Valdemar D20 Part III – Building Heralds and Companions

So what about game statistics? Well…

Companions:

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

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

Companions are basically Modified Light Warhorses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heralds:

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

So: your basic Gift will look something like this.

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

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

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

Well, for that buy

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

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

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

Mage-Gift:

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

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

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

To price this, buy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Valdemar D20 Part II – Gifts And Spells

For Part I, go HERE.

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

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

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

Valdemar D20 – Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I usually say that…

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

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

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

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

So what do we know about Companions?

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

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

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

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

Continuum II – Optional Attributes Conclusion, Attributes That Aren’t Recommended

First up, for the rest of the optional attributes list…

Grace measures a characters “talent” for dealing with social situations politely and diplomatically. It covers etiquette, manners, soothing conflicts – and acting as a member of the “upper class”. A high grace score helps a great deal when interacting with “sophisticated” people, while a low one may mark you as an uncouth barbarian. It is less effective with unsophisticated peoples – but the basic ability to handle social situations smoothly is of value almost anywhere, except around the occasional real “uncouth barbarian”.

Influence measures a characters ability to manipulate events on a large scale, whether through money, politics and intrigue, calling in favors, supplying wise council, mystic influences, through family or through some other means. Characters with high influence scores are rare – and often have “difficulties” with intrigue, people trying to use, replace, or discredit, them, anyone who wants something, requests for favors, and simply being watched. Being a V.I.P. can be nice, but it can also be a tremendous pain in the ass. Extreme cases should beware of assassins.

Intuition measures a characters psychic sensitivity and ability to detect occult disturbances – as well as his or her ability to guess correctly. High intuitions make characters difficult to surprise and allow them to extract far more information from any situation then is strictly reasonable, but also leave them open to various forms of psychic disturbances, inclined to weird premonitions – and subject to bizarre mood swings, headaches, and pains, as a result of events occurring somewhere or somewhen else. A high intuition score is also very useful in Powershaping and related magical fields.

Karma isn’t necessarily “good” or “bad”. It simply measures the likelihood of weird things happening to, or around, the character. Characters with high karma scores are marked by fate, whether for good or ill. Coincidence may preserve them at one moment simply to dump them into the middle of some unlikely disaster a moment later. It may be divine intervention, consequences of a past life, or simply luck, but it happens. On the other hand, those with low scores can plan ahead with far more confidence, and if fate is less likely to preserve them, it’s also a lot less likely to feed them to the meatgrinder. It is possible to get wholly “good” or “bad” karma via a Talent or disadvantage – but that is basically a form of Luck.

Learning Potential (AKA; “Potential“) is usually only needed when characters are getting a bit absurd. (Either by taking numerous skills at absurdly high (4+) ranks or by taking years off to gain an excessive number of skill points through study). Unfortunately for would-be powermongers, skills acquired through study tend to fade, and – no matter how much they study – many people simply are not capable of going beyond the master level. As a rule, a character may not gain more then (2/3 Potential) skill points via study and is limited to a maximum of 1/3 his or her score in skill rank. Neither limit applies on skill points acquired through level advancement.

Maneuver measures a character’s ability to move well; smoothly, gracefully, and with style. It’s important to acrobats, runners, swimmers, fliers, martial artists – and dancers. Maneuver rolls are generally required when the character wants to pull off some complex, high-speed, or otherwise difficult, stunt – a dive from a great height, stepping on the wall to corner at a full run, and so on – and have it look good as well as functional. As far as the martial arts go, high maneuver scores make the practacioner look good – and scores of 16+ allow the character to learn stylized forms without taking the associated penalty and to acquire time-consuming ones more quickly then usual.

Manipulation is a measure of a character’s ability to get other people to do what said character wants them to do through more-or-less peaceful means. Trickery, guile, phony emotional appeals, loaded wording, faulty logic, and similar social trickery are the essence of manipulation. While some degree of manipulation is a basic part of any social interaction, excessive manipulation is often very deeply resented. Trying to avoid manipulating people so as to avoid this is a form of manipulation in itself. As a rule a high manipulation score is a mixed blessing – and often leads to even your friends distrusting you.

Mental Coordination measures a character’s ability to handle complex or multiple simultaneous tasks. Examples range from the mundane (Answering a question while lifting weights and watching television reruns) to such more significant operations as using multiple psychic powers, using telekinesis in several differing ways at one time, maintaining some illusion while doing something else, or keeping a horse under control while fighting. Such tasks are normally assumed to be things that require a minimal level of concentration to perform. A task that requires more then that will count as two (or possibly even more) lesser tasks. By default, characters can normally handle three simple tasks at one time. As a side-benefit, those with high mental coordination scores receive a targeting bonus when employing psychically-based attacks. There is a small problem with having a high Mental Coordination score; it tends to give people the impression that you’re not really paying attention to them.

Morale is an attribute that generally only applies to NPC’s, although PC’s may use it if they so desire. It’s essentially a measurement of how much stress a character (or group) can handle before giving way. While this is most dramatic in battle, where a failure of morale means anything from a minimal-failure fighting retreat through a total-failure rout or surrender (whichever seems likely to result in survival), it can also mean taking a bribe, giving in to blackmail, deserting a post, stealing something from an employer, or simply refusing orders. While Morale generally assumes an external loyalty, characters who’s loyalty is only to themselves may also have morale scores, but in their case it represents self-confidence. Morale rolls vary a great deal. Retreat is less tempting if there’s someone standing behind you with a halberd. A wandering bum can be bribed far more easily then a well- paid executive – especially if said executive’s position is secure and has every prospect of remaining so. Despite claims, training and experience don’t raise morale. They simply change a character’s (or group’s) estimate of the situation and best course of action. Groups also learn the advantages of operating as a team – and gain confidence in the capabilities of the other group members. Discipline doesn’t raise morale either, but it does allow a group to lose morale in stages, rather then all at once. Undisciplined mobs tend to break, but a disciplined group tends to try to retreat or fall back while retaining organization. It requires several failures to cause a rout. Leader-types may make independent morale checks, modifying the troops roll by +/-1 for every 2 points by which they make their roll – but if such a leader is captured or slain another check must be made immediately with a similar penalty. Mere incapacitation calls for another check, but with no special penalty. Leaders who fail morale checks can be a considerable problem, since their followers automatically take a similar penalty. Morale rolls are also modified by emotional factors. Abandoning your wounded isn’t good for morale. Fanatic religious devotion or defending home and family bolsters it enormously. Being reinforced – or seeing allies winning – may nullify a recent failure. A character (or groups) initial morale varies depending on recruitment procedures and selectivity. Professional mercenaries tend to have high morale. Those who don’t get out of the profession. Conscript peasants usually have low morale. Volunteers vary. Morale rolls are usually required only when something in a situation changes for the worse – or when something is obviously a stupid idea.

Mysterium measures a characters skill at remaining an unknown. The higher the score, the harder it is for an investigator or normal acquaintance to find out anything about the character. What’s more, acquaintances often won’t notice that they know little or nothing about you. This sort of thing can be due to occult skills, inspired hacking, the fact that the courthouse burned down, simply being very, very, reticent and unobtrusive, be the work of some intelligence organization, or just the result of coincidence. Whatever the cause, a high mysterium score will start to drop if it’s possessor keeps giving out information. The disadvantage of “Mysterium” is that it affects everyone. Friends will have as much trouble finding you as enemies will. If you never appear on the news, you never get any credit. Allies can’t rely on your abilities when they’re unknown. Occasionally mysterium appears in conjunction with a “secret identity” – as in; “No one knows anything about the mysterious Professor Prometheus!”. While this keeps the required secrecy to one aspect of a characters life, it also means that losing that secret will utterly destroy all the mystery; “Look! It’s only Mr Hardshack!”

Power is a characters natural psychic strength potential, over and above the base accessible from his wisdom. It is important in Empyrean Magic (which taps it), during outbursts of “hysterical strength” and other instinctive uses of C’hi, resisting psychic attacks, and in enhancing other psychic powers. Sadly, Power generally cannot be tapped directly. It usually requires an emotional (or a stress- related) trigger to bring it out. As a side benefit such “triggers” bypass the usual point expenditure limits.

Protean is a rare trait among most races. It measures a character’s ability to accelerate and control his or her shapeshifting. Unfortunately, even a high Protean score doesn’t give a character shapeshfting powers. It simply indicates that he or she will be good at controlling any such abilities that he or she possesses or acquires. A high score does have a minor disadvantage for those with active shapeshifting powers; unless they maintain strict control they tend to give away a lot through unconscious shapeshfting (“I’m NOT Jealous of him!” “Then why are you growing fangs Michael?”) although this does depend a bit on the nature of the character’s shapeshifting abilities. Low scores may indicate difficulty in making use of such talents at all.

Recognition measures how famous and distinctive your character is. It does not measure how people will react to whatever a character is known for (That’s a matter of how the people who recognize you feel about what you do, and is a bit too complex for a simple score). A high score means that many of those you meet will “know” at least a bit about you – which can be both good and bad.

Sanity is a somewhat debatable attribute. It could be seen as a measure of how rational a person is, of how closely their mental “model” of the world corresponds to that of their culture, of how well they control bizarre/ antisocial drives – or simply of how willing they are to accept reality without filtering it through theories and preconceptions. Go far enough “out of bounds” on any of these and you’ll be considered crazy. Those who won’t or can’t realize that you must open the refrigerator before trying to put the milk in (failure of reason), believe that the earth is flat (failure of world-model), want to conquer the world and cannot restrain themselves (bizarre or antisocial desire), or refuse to accept that the car has a flat because they just put new tires on it (unwilling to accept reality), are insane by most standards. It doesn’t measure stability. It is perfectly possible to have a nice stable fixed delusion. In Continuum II, any character who has reasonable goals, goes about achieving them sensibly, and is willing to deal with reality as it is, is sane. Cultural expectations do not enter into it. Sanity is, however, a variable. When a character’s mental stability (QV; Wisdom) is overcome, his or her sanity will drop. When and if it hits zero. the character will usually “snap” temporarily – lapsing into shock, confusion, hysteria, or what-have-you. They then begin over again with their “basic” sanity score reduced by one point. The lower it goes, the odder they become. Sanity can be regained through time, meditation, therapy (the telepathic variety is usually best), defeating your personal fears – or simply facing (and winning out over) the things that bother you. Sanity can be increased in a similar fashion by collecting “extra” temporary points – but this is notoriously difficult. Optionally, each lost point of sanity may manifest as mental quirks, with more bothersome quirks being equated to two or more points. A character who’s “permanent” sanity score is reduced to 0 is effectively out of action unless drastic measures are taken – or considerable time passes. In real life, sanity is all too rare; a very high sanity score has its own, built-in, penalty. If you don’t play such a character accordingly the GM will probably reduce your experience point awards. If you do, you’ll miss out on a lot of things. The “sane” response is very often to stay out of whatever-it-is that’s going on…

Size is an extremely simple attribute; It’s how large a character is. As a rule, it’s pretty consistent within any one species. Really large characters can take more physical damage before going down, but are subject to innumerable major and minor problems, ranging from conspicuousness thru having to have custom-tailored clothing and armor, being unable to fit into compact cars, and being unable to find a horse that can carry you, up to occasionally falling through the floor. Extremely small characters are slightly more fragile and have trouble with things being oversized – but they do have an easier time sneaking around and getting out of the way. It’s important to shapeshifters if the game master is keeping track of details because most of them can only manage to take forms within two size points of their racial ranges (three if shapeshifting in water).

Standing measures a characters perceived status among some group. While said “group” is usually the population at large, others are certainly possible. Standing might also be used to measure military or organizational rank, how much of the underworld a character controls, whether a character is a white, black, or grey, mage (and whether various mystic beings will respond to your invocations), how much the other knights and nobles of the realm respect you (although even a standing three knight is far above the peasants), or simply how rich and influential you are. Of course, with high (or sometimes low, such as a “black mage”) standing comes high demands on your time.

Stun measures a character’s ability to stay conscious and functioning despite pain, shock, impact, and injury. Stun rolls are required at the game-masters option – but likely occasions include being sapped from behind, being hit by a stungun, or simply taking a major attack. While this makes it easier to knock the character out, it also means that such characters tend to aggravate wounds less then others do, hence their stun score is added to their base vitality. Minimal success or failure on a stun roll generally leaves the character more-or-less dazed. As a rule, bullets, blades, and beams allow easier stun rulls then less-focused (and usually less damaging) hands, blunt weapons, and blasts.

Trauma measures long-term physical, psychic, magical, or spiritual injury. Trauma is acquired when a character takes massive, potentially-lethal, injuries, and fails an Trauma roll. The difficulty of said roll depends on the magnitude and nature of the effect producing the injury. Each point of a character’s trauma score is reflected in the game as a penalty to some activity – what depends on the GM’s whim and what produced the injury. The severity depends on how often the penalty comes into play. Trauma points (and their associated penalties) can be removed, but this requires repairing the damage somehow. It’s better to avoid it in the first place. Competent care is a good place to start, since it provides a retroactive +2 to +7 (Depending on the skill and resources of the caregiver) on the characters trauma roll (“He would have lost the arm, but we got him to the surgeon in time”). “Trauma” can be intentionally inflicted, often as a punishment. There is no roll to resist this sort of thing. Getting branded (A penalty to some social rolls) or having a hand amputated (Several points worth of trauma) is hard to resist. Trauma penalties can include various physical limits, social annoyances, psychological problems, weird curses, magical difficulties, and psychic malfunctions. While it may not be strictly reasonable, already-battered characters are harder to inflict further trauma on. What are a few more scars on top of all the others?

Voice measures the quality of a character’s voice, at least as far as range, tonality, singing, and speaking are concerned. While less then vital unless you’re a singer, and possibly irrelevant even then, those with high voice scores are simply pleasant to listen too. Low scores may indicate speech impediments or atrocious accents, but it rarely matters that much. It might be a decisive element in a closely-matched talent competition though.

Wealth measures the extent of a character’s financial resources. Sadly, unlike the convenient funding and gear provided by the “Increased Resources” talents, Wealth is something that has to be maintained and managed. Depending on the score, this may mean anything from an hours daily scrounging on through a job, and up to spending most of your time on managing your financial empire. Extreme wealth scores draw attention, publicity, and crooks, in equal measure. It can be useful, but after a point it tends to become a career in itself. Extreme levels of wealth have a nasty habit of endangering your friends and family.

Web is one of the strangest optional characteristics. It’s a measure of the strength and number of a character’s psychic “anchors” and emotional supports. Such “anchors” are either living beings with powerful emotional ties to the character (children, lovers, hated enemies, etc), or are objects (items, places, or what-have-you) in which a character has invested a great deal of their personal psychic energy. Objects and places are mental foci, triggers for memories, and places in which the character can recover his mental balance. For clairvoyants, spirit travelers, and the like, such anchors are also easy to reach psychically – and can be used to help rebuild a scattered or damaged psyche. Living beings act in a somewhat similar fashion – however they also act as emotional bulwarks, helping the character to resist many psychic assaults. As psychic constructs, webs can absorb or yield psychic power – but overdoing this risks damage to them, reducing the web score by one. The disadvantage is that a webs anchors are links to the user as well.

Zeal measures both strength of commitment, and how much energy, a character is inclined to put into causes. This doesn’t necessarily indicate a sensible, or even stable, choice of causes (QV; Intellect and Wisdom) – but a high value does make the character a splendid activist, fund- raiser, and annoyance. While it also makes a character extremely difficult to convert directly, characters with low wisdoms are prone to sudden enthusiasms. High zeal scores are common among religious figures, but they are not necessarily of any real help in exercising religious powers.

Optional Attributes which are NOT recommended :

  • Acting: This is another “attribute” that’s hard to seperate from the players performance, and is usually best handled as a character skill, rather then as an attribute.
  • Charisma: Measures how “likable” a character is. This is usually best handled through role-playing.
  • Clearance: Measures how much a character is trusted by some organization. It tends to be volatile, and is more of an attribute of said organization then of the character.
  • Education. This measures the extent of the characters education. This is normally treated as a function of a characters intellect and skill choices. A bright kid who grows up on a farm learns just as much as one in a high-pressure advanced academy, he or she just learns different things.
  • Esteem: Measures how well some character’s reputation is perceived. Basically, do those who’ve heard of you think of you as a hero of a villian? The problem here is that reputations are complex things, and one number cannot do them justice.
  • Heritage: This measures the importance of what a character is in line to inherit – whether in the form of lands, cash, or power. This is usually better handled by the GM using the character’s class, background, talents, and family, in relationship to the setting, the plotline potential, and his or her whimsy.
  • Insight: Measures the characters ability to have bright ideas and pick out important clues. Unless the players constantly need hints – which usually indicates that the game master is over-complicating things – this sort of ability is generally only useful if you want to go back to rolling the combat dice quickly.
  • Luck: This is usually used as an excuse for GM’s, and players, who are at a loss. Gaming already involves luck – the dice handle that.
  • Retinue: This measures the size of a character’s entourage. This is usually better handled as a function of culture, character skills, and appropriate other attributes.
  • Sensuality: Measures both a characters sexual attributes and his or her talent for using them. Anyone who wants to include Sensuality and deal with the resulting nonsense is welcome to do so, but I do not recommend it. Situations where it might be used can normally be handled using the character description and some role-playing – if they come up at all
  • Traits: Such as piety, courage, honor, greed, carnality, and other such personality traits are normally best handled on the character quiz. Elevating them to attributes tends to be nothing but a way to take the decisions out of the hands of the player.

Now, obviously enough, a lot of these attributes have made it into d20 through Eclipse – although in many cases it’s as a power you might want to buy, instead of as an attribute. It’s really too bad in a way; the flexibility of optional / secondary attributes allowed a great deal of setting and character customization. After all, if the game master opted to require Discipline, Fatigue, and Trauma, the setting will become a great deal more grim-and-gritty, “unlimited use” abilities become a lot less “unlimited”, and avoiding fights becomes a lot more important. On the other hand, if he or she asked for Aura, some variant of Corruption, and Mysterium, then a “secret supernatural” game is probably in the offing. Trade out one of those for Sanity and you’re headed for Call Of Cthulhu. Is he or she asking for Essence, Recognition, and one of the player’s choice? That would work nicely for a Shadowrun style setting. On the other hand, Doom (Radiation Dosage), Trauma, and Corruption (Mutation) says eithre post-apocalyptic radioactive wasteland or perhaps an alien invasion setting. Free choice? A wide-open and likely multi-dimensional setting is coming up, with lots of second chances for characters to work on specialties that there base attributes don’t really support.

Unfortunately, that degree of freedom would be pretty hard to translate to most of the current popular rules sets; most of them are a lot more restrictive about what rolls are related to which attribute, so adding options for new attributes is a lot more complicated.

Continuum II – The Character Quiz

The Quiz is really the core of your character. The attributes, numbers, abilities, skills, and disciplines may describe what you’re good at, but the quiz defines who you are. What you want. How you’re going to put those abilities to use. There’s no need to go into exhaustive detail unless you want to – but most of the questions deserve at least a moments consideration. It’s also a good way to give the game master a handle on your character. The quiz can be filled out first or as you create the character. In either case, it’s common to think of more things to put on it later.

As a rule, characters should be able to answer the twelve “basic” questions, and at least three of the optional ones. If any of the basic questions just don’t apply to the character one of the optional questions should be substituted. Game master’s are encouraged to give an extra talent point to characters with excellent quizzes, to charge one for a lousy job, and to charge two for not bothering at all.

Both Game master’s and players should be flexible. It’s not at all unreasonable for it to take several sessions to get enough of a “feel” for your character to finish up the quiz. Better late then dull!

Basic Items :

1) What does/did your family/clan/whoever brought you up do? Are/were they especially noted for something ? Do you resemble them or not? Do you maintain ties with them? Were they your real parents?

2) Name, and provide a few notes on, three relatives; One you like, one you dislike – and one you just know. Characters without families may substitute members of whatever group played a similar role in their life. Other kids from the orphanage, some of the older mercenaries in the company, whoever.

3) Name three simple, ordinary, things or situations that you just can’t stand.

4) Name three simple, ordinary, things that you like, and would go out of your way for.

5) Select your hair and eye color, height and build, and general description.

6) Name three things you like to do for fun.

7) What would you say your occupation is ?

8)

a) Where were you born? Was anything odd about it? Were you legitimate?
b) Where were you raised? What was it like? Did you have any notable playmates or friends ? Did you behave? Were your parents intimate or distant ?
c) Where, if anywhere, do you live now?
d) Who, what, or where has a claim on your loyalty?
e) Where did you get your education? If it was from a specific teacher, who was he, she, or it?

9) Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = very low and 5 = very high) for; Bravery, Loyalty, Rationality, and any four additional traits. Possibilities include, but are not limited to; Piety, Altruism, Calm, Gullibility, Curiosity, Skepticism, Lust, Materialism, Honesty, Greed, Vengefulness, Romanticism, Egotism, Diplomacy, Sloth, Kindness, Thrift, Optimism, Pragmatism, Cultured, Introversion, Gregariousness, Honor, Patience, Enthusiasm, Emotionalism, Frivolity, Caution, Hedonism, Literal-mindedness, Ethics, Stoicism, Stubbornness, Morality, Organization, Loquaciousness, and their opposites. Characters may rate traits at “6” or “7” – but even a “6” indicates a major motivation – something central to a characters personality, which will intrude itself into everything which he or she does. A “7” indicates some sort of obsession – something which the character will hold more important then his or her life.

10) Name three additional minor quirks, behavior tags, traits, talents, hobbies, fears, old guilts, fetishes, or other distinguishing features.

11) What are your personal, long-term, goals? Is there something you have to finish? Some major interest? Are these overwhelming or obsessive goals?

12) Why are you hanging around with all of these weird people anyway? (Answering this question often has to wait for a bit).

AS A NOTE :

“I’m Playing In Character” is no excuse for being a perpetual pain in the rear. YOU’RE THE ONE WHO CAME UP WITH THE CHARACTER. Characters who can’t fit into the group, are endlessly obstructive, who are impossible to involve in scenarios, keep destroying vital clues, are terminally indecisive – or who are simply more trouble then they’re worth – will be, quite rightly, abandoned by the group, and by the Game master. There is no sign on your head saying; “I’m a player-character. You have to take me!”. If your character keeps interfering with other people’s ability to play the game, invent a reason for him to grow, change, and get along – OR TAKE HIM AWAY.

Optional Items :

1) Do you have any kids? Siblings? Surviving parents or grandparents? How did/do you get along with them?

2) Have you “gone adventuring”, or worked with anyone of significance, before? Who? Why did you leave?

3) Do you have a personal symbol, colors, or dress in a particular fashion? A nickname or “title” which you like to use? What are they?

4) Describe; a major turning point, tragedy, or event in your life which made a major impression on you.

5) Do you have a companion, students, mentor, spouse, lover, or other major involvement? If so, who? If not, did you? What happened?

6) Account for the origin of your major talent(s) and disadvantages. If inborn, when did you first discover it/them, and what was the reaction of those about you?

7) As a small child, did you lose something that was precious to you at the time? A pet? A favorite toy? A keepsake? What was it, how did you lose it, and why was it important to you?

8) Give three scenes from your personal history that you recall vividly due to shock, wonder, weirdness, or some strong, associated, emotion.

9) Describe a place where you spend a great deal of your time. Why do you spend it there?

10) How do other people see you? How do you see your- self? How do you try to make them see you?

11) Describe your personal apartments or home. How do you have them decorated? Do you have any heirlooms or personal souvenirs lying around? A view? How do you like the location and the surrounding area?

12) If you could have any kind of pet you wanted, what would it be? What it that you like about that type of creature? What qualities and traits does it represent to you? If it’s a practical creature, why don’t you have one? If you do, what’s it’s name and how long have you had it? Where did you get it?

13) What’s your religious background ? How strong are your beliefs, how do they affect your behavior, and what do you think of those who believe otherwise? What are people – and what is the universe? Does either or both have a destiny?

14) Sketch yourself. Is this how you usually look, the way you’d like to look, or was this a bad moment? (The terminally unartistic can select, or modify, a picture from another source).

15) What is your great secret? Why is it so important to you? How far will you go to keep it hidden?

16) Provide three typical, personal, quotes.

17) Name someone who has greatly influenced your life. How? Inspiration? Teaching? Example? Friendship? A casual contact you found deeply meaningful?

18) What notable organizations (Guilds / Faiths / Clubs / Cabals / Societies / Whatever) do you belong to? Why? How did you join? How deeply are you involved?

19) Provide a brief personal timeline for yourself. It might include military and underworld experience, travel (and why), imprisonment, and involvement in great events.

20) Do you have any impractical romantic ideals? What would you look for in a lover or spouse?

21) Name three easy ways that you can be roped into an adventure/subplot. How does your presence make things easier for the Game Master?

A free hint. This is a major survival mechanism here. Game master’s hate to kill off characters who’ve become integral to their plot.

22) What are your views on violence, and what would it take to change them? How have they worked out for you in the past? (For weird characters; Have you ever been killed? Was it interesting?)

23) Give a bit of your recent history. How did you get to where you will be entering the game?

24) Do you have a “Secret ID”? Which is the real you?

25) Name, and give a few provocative or descriptive bits about, some acquaintances. What makes them notable? Are they enemies, old allies, or simply people you know? Is there a significant figure you like and trust as well or one you dislike and distrust? Why?

These don’t have to be anyone important – but they ought to be interesting enough to make good NPC’s, and to act as potential plot hooks. The Game Master will love you.

26) What’s your status in your family and society? Have you been involved in any major events? What? Are you especially known for anything? Some trait or deed?

27) What is there about yourself that you really like? Don’t like? What are you trying to improve? How have you changed over the years? Have you learned any major lessons about life?

28) Is there anything notable, and known, about you? Some trait or deed? Were you involved in any recent historical event(s)? How?

29) What have you got in the way of personal ethics? How do you see people and the universe?

30) What’s your status in your home – or the local – society? Are you wanted or highly trusted? Been hailed as a hero or villain? Do you have a title or position? Are you popular or outcast? Do you have a record or a high security clearance? Would you be recognized? Why? Were you judged fairly or unfairly? Would you have some sort of legacy coming? Do you want it? Are you a recognized arbitrator, messenger, or other “neutral”?

This, of course, is the original Continuum II fantasy character quiz from more than thirty years ago – but versions of it have made their way through many of the tabletop games since. It’s become a bit less important for online gaming – the players who are inclined to provide details tend to put up blog posts and lengthy chunks of backstory and those who aren’t so inclined are difficult to persuade to come up with so much detail – but it’s still the heart of what makes a character  interesting, and more than a sheet full of numbers. I may put up a few examples, simply because – when it comes to having a really good game – this sort of thing really is a lot more important than optimizing your build. 

 

RPG Fundamentals

And for today, it’s an offline question; “What aspect of a RPG character is most important?”

Well, we have three words there.

ROLE
PLAYING
GAME

ROLE: How your character fits into the world. After all, even if you claim “you came from the distant future”, or “from another dimension” or some such… you have an Origin and later History, you probably have Family, you should have Motives, a Concept, and a Life beyond “I joined this group of adventurers yesterday”.

The Role is the core of what makes a character interesting and memorable. To look down a list (admittedly, one of many) of famous movies… Watch The Godfather, Schindler’s List, The Silence Of The Lambs, It’s A Wonderful Life, Seven Samurai, Alien, Spirited Away, Lawrence Of Arabia, Back To The Future, Braveheart, Up, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, almost any historical war movie, Jurassic Park, or Gladiator. All of those starred normal (if often very tough and lucky) humans. People with no character sheets, no clever combinations of special abilities, and no bizarre racial powers. Even looking at movie characters with powers… would knowing how much pressure WALL-E could “really” take, or exactly what gadgets Batman had available in The Dark Knight, or just how much damage a Lightsaber could “really” do in The Empire Strikes Back, or just how many Wraiths came to the fight in The Return Of The King have really made the movies better? Even power-based movies like Kung Fu Hustle… the story wasn’t really about powers was it?

It’s the brilliant moments of improvisation, the development of character and motives across time, the relationships, the acts of courage – and sometimes the death scenes – of characters that make them memorable. Powers and abilities are strictly secondary.

You want your character to be interesting, to star in stories worth telling, to be more than a collection of statistics? Start with the Role. Otherwise, you might as well go and play World Of Warcraft. It may be a lot of fun, but nobody is recording their sessions and turning them into major movies (even if there are some on youtube). And remember – it’s your responsibility to find a role that both fits into the setting, has a consistent history within it, and can reasonably function there.

PLAYING. This is the real point of the exercise of course. It’s for a group of people to gather together – in reality or virtually – to have fun. And contrary to a popular saying… there IS a wrong way to have fun. After all, Jeffrey Dahmer Ted Bundy, and Jack The Ripper apparently all enjoyed what they were doing. SOCIAL is the key word here; if what you are doing is disrupting the game and spoiling other people’s fun… then you should stop doing it. But if people like doing world-building, or having their imaginary characters get into body-building competitions and flexing their imaginary muscles, or developing long-term plots, or talking in character… go ahead and participate where it’s amusing to you and do your own thing when it isn’t. I can pretty well guarantee that you have your own annoying habits that other people are putting up with. Everybody does.

GAME is the final part of our troika. It’s where your “build”, and all those actions which are tactically sound (if often not that interesting), and selecting equipment, and the game statistics come in. It’s the last part of participating, and really the least important. Nobody else is ever really interested in the tale of how you went to the magic-mart and traded your +2 Speed Bow and a lot of gold for a +3 Speed Undead Bane Bow. On the other hand, this is where you have substantial obligations as a player. You have the game master to help you fit your Role into the setting. You have the other players to interact with. But, ultimately, coming up with the mechanics of a character who can fulfill the Role you described and fit into the setting is up to you. The game master and other players may be able to help you set things up – but you’ll have to be able to fully explain your concept and role to them so that they know what you want. Attempting to rely on your description or backstory to justify talents that you haven’t built into your character isn’t “being primarily focused on role-playing” or “not really being focused on the mechanics”. It’s either being incompetent and unwilling to admit it and get help with your build or – much more commonly – it’s an attempt to cheat by claiming abilities that your actual character simply does not have.

I once made a character – Sakarit – who’s backstory, thanks to some eastern philosophy, included being the Cosmos or God the Almighty depending on how you looked at it. None of the other players ever noticed because the actual character, having stepped away from being one with the cosmos to assist spirits that had not yet become enlightened, was built under the normal rules. Sure, he might at any moment abandon his “limitations” to once more become God – but that would just mean that “he vanished again, but this time he didn’t come back”. He never got any special powers in the game just for being God The Almighty One. And if God Almighty didn’t get any special privileges, why should you?

So while the “Game” aspect is really the least important, it’s still your obligation as a player to do it right – and if you don’t know the rules or setting well enough, or those rules or that setting says that something about your desired role and concept will not work, then you need to work with the game master, the rules, and the other players, until you come up with something that fits the setting, adds to the enjoyment of the group, and functions properly under those rules. Doing anything less – perhaps by creating a character that does not function properly, or is overly obnoxious, or who leave nothing for anyone else to do, or (very commonly) by obsessively min-maxing, or digging for exploits, is being a lousy player. Driving away the people that you’re there to interact with is just a way (and perhaps the ONLY way) of losing a role-playing game – even if it’s “winning” at being a troll.

And hopefully there will be no further writing interruptions for a bit…

Eclipse And Pulp Mad Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basics (34 CP):

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

Special Abilities (32 CP):

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

Most Mad Scientists will also take Pacts, typically

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

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

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

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