Postcognition DC 18, Augury DC 16 and Possibility Scan DC 24),.
  • Ending or Extending Spells with durations (by Rounds DC 14, Minutes DC 16, Hours DC 20, and Days DC 24, can affect [Turning Damage] spell levels),.
  • Temporal Manipulations (Preservation DC 16, Timeslip [Forward jump, DC 18], Induce Hibernation DC 12, Reroll Once DC 18, Take an Extra Action [Off Initiative] DC 22, Enhanced Haste DC 24, Fugue [Mentally stretching a few seconds into minutes to observe and consider] DC 18, Time Stop 32, Age Victim/Entropic Bolt DC 18, Temporal Hold DC 18, Restore Youth [an effect which costs lots of EP] DC Varies) and
  • Timeshifting (The GM may – or may not – allow this. Alter Immediate Past DC 26, Restore To Past State DC 30, Call The Past DC 35, and Gate To The Past DC 40).

   Ordercan be used to repel / bind entities of chaos or to spontaneously organize things – ranging from disorderly meetings and crowds to messy workshops. Advanced applications include:

  • Controlling the vagaries of chance (“Prayer” DC 16, Forcing a “1” or a “20”, DC 18, manipulating “destiny”, DC 24).
  • “Channeling” the forces of nature (DC Varies, but can only be used to steer events, not to create them – although diverting a tornado can be quite effective).
  • Temporarily Reinforcing, or Imposing, Structure (Imposing rigidity, or solidity, on liquids or gases, DC varies with the volume affected, toughening materials, or creating exotic alloys, DC 16).
  • Reversing the ravages of time is quite straightforward – at least in nonliving objects (DC 14).

   The Governing Forces – Chaos, Space, Time, and Order – require Willpower saves to use.

The Mental and Spiritual Elements:

   Mind governs thoughts and memories – ranging from subtle suggestions thru insight and logic. A burst of mental power can be used to create a mental gestalt with selected targets within 60′ – allowing for “instantaneous” discussion and development of plans, rapid explanations, and conveying hours worth of information. Such plans grant a +2 Circumstance Bonus to Skill, Attack, Damage and Saves for one minute. More advanced applications include:

  • Mental Control (Suggestion DC 14, Erasing Minor/Major/Vital/ Fundamental parts of your target’s memory (or Implanting New Memories) DC 14/16/20/24.
  • Domination (of Ordinary/Weird/Alien Minds DC 18/ 24/30).
  • Insight (Boost Int or Wis based skill by +5/10/15/20/25 DC 12/14/18/24/32).
  • Flash Of Brilliance (Get a clue from the GM. DC 20).
  • Instantly “Swapping Out” a Spell Formula (Up to 1/3/7, DC 14/18/24).
  • Projection (Send a “burst of data” to someone far away, DC 22), and
  • Invention (The user may bypass several weeks of time – and the associated expenses – when doing research, DC 32 – once per project maximum).
  • While skills can be bestowed by granting relevant memories no single individual can gain more then (Int) skill points in this fashion.

   Note that emotions are in the realm of the Spirit, below.

   Spirit controls emotions and astral beings – those entities who still carry too great an emotional “charge” to peacefully reincarnate. A “burst” of raw emotional energy carries any desired emotion to those within a group (this may include mindful undead) within it’s area. More advanced applications include:

  • Laying The Unquiet Dead (DC Varies).
  • Laying Wards (Block astral intrusion, and emotionally deter others, DC 18).
  • Emotional Blasts (Panic, Infatuation, Etc, DC 18).
  • Astral Projection (DC 32).
  • Boost Charisma (+4/6/8, DC 16/20/24).
  • Oration (Sway or inspire large groups, QV; Bards), and
  • Astral Blast (Bolt DC 18, Sphere DC 21, 60′ Burst DC 28. Damages spirits – or EVERYONE).

   Mind and Spirit energies require a Willpower check to control.

The Corporeal and Transcendent Elements:

   Body governs the control and manipulation of living tissue – flesh, blood, bone, and wood. It can be used to shapechange, to resist most injuries, to control plants, and to enhance the physical attributes, but can not be projected sufficiently to affect the bodies of anything more complex then plants. An internal burst of such power can be used to shapechange (EG; “Wild Shape”) or to expel parasites and toxins. More advanced applications include:

  • Enhancement (Adds a +2/4/6 divine bonus to your Str, Con, or Dex for an hour DC 12/14/18).
  • Turn/Command Plants (DC 14, requires a “turn” check).
  • Self Healing (DC 10 + [number of D8 desired]), and
  • Sculpting (Subtly reshaping yourself to alter appearance, DC 12, to remove aging penalitiesDC 18, to add natural weapons/armor for a but DC 21, and to enhance attributes permanently DC 25 plus 1000 EP/point of inherent bonus).

   Soul governs both higher and lower instincts as well as the link between the world and the eternal realms. A burst of Soul energy grants serenity, damping the excesses of the spirit, calming emotions, and awing/commanding animals. Advanced applications include:

  • Communing with or Summoning the Celestial Powers (DC 24/28).
  • Offering Guidance and Comfort (DC 12).
  • Speaking with Departed Spirits (DC 18).
  • Reincarnations (DC 22).
  • Making a Concentration Check (or any similar roll).
  • Dispelling External Influences (DC 16).
  • “Manifesting” your Inner Darkness or Light (As an Aura of Purity or Fear DC 14, as raw energy DC 18, as an entity embodying your essence or a part thereof, DC 22).
  • Shattering Soul-Bindings and Demonic Magic (DC 30), and even
  • Redeeming Demons and The Fallen (DC 35).

   The energies of the Body and/or Soul require a Fortitude check to control.

   As noted earlier, the remaining two fields – Light And Word / Darkness And Void – aren’t normally available to ordinary characters.

   The Light and Word is the exclusive province of the Celestial Hosts, themselves extensions of Dhaos. It’s command infused with the first light of creation, as much of the true divine as the world can bear.

   The light dispels darkness, illusions, the power of the darkness and void – and madness. Focused into commands it allows Celestials to issue simple, preemptory, commands to objects and creatures. The most powerful Celestials can make a command – including those which change creatures, such as “be strong” – permanent by repeating it successfully three times, and thus making it a part of reality.

   The Darkness and Void is the exclusive power of the Spawn Of Apophis. It can be used to counter virtually any force, to transform any willing mortalinto a demon, to entrap souls, to curse, enervate, and weaken living things, and to disintegrate matter. While Darkness is no match for the Celestial Light, there are a lot more wielders of it, and they’re far more likely to do so uninvited.

   The High Powers of Light and Darkness can be controlled, or at least directed, with reflex checks. Given that both effects are generally the province of NPC’s, mechanical details are intentionally vague.

Channeling Failures :

   These occur whenever a channeler’s save is not made, their effect depends on how much it is missed by.

  • Natural 1, but bonus equals or exceeds the difficulty level : May not retry for at least 24 hours. This cannot be mitigated.
  • 1-2 : The attempt is wasted. An immediate retry is possible, but costs two attempts. As a GMO alternative, it may succeed with “minor problems”, such as misteleportation.
  • 3-5 : The attempt is wasted. The channeler may not attempt this particular “stunt” again for 24 hours and takes 2D4 damage.
  • 6-9 : The attempt is wasted. The user may not attempt to channel again for 24 hours and takes 1D4 Temp. damage to a random attribute.
  • 10+ : The attempt goes disasterously wrong somehow. The user may not attempt to channel again for 24 hours and suffers some side effect appropriate to the channeling field – such as HP or attribute damage, effect backlash, or a mistargeted/incorrect effect.
  • 16+ : 1D4 level drain. 18 DC to regain.

   Failures can be mitigated by expending EP. 50 EP buys a retroactive “+1” on the relevant save, up to a maximum of +5.

Other Notes:

   The DC of unspecified effects is up to the game master. As a rough guide, use DC (12+2xSL) and add +5 if the target is distant or the effect seems to stretch the nature of the field.

   In general, when a random number is needed for a channeling effect it’s equal to; (2D6 + Charisma Modifier + BCL).

   Channeling – drawing on the energies which make up the fundamental structures of Thera – is an “Extraordinary Ability”. It’s effects can be countered by some opposing effect, but cannot be surpressed, blocked out, dispelled, or otherwise nullified without tearing a hole in the structure of the universe.

   While the reason and mechanisms behind the phenomenon are unknown, occasional “deposits” of materials linked to the primal energies are found scattered across Thera. They have quite extraordinary properties – and are extremely valuable, since they are useful in an amazing variety of ways. Such substances are used in the best enchantments and the most impressive alchemical feats.

   This version of Channeling was not directly covered in Eclipse: The Codex Persona – although it could easily be created using Channeling, Spell Conversion to an appropriate “Anyspell” effect, and some “Corrupted” and “Specialized” modifiers for requiring a save to control the power and for the possible side effects of failure. A specialized Immunity to convert it into an Extraordinary Ability. If you want to purchase it directly, it would probably be about 12 CP, plus the initial expense of purchasing the Channeling ability to start with. In normal d20, which is considerably less flexible, it’s probably worth two Feats for the basic abilities plus a one-Feat surcharge for the flexibility.

Thera: The Runelord Epic Class

The Theran Epic Hero:

   Beyond Twentieth Level :

   Theran characters may take a maximum of 20 “normal” class levels. Any levels beyond that must be taken in one of Thera’s two, mutually exclusive, high-level Classes – Epic Hero and Rune Lord. While it is possible – at least in exceptional cases – to start taking levels in these classes at level fifteen, it’s unusual. Characters who don’t qualify for Epic Hero or Rune Lord can’t advance beyond level 20 on Thera.

The Rune Lord:

   Bound to the powers of order and embodiments of the Runes which make up Thera’s structure, Runelords have great influence over the world about them, but are bound to that world – and pay a price for their power, both immediately, in the form of Divine Drawbacks, and in millennia to come. Over the ages, a Runelord will gradually grow into, and be transformed by, their rune or runes – slowly merging with the magical structure of Thera. Eventually, their Runes will spawn subrunes, new branches of magic will arise, and the elder rune will slowly be forgotten as it grows into something else – and its associated Runelord will pass on at last.

  • Requirements: Level 15+, completion of an Epic Quest, total attribute modifiers of plus ten or more, and attunement to at least one unclaimed Rune (The other two “attunements” may overlap but this will conflict with the power of the existing Runelord – who won’t like it. Both lords abilities will become unreliable).
  • Attack Bonus: +(L/2). Doesn’t raise the number of iterative attacks available.
  • Base Caster Level: +(L/2)
  • Save Bonuses: +(L/2)
  • Skill Points: +(Int Mod) per level.
  • Hit Dice: d8
  • Special: Gain one Feat, one Divine Power, six points of Resistances (energy forms, damage types, poisons, attribute drain or damage, environmental problems such as lack of air or food, and types of physical damage are all eligible), and one Divine Drawback per level.
  • Immunities: Aging and Disease, with a permanent “Death Ward” and “Mage Armor” effect. As expressions of universal energies, they’re resistant to both magic and psionics (Spell and Power Resistance of = 10 + Level).
  • Drawbacks: All Runelords are foci of vast (and quite detectable) forces, are watched by virtually everyone, are vulnerable to some specific form of attack (GMO, but this varies with the Runelord), and are difficult to heal or transform, as they can’t drop their spell resistance versus such effects.

Divine Powers:

   Astral Realms; Shaping the formless energies of the Astral Plane requires an unshakeable will and a great deal of belief – but Runelords generally have ample access to both. Powers on this list include:

  • Avatars; You may have up to (Intelligence) Avatars of yourself (treat as Simulacrums, but with a mental link to you) active at any given time. These take a week each to make, but there is no associated cost.
  • Minions; You control a variety of “Astral Constructs”. While these are semi-intelligent and quite powerful – an effective manifestation level of (user level/4, 10 maximum) – they’re shaped by the belief of your followers, not entirely by you. You gain one such construct per active major temple dedicated to you.
  • Realm; You control a private realm on the astral plane; within it your Talent Feats are much enhanced (half cost or double effect) and you can manipulate the environment at will. Deceased followers tend to turn up there. You may take a Talent Feat to gain the ability to gate back and forth between your realm and Thera.
  • Wrath; Those who anger you or violate the tenets of your faith will be stricken by some form of supernatural punishment (a disease, a bolt of lightning, a curse, etc).

   Followers; Runelords tend to develop cults and followings among those who find their runes important. Some take advantage of this Powers on this list include:

  • Cultists. You’ve got a group of fanatics. At any given time you can call on 3D6 devotes to undertake even the most suicidal missions.
  • Disciples. You have a direct bond with a small group – equal to your charisma score at any given time – of your priests, and may speak or channel your power through them at will as well as know what’s happening about them.
  • Faithful. You have a religion, and may call on great numbers of ordinary people, considerable reserves of money, and other resources, as required.
  • Investment. Your followers supply 1000 EP per day that you may use to cast spells, make items, or invest in mortals – raising them to a maximum of level 15. Sadly, you can not add it to your personal EP total.

   Mindspeech; The presence of a Runelord has strange effects on reality – and on minds. Some Runelords learn to use that psychic impact. Powers on this list include:

  • Adjutant; You may designate any one being at a time as your Familiar, Companion, or Mount, and grant it the relevant bonuses at an effective level equal to your total level. If you take this more than once, you can so imbue that many creatures at a time.
  • Divine Aura; You “radiate” an emotion, an aura of disguising illusion, or a Consecrate/ Desecrate effect in a radius of (10 x Charisma) feet. If relevant, standard saving throws for innate charisma-based powers apply.
  • Gift Of Tongues; You may communicate with any creature with a mind, listen in on hidden thoughts, and either Enthrall, Fascinate, or inflict Suggestions or Commands, on those you speak to. Perhaps fortunately, standard saving throws against innate-charisma based powers apply.
  • Spirit Sight; Your senses extend into the Astral and Ethereal planes. As a Feat you may learn to extend your touch and magical/mental talents to those levels as well.

   Runebond; The bond with their runes is the core of a Runelords power. Powers on this list include:

  • Awareness; While a Runelord automatically becomes aware of “major” activities involving his or her rune – the researching of great spells, relevant natural disasters, major battles, etcetera – this allows them to “sense” minor activities, involving otherwise-unimportant individuals. This also covers the symbolic activities of Theran “prayer”. (E.G.; “Praying” to a wargod involves at least a good practice bout – while praying to a deathgod usually means killing something or other).
  • Influence; You may manipulate events on a global scale, granting those you favor a “+3” bonus on rolls related to one of your runes and inflicting a “-3” penalty on those you oppose or disapprove of. For example, a god of Trade can influence relevant Diplomacy, Navigation, and Profession checks. Those he favors will get rich, those he opposes will run into menacing customs agents and upset customers all day.
  • Mastery; Reduces the “effective” level of personally-cast spells involving one of the user’s runes by 3 levels. If this reduces it to below zero, it becomes an extraordinary – rather then super- natural – effect. Mastery may be taken up to three times, twice provides reductions of 6/3 spell levels for the primary/a secondary rune – and three times provides a 9/6/3 level reduction for the users primary/first secondary/second secondary runes..
  • Returning; You’re very difficult to kill. Unless someone else claims your runes, or you are killed in some specific manner (GMO), you will eventually return even without help. If you are helped, your return will be quick.

   Metamorphosis; Runelords are always transformed into runic embodiments to some extent, but can limit it to the more or less cosmetic level if they choose. Some choose otherwise. Powers on this list include:

  • Ascension; You gain an appropriate plane-touched template (often Aasimar or Tiefling), without an ECL adjustment. This can be taken twice, in which case you get the appropriate “Half-Whatever” template, also without an ECL adjustment. Runelords can gain lycanthropic, half-dragon, and similar templates, as well, but cannot gain more then one. Runelords with this ability always appear quite monstrous, more so if they belonged to a monster species to start with.
  • Embodiment; You take on a monstrous form, and a variety of special abilities derived from it. Such forms usually include a few enhanced attributes, “natural” weapons and armor and a few physically-oriented “Feats”. Of course, quite a lot of equipment – such as armor, weapons, and magic items, will become unusable, and most people will react quite strongly to you.
  • Runemark; You gain +2 to a chosen attribute appropriate to one of your Runes. You are also blatantly changed by this; you may acquire a distinctive glowing aura when your abilities are in use, be physically warped, have glowing runic tattoos all over your skin, or whatever Mark the game master decides is appropriate.
  • Runeward; You may make saving throws against spells and effects which do not normally allow them. Moreover, whenever you make a saving throw against an effect which would normally produce a partial effect, the effect in question is entirely negated.

The Price Of Godhood:

   Runelords normally have more problems then heroes do. A god must take on one limitation from the list below per level in the Runelord class.

   Bond Of Faith; Runelords often get trapped in the nature of their runes, and in the role their followers expect them to play. Limitations on this list include:

  • Unable to resist Wyrd; You are unable to go against the nature of the runes you’re attuned to. For example, a death goddess might find herself unable to aid her own dying child, a sun god might be unable to “intervene” during the night, and a a war god might find himself unable to work towards a peaceful solution.
  • Metamorphic Cycles; You undergo a regular sequence of transformations, such as a sun god who starts each day as a child and dies of old age each night – although that’s extreme, even for gods, and probably counts as several choices.
  • Personal Artifact; A sizable part of your personal power becomes bound into an artifact of some sort. While this increases the effects of those abilities by 50%, it can be stolen – and those powers are not available without the artifact.
  • Distinctive Features; You are easily seen for what you are – no matter how you disguise yourself or shapechange.

   Immortality; The energies coursing through a gods body have a physical impact as well. Limitations on this list include:

  • Impervious; You are resistant to growth, as well as to aging and harm. You gain experience points at only one-third the normal rate.
  • Lost Slots; The innate magic of your body blocks the use of many items. Slotless items must be put into one at first, after that you will lose two slots per time this is taken.
  • Fertility; Like a dragon, you are fertile with almost anything. Unlike them, any liason with a mortal WILL result in a child. Such children will inherit a natural link with you and a certain amount of power – although how it will express itself is unpredictable.
  • Ascension; The oldest, and most powerful, Runelords tend to merge with Thera itself – and must be invoked before they can manifest. As a side effect they’re near-indestructible.

   Relationships; “Immortality”, coupled with slow inhuman transformation and vast personal power – some of it inheritable – is hard on a gods social life.  Limitations on this list include:

  • Divine Spouse; You’ve married another god of some sort. At best this takes up a lot of your time. At worst, well, Hera and Zeus are a fairly mild example.
  • Offspring; You have troublesome children, ranging from kids who disrupt your rituals or find weird trouble to get into to offspring who hate you, and want to usurp your position.
  • Callousness; You’ve watched mortals come and go for millenia, and have ceased to care. This does not endear you to those around you.
  • Divine Awe; You may be beautiful, inspire awe, or be unbelievably ugly, but those about you have massive emotional reactions, despite any disguise. In rare cases, this can kill.

   Reputations; While gods inevitably acquire reputations, things can get a bit extreme. Limitations on this list include:

  • Well-understood; Those opposing or dealing with you can be expected to know your abilities, tactics, psychological “buttons” and other relevant information in fair detail.
  • Nemesis; You’re opposed by another entity of similar powers – typically a god embodying an opposing rune, but sometimes simply a hero or god with an opposing personality.
  • Outlawed; You and your followers are wildly unpopular, and will attract endless opposition.
  • Overrated; People overestimate both what you can do and what areas you influence. This is likely to irritate other powerful entities and to attract unwanted trouble.

   Megalomania; As limited aspects of reality fall subject to a runelord’s will, it becomes hard to avoid feeling that the rest should be equally obliging. Limitations on this list include:

  • Irrational; You tend to stop thinking and lose all sense of restraint and discretion when you’re defied or offended.
  • Transcendent; You see yourself as “above” law and custom; you are a GOD, such pettiness does not apply!
  • Arrogant; You tend to treat all “mortals” as your personal servants and property. If they don’t like it, you can always find some more.
  • Lordly; You demand worship and respect from all those around you of lesser stature – and if they aren’t gods or epic heroes, they’re lesser.

   Unfocused; Runelords are personally linked with events going on throughout the world. As a result, they often find it hard to focus on anything in particular. Limitations on this list include:

  • Absent Minded; You tend to forget things. A LOT. You may forget your gear, your friends names and to refresh your spells unless you can make some very good wisdom checks.
  • Distracted; You suffer a -3 circumstances penalty on anything not directly “related” to one of your runes and must often make concentration checks to pay attention to what’s going on around you.
  • Oblivious; You suffer a -4 penalty on all Spot, Listen, and similar rolls.
  • Invoked; You’re subjected to random calls on your attention and power as you’re invoked for various purposes.

   Responsibilities; Runelords are important people, and their link with an aspect of reality often places demands on them. Limitations on this list include:

  • Committments; You have a lot of things to do, and often do not have time for “personal” adventuring or projects.
  • Runic Backlash; You’re affected by events which impact your rune; For example, a sungod might be severely weakened during an eclipse.
  • Primal Link; Your emotions and well-being touch the world about you through your runes. Minor disturbances will reveal your motives and emotions,
  • Marked; Your runes have set their mark on you; you will find it difficult or impossible to use opposing powers.

Thera: Faiths and Religions

   The Great Powers of Thera come in at least three groups, and possibly four. There’s some debate on the subject.

   The Primal Ennead are the personifications of cosmic elements and forces – entities that really don’t pay much attention to individual mortals. Each has a male and a female aspect. In reality what the viewer expects seems to have a lot to do with how they’re seen. This group includes;

 

Element/Force

Male Aspect

Female Aspect

Transformation

Khonshu

Isis

Fire

Horus-Ra

Bastet

Destruction

Set

Sekhmet

Earth

Geb

Ma’at

Creation

Ptah

Sefekh-Aabut

Water

Atum

Tefnut

Preservation

Osiris

Nepthys

Air

Shu

Nut (Sky)

Life/Death

Anubis

Hathor

   The Primals generally interact with humans thru their emissaries /aides Thoth (Knowledge/ Pattern) and Bes (Luck/Chance). They are the source of all natural laws, including those of magic. They normally don’t interfere much – if at all – unless something threatens to upset the nature of the entire world. After all, from their point of view, a horrific death – or a thousand-year evil empire – is simply a learning experience. They are, however, vaguely benign; Thera is fundamentally a fairly hospitable world. The Primals are opposed by Apophis The Unmaker, and his minions – Apshai Swarmfather, the Bringer Of Plagues, Sobek The Devourer, and many others, who attempt to undermine the cycles of the world. Elementals, demons, celestials and other “outsiders” are all minor aspects of the primal powers.

   Primal Religions tend to be restricted to those who either A) prefer Thera just the way it is, and would like it to continue that way indefinitely or, B) have dedicated themselves to a particular aspect of the universe. There are a few worshipers of Apophis and company, but they’re more then a bit mad and are usually hunted down as soon as possible.

   Totems and Nature Spirits make up the next major grouping. While these are powerful, and can be very impressive, they’re generally too specialized to attract many followers. The great caribou spirit, the storm spirit, and the “local” sea spirit, make perfectly serviceable “gods” for a village full of hunter-gatherers on the fringe of an icecap, but they’re not going to do much for a major trading city. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to get them to pay attention to you then it is to attract the attention of a Primal Power.

   Faiths based on Totems and Nature Spirits tend to be simple, “primitive”, and personal; a faith with only a few hundred followers doesn’t need an elaborate structure, and a given worshiper can reasonably expect to come to the personal attention of his or her “god” at least a few times in his or her lifetime. Followers of such beings may receive helpful dreams and be granted minor favors within their patron’s domain quite routinely. Characters with communicative or spiritual powers may be able to reach and negotiate with such “deities” with no particular trouble.

   Runelords – commonly known as “Gods” – are “ascended” mortals, rare individuals who have mastered one or more runes – the words of the primals, the strands of magic which weave the fabric of the world. As such, they wield vast power over the areas governed by those runes. Of course, embodying the power of a true rune changes them greatly. The energies coursing through their bodies renders runelords almost immune to injury, aging, toxins, disease, and similar agents, enhances their attributes – and changes their form to one suited to the rune.

   They are invariably aware of major actions involving their rune; after all, in a curious way, they’re a part of such actions anyway. A master of the War Rune is directly involved in, and can subtly influence, any “war” event down to the skirmish level.

   It’s rumored – but unconfirmed – that only one runelord at a time can hold each rune; if two lords claim a rune, one must renounce it, slay, or absorb, the other, lest some strange fate befall both.

   Religions based on Runelords tend to be a bit more “businesslike” then mystical. After all, they’re basically just people. Schools of magic often take relevant lords as patrons – and most temples are quite practical.

   The Transcendent Beliefs are philosophical or religious systems which believe in a great creator or some even more abstract power beyond what is measurable or detectable from within the known cosmos. Such an entity or force is variously known as Dhaos Timeforger, the Goddess, the Unknowable, and Tao. Regardless of the terminology, such faiths involve the “ultimate” fate of spirits that have passed beyond the cycles of the cosmos. While some few spirits do seem to “pass on” to higher realms of existence – or at least no one has been able to locate the spirits of a few mighty heroes and epic villains after their passing – even if such a being exists, it apparently does not interfere. Oddly enough, powerful spellcasters often embrace Transcendent Beliefs. Few of Thera’s other religions have any problem with their members holding such beliefs as well: it’s not like it makes a lot of difference.

   Cults worship entities that don’t fit into any known group. Such entities may be from beyond the known universe, simply be powerful beings, or even be entirely mythical. The benefits – if any – of such worship vary greatly, depending on if the target of worship actually exists, responds to such worship, and actually possesses the power to respond in a meaningful way. Some such cults may simply be superstitions built around misunderstood bit of magic. If burning incense on an old “altar” with a particular “prayer” seems to bring fertility to the fields, short of a major magical investigation, who is to say whether it’s purely superstition, if there’s an entity involved, if it is merely a poorly-remembered method of activating some old enchantment, or if it is merely a bit of misunderstood ceremonial magic? What if the belief in the patron is an important part of the ceremony?

   There are many hundreds of Cults on Thera, most of which are simply minor fringe activities and of little importance. Others, of course, are fronts for the minions of Apophis.

   The Afterlifes of Thera aren’t all that well defined; there seem to be quite a few of them – and most or all of them seem to be temporary. Some spirits hang around the physical world, appearing in dreams and revisiting favored locations and individuals. Many spend some time in one or another “afterlife” – realms which seem, to be simply magically sculpted regions of the astral plane. (Quite a few Runelords, and even many totem spirits, support such a domain). A few exceptionally-dedicated spirits become celestials, demons, minor elemental powers, or other entities in the service of a Runelord or even a Primal – although this, once again, seems to be a temporary position. A very very few seem to move on, passing beyond the known planes. The rest reincarnate sooner or later.

   The “default” afterlife seems to be wandering an “area” of the Astral Plane influenced by those primal powers which you related to most strongly in life before – eventually – reincarnating. Spirits with particularly strong personalities often learn to draw on a bit of that power and project it to Thera proper – leading to various “Ancestor Worship” faiths. After all, a powerful ghost can be quite a lot of help – and all you need to start such a “cult” is at least one spirit which has both mastered the power-projection trick and still takes an interest in their (current) descendants or worshipers.

d20: Mystic Companion Prestige Class

Mystic Companion, A.K.A.; “Greater Familiar”

  •  
    • “You must anchor me, lest I be lost in the worlds beyond”
    • “Join your mind with mine, your power with mine…”
    • “I shall ward you as you work”
    • “Igor! Fetch me a brain!”
    • “What happens if I press this?”

   The Mystic Companion is a spellcaster’s aide, roughly equivalent to a mundane shield-bearer or charioteer for a warrior. While they, like Monks, learn to focus a certain amount of the mystic power that courses through them into personal enhancements, their great talent is in acting as a “focus” or amplifier for the powers of a nearby spellcasting companion.

   This curious d20 prestige class provides a reasonably good set of defenses, a few unique abilities, and a variety of ways to assist a chosen spellcasting companion. Of course, given the variety of possible “talents” available, the class can also be used to create a wider variety of special-purpose characters – for example, a fighter capable of growing his or her own armor and weapons as needed (with four “Timeless Body” talent choices).

  •  
    • “The things that lurked and squelched in the mirrors had found extra tentacles somewhere – but I checked the binding runes and they were still tight”.

Prerequisites:

  • Ability to cast first level spells
  • Either Knowledge/Arcana OR Knowledge/Religion 4+
  • Use Magic Device 1+
  • Concentration 3+ 
  • Spending time with more powerful spellcasters.

   Class Skills; Balance, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Knowledge/ Any, Listen, Move Silently, Profession, Swim, Perform, Tumble, and Use Magic Device. Gains a base of 4 SP per level.

   Class Features; Mystic Companions are proficient with simple weapons and light armor and gain a sixth sense, adding their positive Wis Modifier to their AC when wearing nothing heavier then leather. They also gain the use of Weapon Finesse/Touch Attacks, and Improved Unarmed Strike, if wearing no or light armor. They use D8 HD and usually stress Intelligence or Wisdom.

 

Level

BAB

BCL

Saves

AC

Total Talents

Special Abilities;

1

+0

+1

+2

+1

2 + Int Mod

Evasion, Ideal Companion

2

+1

+1

+3

+2

4 + Int Mod

Evade Arrows

3

+2

+2

+3

+2

5 + Int Mod

Improved Evasion

4

+3

+2

+4

+3

6 + Int Mod

Diamond Soul

5

+4

+3

+4

+3

7 + Int Mod

Purity Of Body

  • BAB: Base Attack Bonus.
  • BCL: Base Caster Level.
  • Saves: Bonus to all saving throws.
  • AC Bonus; To the user’s AC. The user must select a bonus type to determine what will, and will not, stack with this ability.
  • Total Talents; The number of talents that may be chosen (Q.V.; “Talents”, below). While the list is not exhaustive, every addition and selection must be approved by the GM. Extra talents may be gained via “normal” intelligence increases – or via artificial enhancements PROVIDED that the enhancement was applied throughout the entire previous level.
  • Evasion; If a Mystic Companion makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he or she instead takes no damage. Evasion can only be used if the Mystic Companion is wearing light armor or no armor and does not work if the would-be user is helpless.
  • Ideal Companion; The user gains basic familiar abilities with his or her companion, including Share Spells, Alertness (for both parties involved), and Empathic Link. A mystic companion can attune him- or her-self to a specific spellcaster by associating with them for three days – or by expending 100 EP to do it instantly.
  • Evade Arrows. This ability allows the user to stop one individually-directed ranged attack per round with DC 20 Reflex check. This may be used to protect either the user or his or her chosen companion, provided that said companion is within ten feet of the user.
  • Improved Evasion; The Mystic Companion’s evasion ability improves; while he or she still takes no damage on a successful Reflex saving throw against attacks, he or she henceforth takes only half damage even if the save fails. A Mystic Companion does not gain this benefit if he or she is wearing medium or heavy armor or is helpless.
  • Diamond Soul; This ability grants the Mystic Companion Spell and Power Resistance of (5 + Companions Level).
  • Purity Of Body; The Mystic Companion becomes immune to disease, and gains a +6 to saves versus poisons.

Possible Talents :

  • Closing The Circle; The user and companion may “share” a chosen item slot, and any effects of items either wears there. Sadly, this will not allow exceptions to stacking limits. This talent may be taken more then once, but loses it’s effectiveness if the companions are more then a mile apart.
  • Fires Of The Earth; The user may “channel” earth-energies to his/her companion to use in creating magic items, supplying 50 EP a month for such uses without having to expend his or her personal EP or imposing any other cost This talent choice may be taken more than once, boosting this to 200 EP per month, allowing the user to store up to 1000 EP per level for later use, or making an additional item creation Feat available to the user’s chosen companion.
  • Gift Of The Spriggan; The user and his items may grow to “large” size three times per for up to ten minutes per use, gaining any appropriate size bonuses. Each further talent choices expended on this ability adds the ability to take a specific animal form for up to an hour as one of the user’s three daily changes.
  • Guardian Ward; The user may protect his or her companion from attacks using Shield Other as needed. For a second talent choice the companions will only take damage once – half each – when hit by an area effect. For a third talent choice the user may block one melee attack a round on his/her companion with a DC 20 reflex save – provided that he or she is within 10 Ft. Finally, for a fourth talent choice, the user may make an attack of opportunity on anyone who makes a melee attack against his / her companion under similar circumstances.
  • Innate Enchantment; The user gains an “innate” ability that duplicates the effect of a magic item of up to 2500 GP value. Items with charges recharge each month – but are limited to 1250 GP in value. If combined with the Iron Wheel talent (below) there is no price limitation provided that the user actually has the item to absorb.
  • Iron Wheel (Minimum character level of three); The Mystic Companion may absorb any incoming spell up to [1+(Wis Mod/2)] times a day, acting off-action and without it counting as an action of any kind. This effect is similar to a “Rod Of Absorption”, and allows the user to store a maximum of (Int*2) Mana (for games using the Theran Mana System) or (2*Int/3) spell levels over the long term. Overcharges dissipate harmlessly within 2D4 minutes. For another talent choice, the user may share this reserve of power with his or her companion. For a third choice, the user gets the ability to absorb and transfer magic item enchantments, although enchantments count as ten spell levels (hence actually using this ability requires a minimum of 20 Int and level 5+). A fourth choice allows the user to store specific spells and release them as if they were quickened.
  • Lesser Warding; The user’s current companion gets a +2 nameless bonus on saving throws as long as the Mystic Companion is within twenty feet. At level 5+, and for another talent choice, the user may make his or her saving throw before his or her chosen companion – and share it with that companion if it succeeds. At level 8+, and as a third talent choice, the user may share his or her successful saving throws with all allies within twenty feet. At level 10+, and for a fourth talent choice, the user automatically creates a circle of Protection from Evil/Good/Law/Chaos in a ten foot radius.
  • Mystic Synergy; The user’s companion gains a +2 bonus on his / her primary magic-related attribute (for magical purposes only) as long as he/she and the Mystic Companion are within ten feet per (combined) level of each other. For a second talent choice, the user also gains this boost. For a third talent choice both gain a bonus spell slot at the companion’s highest current spell level. For a fourth, the Mystic Companion can enhance his or her companion’s effective level in their spellcasting class by +1 level – enhancing their available spells, casting level, and any other special abilities that that level would normally grant.
  • Occult Assistant; The companion gains a +2 bonus on his/her skill rolls and Base Caster Level as long as the mystic companion is within twenty feet. This talent may be taken twice at level 5+ to raise the bonus to +4. Taken a third time it reduces the cost and time requirements of the companion’s occult and spell research by 50%.
  • Planar Anchor; This exotic talent boosts the link between the user and his or her homeworld to draw the user, and/or the user’s chosen companion, back to it – albeit at the cost of 1d4 points of temporary Strength and Constitution damage. This applies to both physical travel and astral projection – and can be used to recall an astral companion to his or her body. At level 7+, for a second talent choice, the user may become Ethereal for a total of [1+Int Mod] round per level per day. At level 10+ the user may select this talent for a third time – gaining the ability to Dimension Door a total of (400 + 20/Level) feet per day with a minimum of 10′. For a fourth talent choice the user gains the ability to open a Gate to his or her companion from anywhere in the multiverse once per day.
  • The Quickening; The user’s companion – if within twenty feet – may cast three spells per day as if they were Quickened, without further cost. This may be taken a second time at level 4+, in which case the Mystic Companion can cast these spells for the companion. Similar talents apply to most other metamagical feats (albeit not “Persistent” and some others at the option of the game master). In this case the number of uses available per day is equal to [12 divided by the usual spell level cost]. In general, this ability and it’s variants cannot be used to add a total of more then +4 effective spell levels to any one spell.
  • Talons of the Raven; “Produce Item” becomes a class skill for the user, allowing him/her to anticipate his/her companion’s needs. For one additional talent choice, the user recieves a +4 bonus on the check, for a third talent choice, mundane item prices are effectively halved, and for a fourth talent choice the user may “take ten” on his or her rolls.
  • Threads Of Starlight; The companion’s can use touch spells on or through each other at ranges of up to ten feet per (combined) level. As a second choice they may trade off who has to concentrate on a spell, or similar maintained effect as long as they remain within 30 feet. For a third the companions may channel spells of up to L4 through each other.
  • Timeless Body (requires a minimum character level of three); The user no longer suffers age penalties. For an additional talent choice the user may shift his or her apparent age to anywhere between adolescence to old age at will. For a third talent choice he or she may use an Alter Self effect at will. For a fourth talent choice the user gains the ability to create basic natural weapons and armor as needed.
  • Tongue Of The Sun And Moon; The user gains the ability to speak with animals. For a second talent choice the user gains the ability to “turn” (awe/command – although command lasts for a maximum of ten minutes) animals. A third talent choice allows the creation of a mental link with a single animal, rather then commanding it – directing it and borrowing it’s senses at ranges of up to a (Cha Mod) miles for up to one hour. If the animal is killed during this time the user takes 4D6 damage.
  • Whispers On The Wind; The user gains low-level telepathy roughly equal to a continious “message” spell. Expending a second talent choice on this ability allows the user to attempt to speak with local nature spirits. A third talent choice permits the user’s companion to channel his thoughts thru the user into other planes, allowing him/her to duplicate the effects of Contact Other Plane or to open communications or negotiations with some extraplanar entity. Expending a fourth talent choice on this ability allows the user’s companion to focus his mind upon distant entities and locations, duplicating the effect of a Scry spell at the cost of expending three levels of spells of any kind.

New Skill: Produce Item (Int, Skilled Only, Exclusive).

   The character may invest time and money in shopping, gathering strange spell components, brewing potions and similar activities, without specifing what he or she is actually getting or making. Expended time, money, and EP are set aside in a special “pool” from which the user can make withdrawals with a successful skill check. The DC class to produce items depends on their value. In general; items costing up to; 25 GP; DC 10, 250 GP; DC 15, 2500 GP; DC 20, 10,000 GP; DC 25, 25,000 GP; DC30, 50,000 GP; DC 35, 125,000 DC 40 and anything over that at DC 45. The GM must agree that such an item might have been obtainable before any roll is permitted, user’s may not check again for any one item after a failed check – until they’ve had a chance to go shopping again – and an item may not be too large to carry readily (E.G.; no horses, wagons, or two-handed swords unless the user has access to a bag of holding or similar convenience sufficient to allow such things to be readily brought along). GM’s may opt to limit the number of rolls permitted in any given day.

   The Mystic Companion class is really somewhat too good, although it’s hardly the record-holder among prestige classes for that. Turning it into a ten-level prestige class by extending it’s basic chart with (somewhat greater, not doubled) save bonuses, BAB, and other benefits, spreading out the innate abilities, and – possibly – adding a FEW more talent choices would probably be better. On the other hand, of course, it suffers from the old “Cleric Problem” – being relatively passive and devoted to assisting the rest of the party rather than being out and doing exciting things on its own. It’s more the sort of class you want to find among your henchmen than most player-characters want to take

   On the other hand, if you want to play an aide, “familiar”, or dedicated guard-companion to a more powerful magical type, the usual classes don’t offer you many options – and we did have a lot of fun with it with the one character (Race: Squirrel) who did take it appointing himself “familiar” to the party mage, whether he liked it or not. While the Squirrel did become extremely powerful, most of his abilities were devoted to augmenting his friends – who were also absurdly powerful by that time.

   Of course, this is why we use the Eclipse: The Codex Persona classless point-buy d20 rules these days (available in print HERE and in a shareware PDF version HERE). It’s easier to evaluate proposed builds when you can simply add up the costs of various abilities.

Battling The Balanced Encounter

   There’s always a certain tension in any role-playing game.

   For the role-playing part you want characters who are firmly a part of the setting, who have histories and personal involvements there, and who – preferably – have personalities that are distinguishable from that of their player. They should be detailed, complex, and as individually unique as possible. Their capabilities should be flexible and encourage creative thinking. Getting into a fight should be something of a last resort, and death should be dramatic and – usually – the result of either blatant foolishness or a conscious decision to get into a really bad situation regardless of the risk. You want to feel like these are real people who happen to have more exotic or interesting lives than you do.

   For the game part, you want to be able to make up characters quickly and easily, to have well-defined abilities, and to have a firm set of rules that tells you who can do what. You don’t want character abilities to be too unique or it becomes really difficult to create the background characters. For the majority of players, you also need some sort of reward or measure of progress; there are a few players who will enjoy spending the entire session on in-character conversation – but quite a few will become impatient with that even if they can get some nuggets of useful information out of it. Combat is a relatively simple and easy method of generating excitement, and can be expected to occur regularly. Therefore the characters should be able to survive most situations if well played, but always be at enough risk to generate that excitement.

   Balancing those two sides of things is an art. The better you can do it, the longer a campaign can be expected to run. Personally, I plan on a minimum of two years or so – at least a hundred sessions – for an actual campaign. My record so far is more than twelve years – well over 600 sessions – with quite a few additional private sessions for character-specific material.

   One of the biggest enemies of a long-term campaign is the “balanced encounter”.

   They’re very bad for role-playing. Neither the real world nor the exciting and interesting fictional ones come with “balanced encounters”. If I was exploring a jungle in – say – 1750 – I might meet a crowd of the locals, evade a dangerous big cat, have many chances to not eat poisonous plants, and have many exciting adventures – but there would be very few combats and virtually no “balanced encounters”. The same goes for wandering the back alleys of any present day war zone.

   For an archetypical fantasy adventure from fiction, I think we can fairly safely turn to the works of Tolkien. In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings there were desperate escapes from and defenses against overpowering Ringwraiths, being overwhelmed by surprise by goblins and spiders and elves, finding clever ways to exploit special advantages and information to overcome overpowering foes such as Smaug, Sauron, and the Witch-King, careful scouting and sneaking to bypass foes who were too powerful to deal with such as the guardians of Mordor, and at least two Deus Ex Machina – the Eagles and the semi-miraculous phial of light that let Sam escape from Shelob. Similarly, there were some times – fighting goblins in the tunnels, helping to defend Helm’s Deep, Gandalf confronting Wormtongue, during the attack on Isengard – when the characters handled their individual foes quite handily, even if there was (as at Helm’s Deep) a chance of the enemy overwhelming the allied NPC’s to flank them.

   Sometimes the protagonists only survived by retreating, as against the dweller in the pool at Moria. There was a fight with the Uruk-Hai that might have been a balanced encounter in there though – but I really can’t say there were many.

   Pretty much the same goes for the Epic of Gilgamesh, for Beowulf, and for more modern adventures. In Star Wars, was Luke and party’s first encounter with Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers a “Balanced Encounter”?

   Realistic worlds don’t usually have “Balanced Encounters” except by sheer unlikely accident. If the characters go to Mount Thunder, where the legendary Storm Dragon lairs 99% of the time, it’s 99% certain that the Storm Dragon is what they’ll find there – regardless of whether they’ve just started out or are legendary heroes. If a group of beginners stumbles across the Storm Dragon, retreat or negotiation is in order. They might be able to swipe something if they’re clever, but it probably wouldn’t be a very good idea.

   A group that wants to defeat the Storm Dragon will either need to already possess legendary power in its own right or will have to spend a lot of time gathering information, making plans and preparations, collecting resources and allies, and trying to figure out what hidden resources and preparations the dragon might have if they want to have any chance of winning.

   I’ve had that happen. A group of mid-power characters discovered the existence of a ruined city filled with minor undead and run by a lich-dragon and its powerful undead assistants and decided to go there. They did plenty of cautious scouting, retreating, and hiding until they found an old temple which the various undead still avoided to use as a base. They were extremely careful to make sure that there were no external signs of their presence. They explored the remaining resources of the city, located an ally or two, and researched the weaknesses of their opposition while carefully avoiding leaving signs of their activities or engaging in combat that might reveal their presence. They formulated plans until they came up with one they couldn’t easily shoot holes in, gathered the resources to put it into effect, and eventually created a massive magical trap. It took them thirty sessions or so, they lost a fair number of characters, and several sacrificed themselves at the end to keep the Lich-Dragon from destroying all of them (fortunately they had not been so foolish as to assume that it had no hidden plans, allies, or reserves) – but they turned that grossly unbalanced situation into a more-or-less “balanced encounter” through their own efforts. They won that battle, they expunged a powerful force of evil in the land, they earned a base of operations to continue their adventures from, and they mourned their fallen friends.

   And the main thrust of the campaign continued until the characters eventually drove the force which had been creating all those undead horrors back to it’s own realm and sealed the gate behind it.

   Those players spent better than six months of real time working hard to turn that situation into a “Balanced Encounter” and considered it an exceptional and well-earned triumph.

   The essence of designing an intentionally “Balanced Encounter” is a little different. It pretty much comes down to “the characters should be able to run into this situation at random, with little or no special preparation or preliminary investigation, start fighting, and be able to win with fairly basic tactics”. All of that’s required since, if the players start investigating or something, not only are the capabilities of their characters likely to change before they get to the encounter, but they might bring along allies and foul up the “balanced encounter. If they have no idea who they’re dealing with, and no background in the area, negotiation isn’t a likely option either.

   In addition, there should be little risk of any permanent harm to the group – after all, if you’re running “balanced encounters”, there are almost certainly going to be a lot of them.

   The “Balanced Encounter” is well suited to a short series of scenarios and can be quite a lot of fun in such a game. “Balanced Encounters” don’t demand very much scouting, planning, and forethought since – in a short game – there’s no time for that. They don’t ask for cleverness, novel tactics, or knowing when to retreat; those things pay dividends in long-term games where combat offers serious risks, but are redundant when it doesn’t. Similarly, if there’s going to be a need to retreat in a “Balanced Encounter” game, the escape routes must be clear and obvious; a group used to this style of play often will not recognize a need to retreat until it would normally be far too late.

   Ultimately, of course, “Balanced Encounters” start to force a short series of scenarios. They don’t allow there to be much depth to the world, since realistic worlds simply don’t tailor situations to suit the group that runs into them. They offer quick and easy excitement – but, after a bit, the realization inevitably starts to sink in that there isn’t much actual risk in them, and that the excitement is phony. You start wanting to play for the RPG equivalent of “Real Money” – time spent developing your character and his relationship with the world. The stuff that you just don’t find in a world of “Balanced Encounters”.

   Ultimately – like combat video games – they just don’t seem to be very memorable. I have players who occasionally get in touch from across the country to reminisce about things that happened in games more than twenty years ago. Somehow the “Balanced Encounters” games I’ve played in just don’t seem to generate that kind of memory.