Continium II – Notes on Ceremonial Magic

And for today, it’s another bonus answer that – as so often happens – got WAY too long for a comment.

Could you expand on the Ceremonial Magic you linked in the Anomaly article? I have tried to read the Continuum II articles that are here, but I feel I am missing the primary sourcebook and have not been able to find one that seems to match.

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Continium II’s Ceremonial Magic (as opposed to Ritual Magic, which was quite another thing) operated much the way that some people think it works in the real world. The most common references that the players used were by Scott CunninghamCunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic. Symbolism was most often pulled from the books on Tarot or Norse Runes, (since those were all available handy to the table), whatever astrological data was available for the current setting, and general ideas about Ley Lines and Nexi.

Power and Complexity turn up as spell design concepts in The Practical Enchanter, even if they are both mostly subsumed into “spell level” in d20. The basic distinction here is that Power reflects the amount of raw energy available, while Complexity cover s how detailed the structure of a given effect is.

A Fireball or Lightning Bolt calls for high (3+) Power, but very little Complexity (1 at most). A subtle illusion, or a healing spell, is exactly the other way around; calling for very little power, but a lot of complexity. Summoning and Binding creatures calls for both about equally (and so Ceremonial Magic can only actually summon and bind the most trivial entities – although if you wanted a micro-elemental (fire) to monitor your hearthfire and keep it at the proper level for cooking while you were busy elsewhere, you could fairly readily manage that. Of course, simply getting in touch with more powerful entities calls for very little power and only moderate complexity – but then you need to bargain.

So Ceremonial Magic was a common “helping” ability – the swiss army knife of magic. You used it to add some protective inscriptions that would help some if you lost control of your summoned monster, you got a few helpful micro-elementals that got you small bonuses in your alchemy lab, you used Ceremonial Magic to get in touch with, and seal a pact with, a brownie that kept an eye on the baby, sped recovery from a plague, made small, useful, things, and so on. The benefits were never especially huge, but – in adventurer terms – the cost was very small. A handful of hammered copper symbols, pinches of common herbs, some pebbles and terribly flawed (and near-valueless) gemstones from a rock collection, and a little study? You were set. Sure, it was never POWERFUL, but knowing what influences were active in that ancient haunted mansion, or getting a glimpse of who was behind the attacks, or laying down a ward that kept stray zombies from wandering into camp, could get you a long ways on very very little power.

When it comes to Continium II in general… well, the title was a transfinite mathematics pun, as well as a reference to alternate dimensions, which probably says something about what to expect from it.

Continium II never made it to publication, partly because much of the material predated the easy publication systems now available, but mostly because it was simply too long and too complicated. It was rather heavy on “how things worked” rather than “here’s a game effect” and so it placed heavy demands on the game master. Shapeshifting to a whale? Out came the book on whale biology to get some details. Monster design? A bit like the Martial Arts system, with modifiers for Evolutionary Time (the longer a group of species had to adapt to a particular set of natural laws, the more powerful they because within that dimension and the less able to function elsewhere), reproductive strategies, and a lot more evolutionary biology went into making monsters.

For an example that happens to be posted…

  • It had the twenty-five basic and twenty-five advanced Introspection powers based on awareness of your personal energy field – the lowest tier of psychic effects. Those worked even when the local dimensions Transfer Impedance for Psychic Powers was “4″ – just below “5″ where psychic powers were basically impossible to use.
  • At the next tier, Chi Powers (based on shifting your internal energies around inside yourself and requiring a transfer impedence of 3 or less for effective use) offered about hundred powers that you could combine to produce desired effects.
  • Tiers 3 and 4 – Psychomancy (directing personal energies into external effects, allowing fine control) and Psionics (tapping external energy sources and projecting the results) shared the same list of six hundred-odd disciplines and rules for creating variants, but they functioned differently. For an easy example… a Psychomancer using Telekinesis might try to pinch a few blood vessels to hurt someone or open a door from the inside to pick a lock. They had high precision, superb control, and could feel the feedback from their abilities – but they had very little power. A Psionic faced with similar tasks could smash the door, or lock, or throw things around – but they’d have to work very hard, roll well, and specialize in such tasks to develop anything even approaching a Psychomancers basic level of fine control. Both systems had their advantages.
  • Then, of course, there were psychic subfields drawing on psychic nexi and popular beliefs, the planetary biofield, and other local sources.

After the psychic powers, there were numerous other types of power sources to play with – Gramarye (including Sorcery (Shaping cosmic-level energies through symbols – requiring rigid structure to maintain control), Powershaping (where you freely shaped local energies related to your affinities. You got a few, but the list was long. To start with “A” there was Abjuration, Air, Analysis, Animation, Anticipations, Architecture, Astrological, Attunement…), Thaumaturgy (inducing positive and negative feedback loops in planetary energy fields – powerful and potentially long-lasting, but you were using small inputs to try to manipulate a chaotic system, and so it was very prone to going wrong and was very difficult to stop), True Illusion, Ceremonial Magic, Mysticism, Ritual Magic, High Alchemy, Personal Magic, and Domination),

Then, of course, there were Percipience (and it’s subfields) – Engineering (Technological (in several variants), Biogenetic, Social, Probabilistic, Reality Catalysts, Linguistic, Pattern Tech, and Weird Science), and Invocation (divided by tbe nature of the entity being invoked; what you could get from a subspace creature that devoured energy – a “demon” – was a lot different from what you could get from a living cosmological principle).

Continium II did keep a group containing several engineers and scientists busy exploring how things worked for a decade and a half (and it was always fun to hear “Blast it! We should have realized that he/she would be able to do that from the type of powers he/she was using…) – but I could hardly ask a prospective game master to read it before trying to run the game. Quite a few of the players ran Continium II games after a while – but not until after they’d been playing for years. Nobody has that kind of time these days.

Currently a lot of the Continium II ideas have been recycled. For example, the Witchcraft system in Eclipse uses many of the concepts that went into Introspection, Chi, and Psychomancy – but the list of abilities has been greatly reduced, most of the complexities were relegated to “why I built it this way” (and not actually mentioned unless someone asks) instead of being anything that players and game masters have to deal with, and most of the advanced options have been stripped out – all in the interests of making it playable without a few years of experience with the system. I’m told that Eclipse is still too complex for a lot of tables – but that’s a considerable improvement over Continium II.

Still, I post occasional chunks of the Continium II rules for nostalgia, inspiration, showing where design elements came from for later systems, ideas, and to oblige some of the original players, who often still have questions, want to review something for their own projects, or want a bit of an update. Perhaps I should get back to doing that again. It’s not like there isn’t a LOT of material available, even if some of it is still handwritten.

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Eclipse – Distant Divination or Spooky Action At A Distance

And this time around it’s a question…

Are there any ways to engage in long-range detection, communication, information-gathering in Fantasy d20, ideally on a (semi-)perpetual basis without having to layer on heaping helpings of metamagic? I ask because the tactical nature of most d20 magic means that you’re typically limited to, at most, a few hundred feet for the (typically short-term) duration of the spell(s) in question.

The result is that any sort of magical “alert” system is either limited to small-scale things like alarm spells, or being able to throw around epic-level effects in order to cover a kingdom. There’s no other way to, for example, instantly be aware when demons intrude upon the realm, or when an army marches across the border, or when a town is razed to the ground. Meanwhile, d20 Future allows for starship sensors to work at “battlefield range” (which for starships is something like 500 ft. per square, which is easily a few miles at the very least) for the equivalent of a few hundred gp. The best Fantasy d20 can seem to do is an item that perpetually casts animal messenger.

Notwithstanding taking Dominion, what’s a good answer for something like this?

-Alzrius

Good communications runs directly counter to several classic fantasy tropes – the messenger making a heroic effort to get a vital message through, the city or fortress which has not been heard from in weeks (and has probably fallen to some horror), the first news of the dragon attack being carried by exhausted refugees, and many more. If there are good communications, you’re going to miss out on having the Beacons of Gondor lit in warning or finding the lost journal chronicling the fate of the expedition and it’s final, dreadful, warning.

Similarly, despite Dr. Strange and the Orb of Agamotto, fantasy heroes generally don’t hear about an intrusion by elder horrors or the opening of some terrible gate until it’s done a lot of damage. Showing up carrying a load of gear specifically designed to banish the horror and doing so before it’s had a chance to do anything much takes most of the drama out of it.

That’s not to say that you can’t have such things – this IS Eclipse after all – but it’s important to note that they’re going to have quite an impact on the setting and on the kind of adventures that will work in it.

So here are some things you could buy!

Omen Mastery:

On the personal scale, continuous detections are mostly used to avoid being surprised. That one is fairly easy: just buy:

  • Occult Sense / Attackers. You are always at least vaguely aware of when something is coming to attack you. When actually attacked you cannot be caught flat-footed and are always considered to have just had three rounds to prepare (6 CP).

If you add a bit of specialized Blessing – or just take a free action to yell a warning – and you can probably alert your entire party in time to avoid any unpleasant surprises such as scry-and-die tactics. It’s important to note that – unless you spend another 6 CP on “Improved” – this doesn’t tell you much of anything about what’s coming. That didn’t matter much for Granny – who had a fairly limited set of preparations for meeting attacks – but it might matter a lot to characters with more combat flexibility.

For Those With Eyes To See:

There are plenty of other possible Occult Senses of course – you could be sensitive to pollution, or to demonic incursions, or to threats to the realm. The tradeoff is generally that they aren’t all that useful in combat. Do you live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of radioactive dust? Well, “Sense Radiation” will be a lot of help – and most of the time you won’t care if it’s a relatively minor source nearby or a major source further away; you don’t want to go that way in either case.

  • As an example, if you buy Occult Sense / Unnatural Disturbances (perhaps you “hear” the complaints of the natural world at such intrusions) or some such, you can opt to have it work like hearing; the greater the disturbance or “louder the noise”, the further away you can “hear” it. Someone summoning a minor demon? You might hear strange whispers from a few blocks away. Someone opening the Greater Gates of the Abyss to let an infernal invasion ravage the nine lands of the world and usher in ten thousand years of darkness? That’s more like Krakatoa going off – a noise that was clearly heard three thousand miles away and was still detectable on it’s fourth trip around the world.

You’ll still want to add “Improved” if you want a little more detail though.

Heart Of The Realm:

On the scale of a city-state, but still on a purely personal level, you just need to be able to make instant “Gather Information” checks. There are several characters on the list – Granny (who uses a third level telepathic effect) and Cable (who uses a bit of reality editing on his own timeline) who already do that – but if you want to do it a LOT, you will want something like…

  • Immunity/the time normally required to make Gather Information checks. (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP). (This could also be done with Opportunist or even with Occult Sense (Detect what information I would have gotten if I’d actually had time to make the skill check normally) for the same cost).

That will allow you to find out quite a lot of stuff – at least as long as it’s more or less public events. You’ll miss out on the deep secrets, and that some long-forgotten gate to the underworld is opening, and so on though. On the other hand, this is entirely under your control; you can make a quick check to determine what you’ve been able to find out about someone whenever you want to – or at least until the game master throws a book at you.

The Rite Of Askente:

For a general-purpose way to get some questions answered – finding out if the Tomb of the Arch-Lich remains sealed, or where the original Necronomicon is hidden, or some such – you can go with…

  • Inherent Spell, Specialized for Increased Effect (Contact Other Plane) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / Requires an occult laboratory and a variety of special props, plus Luck, Specialized and Corrupted / only for the check to avoid a reduction in Intelligence and Charisma (2 CP).

Now, while Contact Other Plane is normally a pretty lousy spell (just get the Cleric to use Commune if it’s worth 500 GP or you actually want to be sure), this package does let you pull out all kinds of exotic information. It’s not exactly unlimited use or ideal for asking about current events, but it IS a great way to prepare for adventures. Do you need the secret rituals contained in the Lindhorm Manuscript? “Where is the Lindhorm Manuscript?” “Waterdeep”. “What guards it?” “Dragons”. “What kind of dragons”? “Blue”…

Even if you’re now out of questions for the day – and won’t really be sure you got the right answers (there’s only an 88% chance per question) until you ask confirming questions and cross-check them – that’s STILL an enormous advantage. Information really is power.

Rulership By Divine Right:

For a god-king or priest-king it’s hard to get too much more classical than having supernatural powers advising you. To get that, just take…

  • Favors (The Local Gods), Corrupted for Increased Effect (the Gods provide you a daily briefing on upcoming major events that will affect the realm you live in – or, for that matter, your life) and will only ask for things in return that a powerful mortal might reasonably do – having a temple built, supporting the state religion, routing out a heretical cult, driving off that demonic invasion they warned you about, and so on. Unfortunately, they will make such demands quite regularly and will never take any actual action on your behalf – limiting themselves to sending you daily prophetic dreams / messengers / scrolls to read at breakfast or whatever other form they opt to provide the information in (3 CP). This could also fit in as a minor privilege (also 3 CP).

I’m not so sure that this is a good power for a non-adventurer – for THEM I might count it as the “Accursed” disadvantage since they will often have no use for such information and will find the “requests” near-impossible – but for an adventurer it basically amounts to “I get a daily newspaper and an advance briefing on my next adventure”.

Intelligence Services (A.K.A. the Royal Collegium Of Astrologers, the Diviner’s Guild, or any of many other names):

To be entirely classical on a larger scale buy…

  • Leadership, Specialized and Corrupted / Only to provide operatives who provide information about what is going on in the realm and quick and easy communications between their posts and with a small number of VIP’s. They do NOT provide other magical services or go on adventures. As relatively low-level mortals, however, they have a hard time dealing with impulsive actions by individual powerful entities (3 CP, but often taken as part of a Sanctum package).

Now this presumes a lot of NPC hustle and bustle behind the scenes, but it’s not like that’s particularly unreasonable – and “has good communications and knows what is going on” is a pretty reasonable use of Leadership. Of course, this also takes the setting from a medevial fantasy basis, where towns may be out of contact for weeks, massacres pass unreported, and where you may attempt to outflank an attacking army only to find that a secondary force has occupied the towns you’d hoped to warn, to a Victorian level – where you may get hourly reports on the progress of a siege and a final message telling you that the attackers have brought in a dragon, the defenses are collapsing, and “this may be my last report”.

Now there are several ways to set up quick communications between individual characters, but for a really general system you’ll want a Heartstone from The Practical Enchanter and to set up an agent Package Deal (probably a bit of Witchcraft Training focused on investigative powers and a version of the Heartstone Attunement feat that skips “Scribe Scroll” in favor of reduced requirements). That lets even a low-level Stone serve as a communications hub and provide some special benefits for your agents. Go ahead; put it in your Sanctum too.

Alternatively, you can use a Magical Business (taking the x.5 modifier for an immobile magic item) – lets call it a Network Hub – using Mindlink (the L1 Psionic Power) with the Renewal option. You’ll have to make it an intelligent item, since the link will be between it and everyone else – but that’s useful in it’s own way; it will have no need to sleep. There will have to be schedules and emergency protocols since the Network Hub will be sustaining hundreds of links and won’t be able to talk to everyone at once – but this setup can maintain one hundred links per caster level and can be thrown together for less than 10,000 GP. The major limitation is that the links are very vulnerable to being dispelled, while a Heartstone Attunement is an undispellable feat. Still, a Network Hub provides a fair approximation of a telegraph or very limited phone network.

That can get you an excellent intelligence and communications network for a few points and some gold. Of course, you are now essentially running a sub-campaign of “Her Majesties Secret Service” or “The Great Game” – but it can be left in the background of a more traditional game easily enough. Just as importantly, while Intelligence Services are most often seen as the province of governments, you can use exactly the same setup to run a network of underworld informants and contacts, magical researchers, or whatever suits your interests.

Mastermind:

Of course, mere information isn’t enough to run a realm. You need to make sure that your orders make it to threatened areas in good time to actually help. For that you will want…

  • Access to the Occult Skill of Foresight (3 CP plus some skill points, once again often taken as a part of a Sanctum package), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (can take realm-scale actions) / ONLY for realm-scale actions, only with access to Intelligence Services (as above), points are only recovered on a weekly or monthly basis, even if the passage of that much time requires several sessions.

With this talent you can decide that you “had done” something retroactively. Did the game master just inform you that some fool has opened a gateway to the lower planes in the peaceful little town of Stavropoleos? Then you can knock down your current Foresight skill by two or three points and announce “But fortunately, I had the 7’th division and the anti-demon specialists moved to that city just last week! They should be able to maintain the defenses long enough for us to get there!” (The realm-scale equivalent to having a squad of bodyguards just where you need them). This, of course, is in many ways BETTER than good communications. You not only react to the news quickly and effectively, but you started doing it a week before you even got the news. You’re just THAT good.

The Daily Briefing:

This is a secular and personal version of Rulership By Divine Right. It’s more expensive, but you don’t get all those bothersome demands with it. Just buy:

  • Deep Sleep, Specialized / only as a prerequisite (3 CP) and Cosmic Awareness, Specialized for Increased Effect (provides a daily briefing on major events for the day) / Cannot be voluntarily activated and only tracks major events (6 CP). Once again, both are often taken as part of a Sanctum package.

The Daily Briefing provides you with a list of the major events of the day – often somewhat in advance. You will be warned of declarations of war, major supernatural incursions, the reappearance of a Dark God, a major Dragon and some lesser minions moving in, and so on. On the upside, this isn’t too likely to miss anything major; prophetic cosmic awareness usually doesn’t. On the downside, it isn’t too likely to pick up on anything of minor importance. A nearby supernova? Definitely. A border skirmish or a bridge collapsing? Not likely.

It’s worth noting that – like the political influence system and most of the other “half the players aren’t going to be interested in this” items – the “run a realm efficiently” stuff is relatively cheap.

There are other ways of course – these are just the first set that came to mind – but hopefully that will be enough to get you started. Do let me know if you had something more specific in mind; questions are an excellent diversion from being stuck on something (or short of time).

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

Eclipse – Adventures On The Anomaly

And it’s a bonus post, because we’re going to be starting up a new campaign…

True Megastructures are impractical in most universes. They tend to demand impossible materials, or require the ability to sustain stresses strong enough to tear apart atoms, or violate laws of thermodynamics or conservation. There are plenty of “they are so possible!” theoretical responses – but those tend to demand enormous amounts of near-perfect maintenance to ensure that the millions of ultra-precise high-energy systems that maintain the structures dubious “stability” all keep running smoothly. After all, in most designs… a major failure will lead to a chain reaction of catastrophe and a terminal collapse.

And how do you build it in the first place when all those parts need to be working before it can hold itself up? And why bother when you’re wasting most of what advantages there are on your maintenance budget?

About the only things that actually work are the “swarm” concepts, where you basically have a whole lot of independent lesser structures that just happen to be near each other – or are even linked with each other if you throw in a more reasonable amount of machinery again. While those aren’t true megastructures, they can accomplish much the same thing with a more efficient use of materials, can be built up gradually as energy and materials become available, include a LOT more system redundancy, are not nearly so vulnerable to single catastrophic events, and are relatively easy to actually design and build.

That’s why most civilizations find it quite a shock to encounter the Anomaly.

The Anomaly manifests as a megastructure of some sort – but one that’s even more impossible than usual. It shows a conventionally habitable landscape, which acts a great deal like a planetary surface on the small scale – but that landscape changes, often has a day-night cycle independent of any local stars, and DRIFTS across the structure. If the Anomaly is manifested as a ringworld… the landscape will slowly drift across the ring, sliding “off the edge” and into elsewhere on one edge, while new landscape – and creatures, and cities – slides in from the other edge to replace it. Worse, creatures on that surface can move back and forth across that boundary with no apparent difficulty or even awareness that it exists.

If you watch the Anomaly long enough it will show at least three regular cycles (or perhaps higher-dimensional rotations) – one 25.7 hours long that seems to provide a day-and-night cycle (most of the time; some areas seem to have either perpetual day or night), one that requires 281 of those “days” and seems to represent some sort of “year” (and apparently provides access to a modest cluster of somewhat-related universes), and one that requires several millennia and seems to govern universes joining or departing the “yearly” cluster. There may be longer cycles, but if so they’re difficult to observe in any reasonable time.

If and when you land… you find that the place has it’s own laws of nature and that individual creatures often seem to have different ones on a personal level. And depending on where you are in a cycle and how far you travel… departing the structure can take you to different universes.

The best guess available is that the Anomaly is a possibly-infinite artifact, a Megastructure that bridges multiple Tier-4 universes (if it doesn’t qualify as one itself, which might make questions about it’s origin meaningless in a Tier-4 Multiverse framework) and “rotates” within that framework – tapping into the natural laws of different dimensions to stabilize itself in a fashion that any rational physicist says ought to be impossible. All that extends into any individual universe… is a minor subaspect.

Regardless of that, it has it’s own “compromise” reality, is strongly life-affirming, and – somehow – allows it’s visitors and inhabitants to continue operating under most of the laws of their home universes regardless of their current location. What natural laws apply to creatures born there appears to be determined by what universe they were being exposed to when they physically separated from their parent(s).

The Anomaly is more or less an Eclipse experiment. Most campaigns limit the characters to a particular setting, the laws of that setting determine what abilities they can take and how they can be used and it’s world laws apply to everyone. On the Anomaly… characters from many different worlds can interact, each accessing at least a limited subset of their home dimensions rules – and the opposition is likely to be just as varied – rather like “Rifts” in some ways.

The Anomalies Known Laws include:

  • Characters remain linked to their home realms. While this allows them to use powers and items from their worlds without excessive difficulty, the further they try to extend their dimensional link, and the greater the power demand of whatever they are attempting, the more difficult it becomes. Transforming yourself will work nicely. Transforming a small item that you are holding is slightly more difficult, and may require a minor fortitude save to avoid fatigue (even if you are normally immune to fatigue). At high levels you can become exhausted (again, whether or not you are normally immune to that condition), injure yourself, or even overload your link and have to rest and wait for the connection to reestablish itself. Note that this means that – for example – the Superheroic World Template grants a mana pool and some ability to renew it, but the limitless font of power that template provides would overload the link – and so does not transfer fully.
  • Anomaly encourages life; the effects of level zero and first level healing effects are doubled, while higher level healing effects have their effective levels reduced by one (or, if not level based, are increased by 50%). Even creatures with extremely exotic metabolisms can survive when cut off from their home universes. Crops mature in only 75% of the usual time, natural healing proceeds at twice the usual rate, aging past adulthood proceeds at one-half the usual rate, and all saves against diseases and poisons are made with a +2 bonus.
  • Major Weapons and Effects – nuclear or antimatter bombs, planet-crackers, high level spells such as Unrelenting Glacial Advance, and similar items – do not function under Anomalies rules, and so can only be used if someone is using their own personal link to power them. That’s vaguely possibly, but attempting to channel power on the scale needed to seriously damage the Anomaly is often fatal – and even when it isn’t it is better known as “asking for it”. Similarly, Godfires passive effects apply, but it cannot be actively used.
  • All characters are subject to a version of the Low-Level Adventurer Template. The effects include:
    • A -3 penalty on unskilled skill checks.
    • Slow level advancement, by direct session-based character point awards rather than experience points. Succeeding in goals helps, but killing things and taking their stuff does not.
    • A +3 bonus on five skills which suit their backgrounds and training. Sadly, this cannot be applied to active psionic or magical skills. These are, however, considered to be natural skill ranks.
    • Extra hit points equal to [12 + (2 x Con Mod)].
    • Two minor special talents or “knacks” appropriate to their home universe – one Class-A (roughly equivalent to the effects of a first level spell or power) and one Class-B (roughly equivalent to the effects of a cantrip). (There’s a list of Sci-Fi knacks over here).
  • Characters will be using the Condensed Skill List, complete with the various skills special functions. These may, however, be adjusted for world or origin; Sci-fi characters rarely spellcast, but often have other special talents. Skill Checks are normally made on 3d6, and characters may “take 15” instead of “20”. They are normally assumed to get a “5” for passive checks, such as to notice something in passing.
  • The Anomaly enables a low-level compromise reality. Even if your home universe doesn’t allow magical devices, or psionic abilities, or advanced technologies (especially the fictional ones that rely on some other universes internal rules), anyone there will be able to learn to use little stuff – Charms and Talismans, basic Occult Talents, Ceremonial Magic, basic Firearms, and small items can generally be gotten to work for you, at least in limited quantities.

The current set of requested universes includes…

Battletech

The Battletech Universe is basically “Junkyard Wars” writ large. Very small forces of giant robots piloted by mercenaries and scions of noble houses fight the wars, while the vast majority of the populace and the industrial base remains totally uninvolved. Why? Because they live on thinly-terraformed alien worlds. Allowing the infrastructure to get involved leads to mass death – leaving nothing to fight over and a population with nothing left but looking for (or at least buying) revenge before they die.

So the noble houses frantically scavenge for the parts needed to keep their war machines running, focus on controlling the few remaining factories that can produce new parts or war machines, and claim to rule – while having little impact otherwise.

Its World Laws include:

  • Scrounging: Battletech characters may purchase the Armory, Gadgetry, Logistics, and Weaponry skills – although high-end Armory purchases become large, clunky, war machines (Specialized) and Weaponry installed in such machines is also considered Specialized. No matter how through the destruction, Battletechers will soon manage to put their equipment packages back together again.
  • Resourceful: Battletech characters may add another attribute modifier to their Intelligence Modifier when computing their skill points for levels up to level four. In general, Pilots add Dex, Techs add Con, and Politicians add Cha – but the effect is pretty much the same regardless.
  • Hyped: Battletech characters are considered to have Witchcraft I for free, giving them (Str + Dex + Con)/3 Power. While most never put this ability to use, hot pilots, brilliant politicians, and such often have access to a personal boosting ability or two – making them impossibly clever, lucky, fast, or whatever their own little edge is.
  • Battletech is entirely non-magical; there are no magic items, no charms or talismans, no spells, and fairly little psionics save for flashes of insight and minor witchcraft knacks. Similarly, it has little Biotech. Magical and psionic items and powers beyond the minor stuff that the Anomaly itself enables generally won’t work for Battletechers.

Star Wars:

The mysterious powers of the Force and Codex touch everyone, binding some together and separating others. This makes the entire galaxy just a bit… cinematic. Incredible coincidences are to be expected, rather than being rare and unusual.

Unfortunately, that same binding and loosing tends to lead to overblown loyalties, cults of personality, short-lived personal empires, fanaticism, various forms of obsessive insanity that boost your personal powers, tightly-bonded “cultish” social systems, and near-endless cycles of wars. It’s a fine place to adventure in, but not all that stable a place to raise a family.

Its World Laws include:

  • Cinamystics: “Star Wars” characters have free access to their choice of one of the following three sets of Action Skills – and may purchase Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to substitute Mana for the temporary drain resulting from using Action Skills (2 CP per 1d6).
  • Heroes and Villains: All characters have the Karma ability (6 CP). They may also spend a Karma Point to freely combine their Cynamystic skills for a brief period.
  • The Galactic Union: Star Wars characters always seem to be able to understand each other, use other civilizations tech, and pilot various vehicles. They enjoy an Immunity to the penalties associated with dealing with different races, technologies, and cultures, reducing them by six.
  • Star Wars characters have access to a wide variety of advanced equipment using the D20 Modern and Future systems, but it tends to be almost as expensive as buying magical devices in “normal” d20 – usually several times the base price. They do not have access to advanced magical devices or abilities and rarely show any true psionic abilities.

Star Trek

The Star Trek universe… is a mess. They throw around “technologies” that have all kinds of implications, and then ignore them. There are compounds that can be injected to provide vast telekinetic powers or the ability to move faster than light (without affecting your ability to see or move around a ship without destroying things). They show off multiple, mutually-contradictory, theories about how time works. There’s even a plentiful supply of godlings with vast (and quite undefined) reality altering powers. Even restricting myself to the original series and what immediately comes to mind… I remember Charlie-X, Squire Trelane, Apollo, Mitchell and Dehner (after going through the barrier at the edge of the galaxy), the shore leave planet, the Organians, and some sort of rock (or possibly magma) creatures.

That’s partially a symptom of multiple authors and too many rewrites of course, but the point remains; the Star Trek universe is made of silly putty. It can be stretched to cover anything, has no consistent form, and readily takes impressions from pretty much any source.

Well, I can work with that.

Its World Laws include:

  • Technobabble: 1d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only for Reality Editing, only to make things work (or fail to work) despite all logic, requires some sort of “believable” explanation, requires a DC 15 Will Save to avoid some form of backlash when used – usually in the form of some inexplicable troublesome event. Used en mass it tends to adopt a compromise reality when conflicts occur, causing the local reality to reflect each worlds popular culture (6 CP).
    • Technobabble lies at the root of most of the Star Trek universes peculiarities, The prime directive? Causing a reality clash with a primitive culture usually means that the Starship Crew is heavily outnumbered – and so all kinds of things go wrong (like a statue of a snake-god actually acting like one). The Transporter splitting people into good and evil halves or sending people to other dimensions, or just not working? Backlash or the operator is just out of Mana. Warp Drive? Holodeck program coming alive? Crack in the event horizon? Never running out of shuttles? Replicators and Synthesizers? Inexplicable post-scarcity economic model that sometimes has money, sometimes doesn’t, and contradicts itself? None of that stuff actually WORKS. It’s just that a lot of people believe in it locally – and so reality bends to match.
  • Compatibility: Shapechange, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to allow visitors to adapt to the local planetary environments, food, and drink, and to be attracted to, and have sex and children with, aliens. Corrupted for Increased Effect / as a side effect causes characters to see the vast majority of other races as being only slightly different from themselves but does let the “user” speak their languages effectively (3 CP) – plus Melding, Specialized for Reduced Cost, reliant on the Shapechange Effect, prevents the uesr from providing an accurate report on the local culture since he or she will perceive it as being analogous to some familiar historical or fictional culture (3 CP).
  • In My Shirtsleeves: For some reason the only form of “protective gear” that seems to have really caught on in the Star Trek universe is easily-torn shirts. No one ever seems to wear armor, hazmat gear, or much of anything else except – on rare occasions – something to provide an atmosphere in space, and half the time that’s just a little belt module that projects some sort of life support field. This would normally be quite insane – but the local rules make it possible. That’s Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Value, 6 CP): Force Armor I (1400 GP), Force Shield I (1400 GP), Resist Energy (10 Points, 1400 GP), and Resistance (+1 Resistance Bonus to Saving Throws, 700 GP).
  • Star Trek characters can learn to use almost any kind of gear or power – and it usually works very well at first – but then becomes erratic or starts failing at the worst possible moments, until they go back to their reasonably-reliable star-fleet issued equipment for a while. That’s because most of the alien stuff only works because the aliens in question believe that it does – so when you leave the area it soon starts to fail (In an effect bound to enrage economists, the same rule applies to interactions with alien cultures that use money; a few points of Mana will allow a reasonable level of participation in their economic system – but the rules will break down as soon as the Star Trek character goes somewhere else. A Star Trek character can normally be assumed to have all the relevant gear needed to do his or her job, as well as various personal items without worrying about anything so mundane as “costs”.

Malavon World Laws:

The Malavon setting started out as a first edition game, but soon drifted over to Continiuum II as the rules got rewritten. Overall it supported about eighteen years worth of games that wandered across several million years of history, numerous planes of existence, several sub-campaigns, and visited rather a lot of other planets. Overall? It’s probably most comparable to the early (pre-third edition) Forgotten Realms.

It’s World Laws include:

  • Flux Tapping: Characters from Malavon do not need sleep or rest to replenish their abilities: they can tap into the energy flux from hyperspace, or into subspace, that occurs at dawn or dusk. They tend to be limited by how much power they can store and handle, rather than by how much is available to tap into. In d20 that’s Immunity/The need to sleep or rest to recover “daily uses” of powers and abilities (Common, Minor, Grand, 12 CP).
  • Literary Magic Items: Characters from Malavon can use Charms and Talismans without having to learn to do so (Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive (and thus limited by wealth and lifestyle) and take some time to attune for use (6 CP)), Artifacts, and Relics – although they normally need to invest their personal CP in Relics if they wish to use more than a few of them. This initial allowance can be purchased as Double Enthusiast, Specialized in Relics for Increased Effect (6 CP). That lets any inhabitant of Malavon “attune” a total of 4 CP worth of Relics – which is enough for them to have a pretty potent item or two.
  • Malavon doesn’t offer direct access to any Occult Skills – although you can certainly buy access to some if you wish – but it does offer free access to pretty much every system of magic, psionics, spiritualism, reality alteration, metabolism, or technology that exists. Pretty much any independent gadget that they pick up can be expected to work in their hands.

K’aresh

K’aresh (named by player vote) was invaded by bizarre lovecraftian horrors – but, remarkably enough, managed to drive them off. Unfortunately, they left behind a new problem – the Withering. It is unknown if the Withering was some weapon deployed by the invaders, or if their presence alone was enough to infect the world. What is known is that the Withering spreads into any solid unliving matter – poisoning, draining, and eventually consuming any living beings within its domain. Massive barriers of life energy were set up to contain the Withering – but while those barriers are holding for now, the Withering constantly strains against the barrier, growing stronger by feeding on its cage. All too soon the containment will inevitably fail and the Withering will be free to fulfill its mindless purpose.

Even the massed sages and adventurers of K’aresh could find no solution other than escape – and so the scouts went forth. Even the unfinished war golems left over from the war – no longer needed as relentless machines of destruction – were repurposed, modified, and sent forth. Either a cure for the Withering or a safe haven to rebuild in WILL be found. The mortal scouts and – especially – the repurposed war golems will accept nothing less.

  • Mystic Mechanisms: you may build and take the equivalent many items of of d20 Modern and Future (Tech Level 6) Gear as equipment, at the usual 1 GP = 20 Credits equivalence.
  • Power Storage: May store (Con) generic spell levels, using them to either power equipment or to power quick spells.

Arda

Middle-Earth is the manifested Vision of Ilúvatar – a low-level world of subtle magic – and one that is subject to a great deal of predestination thanks to the Music of the Ainur. It is a world that is doomed to slow decay, where wonders are made but once – and the makers power passes into them – and so may not be made again. Thus the One Ring, the Two Trees, the Three Silmarils, the Chain to Bind Melkor. all created once, all a fearsome drain upon their creators, and all never to be duplicated within the circles of the world. It is a world where exercising the power that is given to you by your nature or which is freely available is safe enough – but where tapping into sources and powers beyond those is a dangerous and corrupting act.

  • Oaths: Arda is subject to something similar to Oathbinding – but the effects are more subtle, and more pervasive. Worse, while minor oaths are reasonably safe, great oaths – by their very nature – are sworn upon powers beyond your own. If that power freely approves of that oath, all is well. If not. they you are drawing on powers beyond your own, and both you and the oath will be corrupted.
  • Skills: Not surprisingly, Middle-Earth offers no technologically advanced skills or equipment – but it does offer free access to the three Action Skills of Erudite Focus, Narrative, and Sensitive, as well as to Arcana and Religion.
  • The Subtle Path: Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive and take some time to attune for use (6 CP). Residents of Arda can employ the natural magical properties of various materials and items, employing the simple, subtle, magics of Charms and Talismans – which most of them use to make themselves more comfortable. In general, however, they do not create or employ other magical items. Occasional powers do make Relics – things like the Silmarils or the Great Rings – but it is, as always, wiser not to meddle with powers beyond your own.

Predation and Ponyfinder in Equestria – Gryphons and Building Species Affinities

Gryphons need a lot of meat in their diet. Unfortunately, that means that a given area can support a LOT fewer gryphons than it can ponies, zebras, or other primary herbivores or even omnivores. For comparison, in Minnesota a wolf (with an average weight of about ninety pounds), eats an average of 15-20 adult-sized deer (with an average weight of about 125 pounds, so about twenty-five times their own weight) or the equivalent per year to meet their nutritional requirements. So to support a single wolf… you need a deer population large enough to produce fifteen to twenty offspring over and above the number needed to sustain their own population and make up for accidents and any unscavenged (at least by wolves) causes of death each and every year. So 20-30 females of breeding age, the upcoming offspring to replace them, enough bucks to fertilize them, and a few older ones (possibly past breeding age) who haven’t been eaten yet. While the exact numbers depend on a lot of factors… fifty or so is a fairly good average.

Hunting fast-growing and fast-reproducing smaller animals, such as mice, is far more efficient in terms of food produced in any given area, but also expends more time and energy per calorie – an exchange that results in diminishing returns as the prey becomes smaller in comparison with the hunter. While traps and filter-feeding are effective counters to the issue, they’re probably not good options for gryphons.

Of course, predators usually take weakened or smaller animals and eat carrion – the ones that die anyway. Why? Well, to look at the wolves again… it’s because, while a deer isn’t all that likely to kill a wolf with a kick or it’s antlers, they can and have done so. If a deer has a mere 1% chance at killing a predator during a hunt, and (according to the biologists) a lot of hunts – 80% or more – are unsuccessful, then a wolf who eats 18 dear a year participates in 90 hunts – and would only have a 40% chance of surviving for a year. That’s why predators try to take smaller prey whenever a chance comes up, grab free carrion meals whenever possible, and avoid risks as much as possible. That’s also why predators will fight over territory and mates, but will back away from any confrontation with prey that they are not more than 99% certain that they are going to win without serious injury. If they lose their territory they are very likely to die. If they don’t mate this year, they can help raise their relatives kids or maybe mate next year. But if they make a habit of fighting anything healthy and near their size, they WILL die.

And it’s not like prey lacks natural weapons. Giraffes can kill lions with kicks or by slamming their heads into them. Zebras and gazelles occasionally kick them to death. Elephants can stomp them or roll over on them – and have been known to throw logs. Even mouse bites can become infected and kill ferrets and foxes – even if the ferrets and foxes don’t die of all the parasites and diseases mice can carry.

That’s why, when it comes to live prey, solitary predators are generally trappers or ambush hunters. They cannot afford to give their prey a chance to fight back. Group hunters (pack, pride, whatever) tend to rely on distraction – letting a few group members try to run the prey into an ambush or bring it to bay and hold it’s attention while staying out of range – allowing other members of the group to attack by surprise (and preferably from behind) again. That’s why they can afford to try for larger prey; it will be greatly outnumbered and shouldn’t get a chance to put up a real fight.

Real predators are tremendously outnumbered by their prey, try to win struggles with near-equals by intimidation and posturing, fight as cowardly, efficiently, and dishonorably as possible when they have to fight, and go for free meals whenever they can. “Honor” has no place in a predators lifestyle. Humans tend to romanticize them – the old “noble savage” sort of idea – but that’s as much a fantasy as Monty Python’s Vorpal Rabbit.

Even supplementing their diet with the more readily digested baked goods and fruits, Gryphons are always going to be heavily outnumbered by the herbivorous races. If they accept substantial subpopulations of species that are less carnivorous, and so are more effective farmers, in their territories… then those tenants will need to feed themselves first, and only THEN livestock. This will be easier for the gryphons, but will result in an even lower gryphon population in any given territory.

Even worse, almost every sizeable animal in Equestria shows significant intelligence (and often magic), making hunting them both harder and more dangerous. They can anticipate ambushes, set up traps and safe zones, supplement their natural weapons, and organize group defenses. For a carnivore… this is very, VERY, bad news. Think of it this way; if one deer in twenty was toxic, then wolves would very shortly be extinct outside of zoos. Equestrian predators need to be either magically powerful or resistant to magic or both (Hydra, Chimaera, Cockatrice, Dragon, Sphinx), near-indestructible (Timber Wolves, Cragdile, Dragon, Slingtails), huge (Ursas, Rocs, Dragons, and Quarray Eels), equipped with powerful natural weapons (Chimaera, Manticore, Windigo and Tatzulwurms), supernaturally sneaky (Changelings pre-Thorax), aquatic (since most fish seem to be “normal”, Bite-Acuda), or willing to forgo ethics and do almost anything to get along. Sneaky, opportunistic, treacherous, and backstabbing is pretty much the order of the day. Otherwise, they will soon go extinct.

Gryphons are not shown to be magically powerful, resistant to magic, near-indestructible, or huge. A beak and talons are an improvement on hooves, but aren’t really on a level with flame breath, deadly poison, supernatural cold, or inflicting magical diseases and swallowing whole. They’re neither supernaturally sneaky or aquatic. That leaves the “willing to do anything” option. In d20 terms… they’re inclined towards neutral or chaotic evil.

Ponyfinder gives Gryphons +2 Str and -2 Cha (with the +2 Pathfinder bonus going to Wis), 40′ Flight with Poor Maneuverability, Low-Light Vision (like every other Fey), a 1d6 bite, and Cloud Walking. They are quadrupeds but are capable of moving at 20′ on their hind legs.

Honestly, that’s terrible compared to what Equestrian (if not Everglow) Ponies get – but it’s also true that about all we see Gryphons do in the series is fly (about as well as normal pegasi) and stand on clouds. Presumably they could bite or claw at people too, but that’s just based on their conformation. That’s… not a lot to go on.

Oh well. Lets build the basic Gryphon Racial Package anyway.

Equestrian Gryphon (31 CP / +0 ECL).

  • Pathfinder Package Deal: +2 Wis (No Cost)
  • Basics: Gryphons are medium-sized. For rules purposes, they’re considered to be humanoids. They have a base move of 30′ and they eat a lot of meat. They can eat sweet fruits and baked goods that don’t contain too much cellulose, but can’t live on a vegetarian diet for very long. No cost.
  • Predatory / “Poor Reputation” (-3 CP): Gryphons are territorial, prideful, do not cooperate well in large groups, tend to frighten other, need a lot of meat, and have a rather nasty reputation for backstabbing. Indeed, many would say that combining a bird of preys general psychotic hostility towards the universe with the aloofness of a cat makes them quite insufferable. It will be best to let someone else be the party “face”.
  • Quadruped / “Accursed” (-3 CP): Gryphons only move at 20′ when they can’t use all four legs, are short, have problems with getting tangled up in clothing, and have problems with small tools and such since their “hands” aren’t very good. This does provide the usual quadruped bonuses (+10 ground movement and increased carrying capacity, along with a +4 against Bull Rush). Fortunately, rings, boots, and so on adapt to fit anyone – so there are no changes in their behavior or the rules for them for gryphons.
  • Winged Flight: Two levels of Celerity with the Additional modifier (Flight, 40′ base, perfect maneuverability), Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost: will not function properly if the user’s wings are entangled, damaged, or otherwise restrained (although, weirdly enough, as long as the user’s wings are free to move, it doesn’t matter if they are actually moving), is subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects, makes the user magically conspicuous, and only starts with poor maneuverability (8 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment: (9500 GP effective value, 10 CP).
    • Raptor’s Mask: +5 to Perception, Immunity to effects that would leave you Blinded or Dazzled (Magic Item Compendium, 3500 GP).
    • +2 Enhancement Bonus to Strength (L1, Personal-Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
    • Wind Blades (Blood Wind) (L1, Personal-Only – 1400 GP): A Gryphon may spend a swift action to shape the winds, using it’s unarmed strikes for the round as if they were thrown weapons with a 20′ range increment.
    • Embrace The Wild: (L1, Personal-Only x.7 = 1400 GP). Gain low-light vision, scent, and 30′ blindsense. +2 to Perception.
    • Endure Elements (L1, 2/Day, Personal-Only, 560 GP). Gryphons generally don’t need clothing, regardless of the weather, although things like booties and scarves do make them more comfortable when it’s cold or wet out
    • Lesser Vigor (L1, 3/Day, Personal-Only, 840 GP). While there are limits, gryphons recover quickly from normal wounds. They have to; they cannot afford to be wounded during their next hunt and can’t afford to take a lot of time off to heal.
    • Personal Trick: Gryphons gain their choice of a first level spell used at caster level one once per day or two cantrips used at caster level one once per day each (400 GP).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Cloud-Walking: Immunity/Falling (Common, Major, Minor, 6 CP base), Specialized/only while there’s a cloud of some sort to “support” them. Oddly enough, “clouds” of insects, smoke, and similar things work just fine (3 CP).
  • Damage Reduction (versus both Physical and Energy attacks) 2/- (3 CP). This isn’t a lot, but every little bit helps.
  • Adept (A Dex-Based Raptor Style Martial Art, Fly, Stealth, and Perception Skills may all be purchased at half cost, 6 CP).
  • Racial Skill Bonuses: +4 to the Raptor Style (they all start with Strike, with the damage raised to 1d6, 2 CP), +2 to Fly, Stealth, and Perception (3 CP).

Net Total: 31 CP.

The Gryphon Racial Package, like the basic Pony Racial Package is a mere +0 ECL. Unlike ponies, however, gryphons don’t have full-fledged secondary racial packages and they don’t rely on Mana. They may not have as much raw innate power as Ponies do – but they will always be a bit ahead of them in their development and they will have an easier time learning to do unique tricks with any Mana they do have available. Ponies are a more powerful race, but gryphons make better specialists for anything outside the built-in pony competencies.

The basic gryphon survival strategy “in the wild” is simple enough. They use their wings to reach a high place with some concealment. They perch there, and use their enhanced vision to spot potential meals. They kill said meals with ranged attacks and take them back to their den – another place that’s high out of reach of non-flying species – and share them with their kids. If any serious danger pops up, they fly away. If they can, they make sure that a few secondary dens are available, both so as to have a place to take the kids if a dragon or something moves in on their primary den and to avoid leading such menaces back to their primary den and offspring. If something on their own general power level – a pony or another gryphon – moves into their territory (or they move into theirs), it’s time to growl, posture, snarl, and try to settle who is strongest and most dominant without actually fighting and risking an injury that might leave them unable to hunt for long enough to starve to death. Gryphons can make friends – but it’s rare unless they’re in a nice, safe, area and have plenty of food available. Oddly enough, it’s usually with ponies when it does happen; ponies aren’t usually competing with gryphons, usually have plenty of surpluses and an incredible willingness to share them, and often respond with a great deal of sympathy (an emotion rather alien to an equestrian predator, who must kill and eat fairly intelligent creatures all the time) to a gryphons underlying hint of hungry desperation.

That’s not fabulously brave or noble, and it doesn’t offer many options beyond “retreat!” when a gryphon runs into something that outranges them – but it will generally keep them fed and safe in a world full of unpredictable magical hazards. Thus gryphon settlements tend to be little more than clusters of huts atop mountains or mesas unless – for a brief, shining, time – they are united under some charismatic and powerful leader.

That generally doesn’t last, but it’s fun when it happens.

Many gryphons have secondary species affinities, most often powered by Mana – but that’s about the limit of their instinctive channeling. Beyond that point, they generally need to learn to use it consciously, from scratch.

Secondary Species Affinity: Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: only to buy abilities related to the users feline OR avian species morphology (not both), can only be changed to a total of [(Con Mod x 2) + 2], 2 minimum) specific abilities or combinations of abilities. (6 CP). While this does not inherently bypass the minimum level requirements for full control of spellcasting (inherent or not), reducing those spells to level three by spending mana on them means that even the most powerful effects require a maximum level of five to fully control – so it isn’t much of an issue. Given that a gryphon will normally only have one or two such effects it can usually be excused. If it matters, however, buy a small Immunity (+4 on your effective level for controlling inherent spells (Common, Minor, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted / only to cover the minimum level requirements for the two possible secondary species affinity spells) for 1 CP and drop it later. A Gryphon may purchase a Secondary Species Affinity twice: once for each of the user’s contributing species.

Thus, for example, a Lion-Eagle Gryphon might purchase either the Lion’s or the Eagle’s Gift or both, using one ability from among the current possibilities for each such purchase.

Possible Lion’s Gifts include

  • Con Mod 0-: 2x Skill Emphasis, Specialized for Increased Effect / will not work in areas of antimagic, can be dispelled, counts as an enhancement bonus (6 CP): Either +4 to Diplomacy and Intimidation or +4 to Acrobatics and Stealth.
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Rally The Pride (Remove Fear) or Inspire Fury (Swallow Your Fear).
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either The Lion’s Rage (Fear) or Coordinate The Pride (Haste).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either The Lion’s Roar (Shout) or The Hunter’s Gift (Locate Creature).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Master Of The Pride (Greater Heroism) or The Lion’s Glory (Enhance Attribute (Charisma) +8 for one minute per caster level). .
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Feline Heritage (Mass Cat’s Grace) or The Lion’s Rage (Dance Of A Thousand Cuts).

“Con Mod +5″ is the highest level of Gifts normally available. Higher Constitution Modifiers do add more options to the lower tiers though.

Possible Eagle’s Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Flight Feathers (+20 Flight Movement (12 CP), plus Immunity/Maneuvering Limits (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP) with the same limitations as their base flight ability, to get Flight 60 at Average Maneuverability or Eagle’s Strike (Double Damage while striking in a Power Dive / Aerial Charge, 6 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Eagles Glare (Lock Gaze) or Eagle’s Cry (Ear-Piercing Scream) (In a few cases Cry Of Freedom (Liberating Command).replaces one of these).
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either The Eagle’s Eyes (The Practical Enchanter, Skill Mastery, +10 to Heal, Perception, and Survival) or Wind Dance (Burst Of Speed).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either The Eagle’s Prayer (Freedom Of Movement) or Windreading (Echolocation).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Feral Form (Aspect Of The Wolf) or Control Winds.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Desert Wings (Sirocco) or Wings Of Flame (Personal-only version of Fires Of Purity, does +3 Damage).

For some other possible twists…

Possible Lynx Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either the “Seapony” Package (6 CP) or Immunity to Cold (Common, Major, Minor, 12 points of resistance, 6 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Adroit Melding (+10 Enhancement Bonus to Stealth)) or Hunter’s Howl.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Life Bubble or Greater Magic Fang.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Commune With Nature or Shadowform.
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Dream or Waves Of Fatigue.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Mass Suggestion or Shadow Walk.

Possible Raven Gifts Include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Spell/Power Resistance (6 CP) or Attribute Shift (-2 Str, +2 Int, 5 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Comprehend Languages or Shadow Trap.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Voluminous Vocabulary or Shrink Item (a few substitute Blood Biography or Call The Void, but that’s fairly rare).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Arcane Eye or Black Tentacles. (A few substitute Bestow Curse or Blood Crow Strike for one of those, but that is extremely rare in Equestria).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Prying Eyes or Ravenscrown (Enhance Attribute from The Practical Enchanter, +6 Enhancement Bonus to Int and Dex for ten minutes per level).
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Eyebite or Greater Dispel Magic

Possible Cheetah Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Opportunist / Can make a Full Attack after a charge (6 CP) or Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes Variant) (6 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter) or Light Foot (Speedster Spell List).
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Haste or Storm Step.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Flash Forward or Greater Mirror Image.
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Shadow Walk or Plane Shift.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Dance Of A Thousand Cuts or Dust Form.

Possible Phoenix Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Grant of Aid (6 CP) or Immunity to Fire (Common, Major, Minor, 12 points of resistance, 6 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Snapdragon Fireworks, Flareburst, or (rarely) Burning Disarm.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Ablative Barrier or Elemental Aura.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Pyrotechnic Eruption or Rainbow Pattern or (rarely) Phoenix Spawn (as per Ball Lightning, but little Phoenix images)
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Damnation Stride or Burst Of Glory.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Telepathy or True Seeing.

Possible Leopard Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Enhanced Strike/Hammer or Enhanced Strike/Whirlwind
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Critical Strike (Spell Compendium) or Catsfeet (Complete Mage).
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Nondetection or Wraithstrike (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Greater Invisibility or Shadow Form (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Wind Tunnel (Spell Compendium) or Aspect Of The Wolf.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Superior Resistance (Spell Compendium) or Planar Exchange (Spell Compendium).

Possible Songbird Gifts Include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Attribute Shift (-2 Str, +2 Cha) or Countermagic.
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Ventriloquism or Sanctuary.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Good Hope or Magic Circle Against (alignment of choice).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Dismissal or Ruin Delver’s Fortune (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Break Enchantment or Greater Forbid Action.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Song Of Life (Animate Objects) or Heroes Feast.

Sadly, Songbird Gryphons with +5 Constitution Modifiers and the Songbirds Gift are vanishingly rare, or the gryphons would have a lot less trouble with their food supplies. When one does show up… it usually means that another glorious gryphon ruler has appeared, and there will be another brief flowering of population, civility, and culture, in some gryphon settlement. Then, after the Songbird priest/ruler dies, the need for food will take priority again, most of the gryphons living there will be forced to scatter to claim hunting territories, and the golden age will be over until the next time such an individual appears.

Possible Jaguar Gifts include

  • Con Mod 0-: Gift Of War (Augmented Bonus/Add Str Mod to Dex Mod for skill purposes, Specialized for Double Effect/only for the racial martial art) or Imbuement (Unarmed Variant).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Doom or Strategic Charge (Spell Compendium)
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Vampiric Touch or Deadly Juggernaut.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Poison or Eyes Of The Void.
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Personal Revenance (As per Revenance, but you may effectively cast it on yourself the round after you die. This may not be used again until you are actually brought back) or a (larger gryphon themed) version of Bite Of The Weretiger (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Swarm Skin or Shadow Transmutation.

Possible Falcons Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Opportunist / Can make a Full Attack after an aerial or air-to-ground charge (6 CP) or Reflex Training (Three extra actions variant, Specialized in Attacking for Increased Effect. Three times per day you may decide to insert a full attack into the normal sequence of events).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Keep Watch or Guided Shot.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Cloak Of Winds or Akhasic Communion.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Implacable Pursuer (Spell Compendium) or Superior Magic Fang (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Mislead or Control Winds.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Big Sky (Masters Of The Wild) or Binding Winds (Magic of Faerun).

Obviously enough, a lot of other “Gifts” could be constructed – but the pattern is pretty simple. If you want something different, this is Eclipse. Just run it by your game master.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

Literary World Laws in Eclipse, Part Two – Empowering Tropes

Occult:

Every child knows it. That which is of the darkness thrives in the darkness. Monsters lurk where the light does not show. The shadows breed fear, treachery, and dread powers. There is a reason why “Occult” means more than “hidden”. Secrecy itself is a source of magical power for aberrant and monstrous things.

True monsters – the ooze that devours a village, the pack of lycanthropes that hunts the night, the things that descend from the dark between the stars, the whispered tyrant who has escaped his grave – are strengthened by mystery and weakened by investigation; to complete their defeat the heroes must drag their secrets into the light.

A “True Monster” is named and unique. A mere wolf can be a suitable True Monster for lower level heroes, even while leading a pack of lesser wolves – but it will not be just a wolf with a couple of extra hit dice. It will be the Beast of Gévaudan, an oversized and cunning man-eater who has stolen and devoured women and children for miles about, Its habit of carrying off kids from farmyards, the lost toe that gives it a distinctive track, the great pack it leads, and its near-demonic size and strength will all become a part of its legend after the heroes discover those traits and defeat it.

And with each hidden trait… it gains occult power. It gains one Occult Ability from the list below for each of it’s four hidden traits plus one for the name it’s legend will bear even after it is slain. It will lose one of those traits each time the heroes uncover one of those traits or if it is “killed” – but if it is “slain” while it has even a single Occult Ability remaining, it will simply fade away into the shadows to reform the next night – although this too will cost it an Occult Ability.

Thus – after investigating a few disappearances – the heroes will likely identify the Beasts unique spoor, and so know that it is a single creature, depriving it of one Occult Ability. Deducing it’s preference for women and children and setting a trap for it will cost it another (perhaps reducing it’s massive size and strength) – or perhaps even two if it is “slain” in the ambush. Discovering that it leads a huge pack is likely to result in some nasty injuries, but will cost it another Ability – and its final trait will fall away when it becomes a named legend, known to the people of the area, and it is finally brought to bay.

Possible Occult Abilities:

  1. Accursed: The creature radiates an Unhallow effect. It, and any lesser creatures or minions that it leads, are always protected by a Magic Circle Against Good, positive energy channeling effects are made at a -4 level penalty, and negative energy channeling effects gain a +4 level profane bonus (spell resistance does not apply), and it gets one of the following benefits: 1) a 40′ radius is Silenced, 2) It and it’s allies gain either Resistance 30 or Protection From Energy versus any one form of energy, 3) It and it’s allies gain Freedom Of Movement, 4) All opposing spellcasting is subject to a Dispel Magic check, 5) a 40′ radius is filled with Deeper Darkness, or 6) Creatures that come within a 40′ radius are attacked by a Fear effect. If saves apply, a new one is made every three rounds.
  2. Bloodwright: The creature commands powers of Ice, Wind, Darkness, Necromancy, Illusion, or Poison (select two). It has 3d6 Mana per encounter and may expend 1/2/3/4 points at CR 1+/5+/10+/16+ to produce an effect within it’s themes of levels 1-2/3-4/5-6/7-8. The range of effects available to any particular creature tends to be fairly limited, but will almost invariably cover some of it’s major weaknesses and offer it more options.
  3. Corrupting Presence: While a creature with this ability is in the area the heroes cannot rely on anyone else; any good and kindly people will be too cowed to actually help out, and any major authorities will be disbelievers, fools, being undermined by corrupt underlings, attempting to use the monsters presence, or will be actively supporting it for their own ends.
  4. Darkwalker: The creature has the equivalent of a Greater Blink spell active at all times – although it moves through the Plane Of Shadow rather than the Ethereal Plane, thus Detect Invisibility and Force Effects offer no special benefits against it. The GM MAY allow Ghost Touch weapons to work if he or she is being kind.
  5. Devourer: The creature can swallow up to one-half it’s hit dice worth of other creature, taking their abilities as it’s own. Any damage, negative spell effects, or similar problems are suffered by the imprisoned creatures first – until they die, and are digested for good. It is possible to free an imprisoned entity by going in after it and fighting your way out, casting spells such as Plane Shift, Teleportation, Maze, or Imprisonment on the creature (since the effect will transfer to the creature or creatures inside),
  6. Enfolding Shadows: The creature is always aware of the presence of heroic individuals and may evade them; it cannot be surprised, flanked, or sneak attacked, is immune to critical hits, and may choose to strike at NPC’s when no heroes are about or at PC’s when they are isolated (presuming that they are foolish enough to separate and allow it). Similarly, it is unaffected by mind-affecting powers.
  7. Fair Seeming: The creature may take an innocuous form, immune to detection save by some GM-chosen special means. Everyone in the area will vaguely recall the creature as a member of their community while this power is in use. While so transformed the creature may bond with up to three innocent folk, gradually transforming them into lesser monsters, or draining their life force, or getting them pregnant with young monsters, or gradually draining their power, or some such. Stopping such a drain requires researching an appropriate ritual, magic beyond what the heroes can easily access, divine intervention, or destroying the creature before the end.
  8. Ill Omens: The creature’s presence twists the environment into a place suited for it. Not only is it invariably finding old cemeteries, crypts, patches of warped wilderness, haunted mansions, and similar places to lurk – each with their own population of minor monsters. While none will be able to draw on the Occult for power, the longer the primary monster remains undefeated, the deeper and darker the depths will grow, until there is a true necropolis, megadungeon, or similar. When in such a location the creature enjoys a +4 untyped bonus on all it’s rolls, its AC, and turn resistance and may easily lead heroes into groups of comparatively minor monsters.
  9. Indistinct: The creature cannot be identified; it’s presence blurs all senses, detection spells, and special abilities short of True Seeing (which may provide a vague, but usable, description). It may successfully flee an encounter at any point, even if paralyzed or otherwise trapped – although the description of how this happens is up to the game master.
  10. Looming: The Darkness lends strength and size. The creature may increase it’s size by up to two size categories above it’s base size at will. (This is a very common option for the more bestial monsters that principally rely on physical strength and violence).
  11. Roots Of Evil: The Darkness has granted the creature a panoply, It effectively has wealth as a PC of it’s (CR + 1), and can understand and use it’s equipment appropriately. Sadly, that “gear” is only the result of the cloak of shadows that surrounds it; when this ability is removed, the items fade away into shadows rather than becoming loot.
  12. Untraceable. The creatures lair, any imprisoned hostages/emergency snacks, and wealth, are hidden within a dimensional fold, and cannot be traced or located by anything short of a Miracle, Wish, or Divine Intervention. It may return there to rest, recover, and plot in absolute security until this quality is removed.

In literature, monsters are rarely just wandering about, or sitting behind a door reading a book while waiting for the heroes to kick in the door and attack. There are glimpses first, then attacks where it shows how destructive it can be, then an inconclusive battle, then tracking the horror to it’s lair and doing battle with whatever awaits there. And – for some reason – the monster usually gets easier to defeat along the way, if only because the heroes have seen what it can do and have learned to counter its tricks. Just as importantly, coming to the rescue is considerably more heroic than murdering funny-looking people and taking their stuff – even if they DO have an “evil!” tag pasted on their foreheads.

Lure Of Corruption

Where wickedness is given entrance, corruption follows.

Heroes are rarely unblemished. All too often they must deceive, threaten, kill, or employ lesser evils to stand against the greater ones. Those are necessary, or excusable evils. But sometimes… “heroes” do evil things that are simply unnecessary, even if they are often convenient. Each such incidence of true wickedness leaves it’s mark – a warning to others, a bit of dark power awaiting use, and a point of vulnerability that the darkness can exploit.

The game master should always let the characters know when their actions are about to cross the line into true wickedness. But if they choose to do so – torturing opponents, taking the bandits stolen treasure and leaving their victims to starve, or whatever the game master feels qualifies in the setting – their Corruption score will increase by one. Corruption can be reduced, but it is a terribly slow process requiring months or years of meditation and atonement.

  • Each Wicked act grants the creature that performs it three Action Points. They may spend them in any way they could normally use an Action Point or on the Heroism option – whether or not they normally have access to that option.
  • Each Wicked act opens the creature that performs it to the influence of the darkness. Each act of Wickedness allows the game master to either cause a single action (whether an attack, a spell, a save or other action) to fail or to have an attack or shock render the offender Stunned for two rounds.
  • A characters total Corruption score is reflected in their aura, and – as it increases – can show physically as well, A character who attains a corruption score of 5+ will show the touch of darkness in their aura and a noticeable touch of evil. At 10+ they will show some minor physical sign – burning eyes, talon-like fingernails, pointed teeth, or some such. At 15+ they will acquire a GM-chosen Disadvantage, but gain no points from it. Their alignment will never be detected as having a “good” component and they cannot use items with a “good” alignment. At 20+ they will gain another GM-chosen Disadvantage, will show major physical signs of their corruption, and can no longer use “neutral” items either – although evil ones will accept them readily. Finally, at 25+ they will gain a third GM-chosen disadvantage (but still get no points for them) and – each time they gain an additional point of corruption – must roll a d100 above their current score or transform into a villainous NPC with a truly monstrous form – although that makes them ineligible for further benefits or penalties from acts of Wickedness. At this point they are expected.

Most heroic types will never really worry about Corruption. For that matter, most of the more rationally evil types won’t have too much trouble with it. It does serve as a way to discourage the most gratuitously obnoxious antiheroes and can provide a character who’s going over the edge into noxious insanity with some substantial bonuses.

It’s Written In The Stars:

Perhaps the crudest and simplest way to provide some foreshadowing for the actions of the player characters is to provide them with a special bonus or two – but ensure that it’s very limited use and that everyone knows about it in advance. Then when they use it, behold! Foreshadowing!

The quickest and cheapest way? Grab the list of vignettes from “Stealing The Scene”, print them out in big print, cut them apart, and have every player draw a couple at the start of each session and display them. Behold! Every character now has a minor plot twist or two to pull out at some critical point – and everyone will be looking forward to when he or she uses it. Are there are a few vignettes that will make too big a mess of your plot? Leave them out of the hat at the start of the session. Somewhat more elaborately, you could use any tarot or medicine cards, any deck of whimsy cards you have handy, or my own Runecards (shameless plug here). If anyone hasn’t used their trick at the end of the session, it goes back in the hat; it’s use it or lose it.

This is simple, mechanical, and more than a bit metagamey – but it can certainly be fun, which is the important part. If a player becomes especially fond of a particular trick – perhaps wanting to regularly find secret passages – that can be accommodated by simply giving him or her that particular trick most of the time. After all, the distribution does not HAVE to be random – and and you will have achieved a form of long-term foreshadowing through player cooperation. Is there any reason NOT to let Zorath the Slayer be known for finding secret passages and escape routes when he needs them?

In Media Res:

Another quick trick for game masters – and an interesting way to let the players plan enough to simulate a practiced group of adventurers – is to use cliffhangers. It’s all too common to end a gaming session with the characters at an inn, or camping, or otherwise having a little downtime.

Don’t do that if you can possibly avoid it. It’s DULL. Has the party just hacked their way through a swarm of undead pirates? End the session as the cargo hatch opens and the undead pirate lord rises up, leading even more undead horrors for an even tougher fight.

Now the players have a good idea what is coming, and time to have inventive ideas and come up with ways of dealing with Captain Bloodwrath. They’ll have all week, ot two weeks, or however long it is between your sessions to think about it, come up with interesting stunts, and good lines. Sure, not all of them will bother to come up with much, but all of them will know what’s coming up. Is someone late to the next session? They fell overboard and it took time to fish them out. Do they not make it at all? Perhaps they fell though the deck and were trapped in the brig for a while.

For that matter, there is nothing at all wrong with skipping a bit of time to start in an action scene, especially if you’ve run a few possible plotlines past the players in advance so that there won’t be much argument about abruptly being involved with one that they’ve already approved. Were the characters peacefully resting? Tell them a scroll arrived and close up. Next session? Put them right in the middle of the fight with two golems that they must get past to rescue the kidnapped prince or princess. If you are feeling generous, after a round or two go to a flashback of them receiving the mission, tell them that they had some idea of what they’d be confronting – and let them spend a few minutes doing their downtime stuff and shopping before telling them how they wound up in that fight scene and dropping them back into it.

It’s an artificial way to provide a little “scouting” (obviously they found out about the golems and general environment of the area where the hostage was being hold in advance), of letting the characters prepare for a particular set of challenges, and of providing some forewarning of what they’re going to be up against all at once. It’s not always going to be appropriate – but it’s well worth using when it is.

Literary World Laws in Eclipse, Part One:

Today it’s a question that has jumped to the top of the queue because it brought so much stuff to mind that I just had to write it down…

How would you recommend creating a series of world laws that enforce symbolism, foreshadowing and similar things?

-Jirachi

Basically I think this is “I want a more literary feel to the game – more like Beowulf or The Lord Of The Rings” – so lets look at a few possible World Laws to produce that result.

Stochastic Echoes:

Events that are particularly important to a person – or the world – echo backwards and forwards through the timelines, appearing in dreams later or moments of literal or symbolic vision before. While any individual echo is not guaranteed to come to pass in YOUR timeline, they are often clues as to what might happen.

For most folk echoes pass unnoted; they may avoid a few accidents, but dreams of their death in a plague, or marriage, or the birth of a grandchild are often either happy moments or things they can do little about. Adventurers however… Adventurers are involved with great deeds. They may see themselves dying in some trap, catch a glimpse of some opponent long before they appear, see some past event which is a clue to their current adventures, or become aware of some occurrence in a distant location even if they have no idea why it might be important.

  • Hand out 1d4 such clues or visions during each session. For example, Frodo was hunted by the Ringwraiths – but the group caught a glimpse of them long before they actually attacked. Vision or reality? Does it matter? They were, at least to some extent, warned.
  • Give the entire group at least three, and possibly more, insights into the consequences of their actions at the end of a session – at a minimum, one positive, one problematic, and one outright foreboding item. Did the characters massacre a dark cult and rescue the children who were about to be sacrificed to the Seven-Tentacled Beast Of Darkness? You could note…
    • The joy of the children’s families or the celebration in the nearby villages.
    • The reaction of a powerful noble who may have another mission for such noble heroes – or perhaps is annoyed at the loss of some pawns.
    • The annoyance of the slave traders who have lost a profitable market for poor-quality slaves.
    • The reckless delvings of the treasure-seekers who will soon be searching for something (treasure, magical device, place of power, bound spirit, whatever) that the Cult was supposedly keeping hidden.
    • The stirring of something long bound in the depths – whether because the cult is no longer keeping it bound, because it seeks revenge against those who destroyed it’s servants, or because spilling so much blood in it’s dark fane has awakened it.
  • Antagonists get information from Echoes as well. Minor Antagonists receive three free levels of the Foresight skill. Major Antagonists get seven and three levels of Stealing The Scene.

Oathbinding

To swear a great oath is to take your destiny in your own hands and give it shape. To be forsworn is to wound that destiny and risk bringing a terrible fate upon yourself. An oath may bind the one who swears it beyond death itself. Still, amongst the adventurous few, great oaths – to defend the realm, to slay the dragon, to avenge a lover, to defeat the dark lord – are given. Such mighty oaths are sworn because there is power in them, the strength to accomplish things that might otherwise be far beyond your grasp. In fact that drive is a part of what gives great oaths their power; swearing to a minor deed, or attempting to include a cheap loophole in your vow, results in a minor and powerless oath. Characters may only be sworn to one great oath at a time and must allow at least a month to elapse between the fulfillment of one oath and the swearing of another. If they voluntarily renounce an oath they will suffer the consequences for a year and a day and may not swear another great oath during that time.

  • While a great oath is in effect a character acting in direct pursuit of his or her oath (sidequests, distractions, and random encounters generally do not count) will be assisted as needed by a level four spell effect of the game masters choice up to seven times per month.
  • A character who renounces or refuses to fulfill a great oath will instead find themselves targeted by a similar number of malignant level four (or less) spells every month for a year and a day at the worst possible times – when destiny (the game master) feels that they will be most dangerous – or until they either return to keeping their vow (which will stop the negative effects, but not restore the positive ones) or somehow atone – most often through some great self-sacrifice or quest with no other rewards.
  • Characters who die without completing an oath sometimes appear to those who pass near the place of their death to ask their aid in completing the oath or to “pass it on” by recruiting someone else to swear the same oath, sometimes rise as revenants consumed by the desire to complete their oath, sometimes appear in dreams or to religious figures of their faith to seek forgiveness for their failure, and sometimes just die; .there’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the decisions of fate.

You can build this ability in Eclipse as a Feat, which gives us a point of comparison; allowing the characters to make Great Oaths is pretty much like letting them have a free feat. It’s not too hard to compensate for in Eclipse, but is a modest power bump. Of course… getting players to foreshadow their characters actions is a bit tricky, since “use their characters special abilities to deal with the problems they face” is a given and their characters actions tend to be either fairly random or entirely stereotypical outside of that. Ergo, Great Oaths. You get the players to give some advance notice of their actions by offering them a reward for doing so.

Whispering Tales:

Tales have their own life. The world shapes them, and they in turn shape the world to their narrative. Instead of becoming more and more distorted as told again and again, legends, tales of haunts, and whispered rumors tend to become more real, and more accurate – even if that truth is often buried in symbolism and metaphor – as they pass through the generations of men, while the tales without a kernel of truth are oft forgotten. Which way the arrow of cause and effect truly points remains unknown, and perhaps unknowable, but in the end it matters little. Almost any traditional tale will likely lead somewhere – and those who choose to involve themselves in it may bind a bit of the power of it’s narrative around themselves.

Characters may seek out (I.E; Players may invent and present) tales and legends over and above any that the game master chooses to present, binding a bit of the power of those narratives about themselves – although how much power accrues to them depends on the quality of those tales. A character who “seeks out” such a tale gains either one Rune/Whimsy Card or 1d4 temporary skill points to place in Action Skills of his or her choice for a lesser tale. The award is doubled for a well-developed tale and tripled for a superb one – although characters may not hold more than five cards or fifteen temporary skill levels over between games.

For some examples, here we have the tales of The Hunt, The Grove, The Well, The House, and The Ship – all of which were originally created to add backstory and suggest adventures in a game.

On the metagame level, creating (or researching and tweaking) a tale or legend is also a player request; did a player come up with a tale of bandits, a cursed underground cave of gems, and an imprisoned spirit? Well, that’s a free adventure background, a quick test to see whether the rest of the party might be interested in it (if they have questions or suggestions on expanding the tale, they certainly are), and a request for such an adventure all in one – and automatically provides such an adventure with some foreshadowing and very likely some symbolic content. Stories are like that.

Dragon-Gold And Eldritch Swords

Once upon a time, in Beowulf, The Lord Of The Rings, the Kalevala, and so many other sources – including first and second edition – powerful magical items were rare (and often unique) and wealth brought you XP but thereafter might as well be spent. Why NOT build a castle, support an orphanage, or spend on wild parties? It wasn’t like that heap of gold really DID anything for you.

Then, of course, came wealth-by-level, magic-marts, penny-pinching, upgrading and exchanging magical items, endless accounting, and all the other downsides of making Wealth a measure of personal magical power. Somehow, it’s never seemed to be quite as “magical” even if it IS magic now.

  • The Wealth Templates in The Practical Enchanter are intended to eliminate the accounting. Wealth is still useful, but there’s no need to track every copper.
  • The Charms and Talismans from the same source are minor items of practical magic. Additional examples of designing Charms and Talismans can be found in this (Do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII) series of articles – and here’s an accounting of how they’d fit into The Lord Of The Rings.

Unique magical devices are generally created as Relics, as is explored in the Literary Magic Items and Sample Relics articles.

  • Part I: General information on how to build and use relics and on the role of other magic items in the game, the Hat of the Demon Pirate Ferret, the Chessboard of the Invisible Hand (a device of political manipulation), the Cloak of Zorro (for dashing heroes who do not wish to be indentified), the Kether Scrolls, The Malachite Bindings (a tome of dark magics), the Skull of Scykanthos (a tool of lycanthropic ritual magic), and Arnwen’s Sacred Sunstone.
  • Part II: The Gossamer Shroud of Death, The Clasp of the Mandarin (a social device), and Grimfang the Oath-Blade of Heroes.
  • Part II: The Seals of Seigrun – devices which provide limited spellcasting in any one field at a time – and Lawgiver, a paladin’s blade of atrocious power.
  • Part IV: Weapons of Legend, Stormbreaker, the Bracer of the Archmagi, and the Lion Bracer.
  • Part V: A Quill which forges Scrolls, a Sigil which commands Undead Thieves, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Dragon Crowns – superheroic power devices.
  • Part VI: A Demonslayer’s Helm, Parrying Dagger, Metamagical Rings, and Skill Enhancing Relics.
  • Part VII: The Coronet Of Command, The Sheathe Of Excalibur, The Staff Of Rassilon, Sortilege Staff, and Minor Items:

As a special bonus, here we have The Silmarils of the Manifold – a look at converting Tolkien’s Silmarils into something playable – and a collection of Minor Relics suitable for almost any game. Gandalf and the Balrog for Eclipse d20 also has a relic or two, but that discussion is complicated enough that I’ll leave it all in context, rather than simply adding the relic(s) to these lists.

Village Heroes, Child Heroes, and Hedge Wizardry are explored in these series of articles.

Finally, we have how to supply your heroes in such a system with limited-use magical items:

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys? (6+ CP):

  • This package turns various limited-use innate magical abilities into charms, fetishes, potions, dusts, bags that “contain” spells, strange crystals, and even quasi-technological gadgets. This is a VERY powerful effect, and is likely to be a major sources of a higher-level “Nephews” special abilities.
    • Create Relic: Specialized and Corrupted / only to make limited-use items (Apply “Specialized / Does Not Recover to the items created, only select abilities that normally offer a limited number of daily uses) costing a maximum of 3 CP each, only using points from Enthusiast (2 CP).
    • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (provides four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / points may only be used with Create Relic, limited as above (4 CP).
    • Expanded: Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted (+1 CP for Relic Creation per CP).
  • The basic package gets you 4 CP worth of relics to start with – with the various limitations, enough to get you quite a few gadgets to play with. Another 6 CP worth will get you a small magical arsenal.

For some examples:

Spell Talismans:

  • Innate Spell with Multiple Uses:
    • Two L1 Effects: 6 Uses Each (1 CP), 14 Uses Each (2 CP), 22 Uses Each (3 CP).
    • L2 Effect: 6 Uses (1 CP), 14 Uses (2 CP), 22 Uses (3 CP).
    • L3 Effect: 5 Uses (1 CP), 13 Uses (2 CP), 21 Uses (3 cp).
    • Related L3 and L4 Effect (1 CP), either 5 Uses of Each or a Related L5 and L6 Effect (2 CP), 9 Uses Each of a related L3 and L4 effect (3 CP).
    • Related Set: One effect of each level 3-7 (3 CP).
  • Unfortunately, this doesn’t bypass the level requirements for using innate spells, so low-level artificers must wait a while before using the high-level stuff. On the other hand, there’s nothing at all wrong with taking along a plentiful supply of Multiplying Shuriken (Magic Missile), Rainbow Crystals (Color Spray), Healing Draughts (Cure Light Wounds), and Origami Golems (Unseen Servants) on your early adventures.

Curative Ointment.

  • Healing Touch with Bonus Uses (enough to cure (5 x Chr Mod x Level HP) and Improved/Switch/Empower with Bonus Uses to provide (4+Level/3) total uses of Remove Disease, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Cure Serious Wounds, Remove Curse, Neutralize Poison, and Restoration (3 CP).
  • Curative ointment isn’t all that level-dependent, so a low-level party may find having a pot along very VERY helpful.

Sorcerer’s Bag:

  • Improved Occult Talent, Corrupted for Increased Effect (spell level) / slots must be preset. provides 5L1 and 3L2 charms/fetishes/scrolls/whatever with whatever you like in them for (1 CP).
  • That’s not as many uses as you can get from Innate Spell, but you do get a wide variety of effects. This is taking cheesy advantage of the rounding rule, but Improved Occult Talent is not likely to break the game.

Ring of Whispered Wishes:

  • 6d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Corrupted / cannot be used for other purposes (3 CP).
  • This useful little item answers small wishes – that there be something solid to catch onto when you’re sliding towards the cliff, that an opponent suffer some brief disadvantage, that a spell operate in a way it really shouldn’t or pierce that spell resistance. There’s usually enough power for none or ten very minor requests, but larger boons expend the rings power far more rapidly.

Someone with this package makes a wonderful seller of potions and items that provide more uses of your own abilities, rather than independent abilities. Even better, they don’t need expensive ingredients, or to spend experience points, or to have all kinds of spell formula available. If you kill them, their stock

A Feeling Of Entitlement:

Give each session a cryptic title hinting at it’s theme. Is it going to be about a cult summoning hellhound spirits to possess their victims to use as cannon fodder? Write “Howl of Darkness” on an index card (color coded marker calliography optional) and prop it up on the table. If you want to get really elaborate, provide subtitles for individual scenes.

OK, this is less a world law than a game master habit, but it is especially easy.

Adventure Design:

For general adventure design, I’d suggest The Basic Adventure article, as well as the Ridmarch articles (Part I, Part II, and Part III) – in part because Ridmarch is a good demonstration of the way that foreshadowing flows naturally from an adventure background. Adventurers coming to Ridmarch will hear the ringing of distant bells – foreshadowing their use as a defense, which foreshadows the potential use of the Bell of the Nameless Sentinel to end the threat. An ominous town and uncooperative townsfolk foreshadow a demon cult, the demon cult leads to a portal to the abyss in a cavern or monsters, the portal leads to a demon lord. A mangled corpse foreshadows a group of monstrous undead, who foreshadow a dark horde which rises anew with each nightfall no matter how often they are slain. In each case… small things lead to greater things, and offer clues as to their nature.

And next time around on this… a few world laws to benefit the antagonists.

Building Mystic Martial Adepts

If you had to design something resembling the nine swords classes, but were only given the flavor text, what would be the limitations?’

Also, on the book of nine swords stuff, I am curious if the disciplines could be sensibly bought as stunts, with the immunity to limitations, and perhaps some extra limits from the book to increase effect to what is seen.

-Jirachi

Ah. I was more or less covering why there really isn’t a part of the list that makes their abilities Specialized and a part that makes them Corrupted. It’s just that the list is long enough that they should count as being both Specialized and Corrupted in the vast majority of games.

Going with “Just the Fluff”… well , for the Swordsage we have…

A master of martial maneuvers, the swordsage is a physical adept – a blade wizard whose knowledge of the Sublime Way lets him unlock potent abilities, many of which are overtly supernatural or magical in nature. Depending on which disciplines he chooses to study, a Swordsage might be capable of walking through walls, leaping dozens of feet into the air, shattering boulders with a single touch, or even mastering the elements of fire or shadow. Whatever his specific training, a swordsage blurs the line between martial prowess and magical skill.

-The Book Of Nine Swords.

Honestly, substitute “Martial” for “Blade” and “Kung Fu Master” for “Swordsage” and this describes pretty much any eastern-style over-the-top martial artist from Hong Kong action comic books, movies like Kung Fu Hustle, various fighting games, or many other sources.

In comic, movie, and game terms this is saying “I have a bunch of different cool (and effective) tricks that I can use in a fight and maybe even a few tricks for things other than combat – and thus I am far less dull than a standard fighter type who is usually optimized for a particular tactic or two, and so repeats that tactic or tactics over and over again until the boredom is excruciating.

In practice, if you have effectively unlimited use of your abilities, (I tend to prefer some form of resource management mechanic, but that’s just me) there are several potential problems that you will want to consider. So looking at the limitations in terms of building an interesting character and avoiding boredom…

  • Boredom Problem: I don’t have to think about what to do! I have a tailored ability as a solution for every possible problem!
    • Solution: A fairly strict limit on the number of abilities you have. Of course, knowing too few is also boring, so there’s a delicate balance here. In Eclipse, that usually means having to purchase each ability with character points.
  • Boredom Problem: There’s a fairly obvious “best sequence” for each of the basic sets of problems that my abilities cover. Swarm of enemies? Start out with the area-effect blast. Main target hanging back? Hypercharge them. Single enemy flying when I can’t? Focused ranged strike.
    • Solution: Apply some sort of randomizer to what abilities you have available at any given moment. Sometimes you will just have to improvise, focus on a lesser enemy, or otherwise make the best of a sub-optimal tactical situation.
  • Boredom Problem: You can just spam your most appropriate ability, and so wind up doing the same thing over and over in a fight. It’s being a straight fighter all over again!
    • Solution: a relatively slow, and possibly random, ability recovery mechanism – basically a cool down time, For extra amusement provide a way to either recover more quickly or boost abilities by doing things other than attacking, so there’s a reason to maneuver, taunt your opponents, and do things other than “swing my sword again”.
  • Boredom Problem: All these characters look a lot alike! They all want the “best” abilities and avoid the “worst” ones!
    • Solution: Thematic limitations and ability sequences. That way no one character can have all the “best” abilities, they’ll all be distinct, they will have to invest in some basic abilities to get at the “best” ones – and they’ll have to do other things while recovering their now more-limited supply of “good” abilities. Besides, jumping straight to the most powerful abilities does not fit into D20 very well.

So your set of limitations is going to need to address those four basic issues. It will also have to include level restrictions on the more powerful maneuvers since that is a standard d20 requirement – but that really doesn’t count for anything because it IS a standard requirement.

Addressing those four problems will probably suffice to Corrupt and Specialize the Path Of The Dragon approach to getting those abilities – but it’s important to note that they’re really there to help keep the character interesting to play. Making their special abilities cheaper and/or more powerful is just a side effect.

As for other ways to build empowered martial artists…

Buying at least the basics of the Book of Nine Swords Disciplines as Skill Stunts is easy enough: buy the relevant Immunity as listed in the Skill Stunts articles (probably buying it at “very common” to cover all your martial-arts related skills), buy several martial arts and some boosters like Augmented Bonus for them, buy a lot of Mana to power things with, and consult with your game master to determine the DC of the various stunts. You could probably boost the power of your stunts with a limitation on the basic Stunt ability – although being unable to repeat a particular stunt at will is going to be meaningless unless you first limit the number of different stunts you can pull off. Stunts are, after all, normally open ended; I’m simply listing some examples in those articles.

You could also buy an immunity to the normal limits of Martial Arts skills, allowing you to produce supernatural effects related to the theme of the martial art without spending Mana – but that’s going to require a very high skill score to get away from the need for (often limited use) skill-boosters to achieve the DC’s of those stunts. The really spectacular stuff is going to be very hard to achieve this way – but it will work nicely for a less fantastic martial artist who can keep coming up with new tricks.

Of course, it’s going to be hard to get most game masters to approve of the more esoteric martial maneuvers as stunts in this way. They’re likely to question as to why riding around on a cloud of smoke and ash, or generating a firestorm, is really relevant to a style of armed or unarmed combat – and I’d have to admit that they’d have a point. That doesn’t necessarily limit you as much as you’d think – that firestorm is just a way to attack many creatures at once, and that cloud may just let you bypass rough terrain, both of which could equally well be defined as “whirling dervish assault” and “balancing on needles technique” – but it’s still a limit.

The last time I wanted something like Martial Maneuvers I skipped over Skill Stunts and just went with direct reality-bending (as in Gun Fu and the more general Martial Maneuvers)s – but that isn’t true “unlimited use”, although it can come pretty close in practical terms.

If you just want to build a supernatural combat style you could use Inherent Spell to do it: Buy a sequence of Inherent Spells with either Multiple or +4 (or a relevant attribute modifier) Bonus Uses each, and Specialize and Corrupt them. That will give each effect a base of five uses per day each. Personally, I’d suggest Corrupted / “Cannot use any effect of higher level than (1 + Rounds Spent Fighting)” (which gives you the classic anime style gradual escalation of powers) and Specialized according to the “Per Encounter” rule from the Eclipse Web Expansion (page 11) – “Any immediate ability which can be used three or more times per day may be considered Corrupted if it can only be used once per “encounter”. If it could normally be used five or more times per day and is reduced to once “per encounter” it may be considered Specialized. Anything usable ten or more times per day may be considered Corrupted if it can only be used 3 times per encounter or Specialized if it can only be used twice per encounter.”

That way abilities are normally once per “encounter”, but you can just double the cost of any given ability in the sequence to get it up to three times per encounter.

Using that structure a pair of first level maneuvers would cost 4 CP, a pair of second level maneuvers would cost 8 CP, 3’rd, 4’th, 5’th, and 6’th level maneuvers would cost 4 CP each, and 7’th and 8’th would cost 6 CP each, and a 9’th level maneuver would cost 8 CP. A basic discipline in this system would thus include 2 1’st and 2 2’nd level effects and one effect each of levels 3-0 at a net cost of 48 CP. Admittedly, you’d only have eleven different spells / “maneuvers” at 48 CP (each at five uses/day) – but you could readily master two or three such disciplines or double up on a favorite to raise its uses to three times per “encounter”. While the baseline maneuvers would either take actions to activate or be slightly weaker to account for combining them with an attack, this is easy enough to address with Opportunist or Reflex Training.

Interestingly, this means that a standard 3.0/3.5 Fighter build – which underspends by 53 CP – can be brought up to normal power levels by giving them one complete martial discipline in this style and Opportunist to let them take personal-enhancing effects – “stances” and such – as free actions at a cost of 54 CP (so they’d need to drop a skill point for perfect balance). They could add a second by spending a good chunk of their Fighter Bonus Feats on it. It also means that you could master at least three styles for the cost of using the Book Of Nine Swords style of building stances and maneuvers – and this method lets you cooperate with your game master to define your own powers.

Lets see…

Beast Of Rage Style:

  • L1) Wrath (The Practical Enchanter) and Embrace The Wild (Spell Compendium).
  • L2) Bite of the Wererat (Spell Compendium) and Blinding Spittle (Spell Compendium).
  • L3) Personal-Only Stone Ox (The Practical Enchanter).
  • L4) Boundless Energy (The Practical Enchanter).
  • L5) Bite of the Weretiger (Spell Compendium).
  • L6) Resilience Of The Beast (As per Heal, but only affects the caster and the effects are spread over time; each round the spell will restore the players choice of 10 points of damage or any one of the usual conditions that Heal cures until the healing capacity or list of effects is exhausted or ten rounds have passed with no use of the spells remaining healing capacity).
  • L7) Wrath Of Grod (The Practical Enchanter).
  • L8) Wrath Of The Great Beast (Form Of The Dragon III, Pathfinder).
  • L9) Stride Of The Colossus (The Practical Enchanter).

Similarly, Battleship Potemkin Style probably includes massive defenses, the ability to hurl rocks either with great force or so violently that they explode, walking on water, another variant on self-healing (damage control), and immediate-action extra hit points. Cumulonimbus Style focuses on mastering wind, thunder, lightning and flight powers. Whisper Of Corrosion Style employs corrosive effects and disintegration. Hungry Ghost Style covers invisibility, etherealness, dimension dooring, and a variety of draining effects.

Now the original Book Of Nine Swords styles presented more options than one of these styles – but individual characters never got to actually have more than a fraction of them, making the actual number of abilities you get fairly similar. As for the range of ability choices… it’s pretty hard to beat “freeform” when it comes to that. You don’t like a few of my choices for “Beast Of Rage” Style? Call your version “Eastern Beast Of Rage” Style (or something like that) and tweak it to suit yourself.

Throw in a few Stances – an unlimited-use counterpart to the Martial Maneuvers that are usually less direct, if still quite potent – and you have an excellent martial adept right there.

For some more specific examples…

  • HERE we have a level four martial artist who is using martial arts skills as an independent, semi-freeform, magic system. Buy up the level of effects he can produce and buy some Mana and Rite of Chi to recover it as he goes up in levels, and he could readily become a full-blown martial adept in his own way.
  • HERE we have yet another approach – a fifth level martial artist with a wide variety of “bad touch” effects that can block the use of magic and psionics for the rest of the day, kill, paralyze, cause amnesia, and many other effects backed up with the ability to raise a short term Wall Of Force as a quick defense, Dimension Door, Enervation, Globe Of Invulnerability, and several other handy tricks. On the other hand, with no real theme to his abilities beyond “that looks handy” it’s not exactly clear where he’d go from this point. He’d do well in a low to mid-level game though.
  • HERE we have a first level martial artist of a race of Natural Martial Artists built using Witchcraft. While most of his tricks are fairly low-powered he has a LOT of them for level one and will easily be able to expand his selection later.
  • The article on Monk Tricks covers how to build a monk-type character with some added options – and a lot of points left over to buy other stuff. A classic “Monk” type the with Battleship Potemkin style on tap sounds like it might be fun…
  • And for a few random examples… we have Lingering Smoke (a Sidereal who wandered in from an Exalted gme), Dante Allegori (a magical weaponsmaster employing the Sixty Successive Sacrileges), Sir Laurent Onn (a generator of enhancing magical auras), the Fey Swordsman (a fairly minor magical martial artist), Noita Verduur (a shapeshifting psychic assassin), and “The Wraith” (a short range teleporter), all of whom represent still other approaches to building warriors with exotic powers to augment their abilities.

Really, this is more a question of what exactly you’re trying to build. Eclipse supports a lot of different approaches to building a mystic warrior.

And I hope that’s some help anyway! If you’ve got something specific in mind though I’ll need some more details.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.