Eclipse: Hiten Raiju, Thunder Warrior

Today (And for a few more times coming up) we have an unusual-for-me request – a weapons expert. I usually tend a lot more towards spellcasters, simply because I can play around with medieval weapons in real life. On the other hand… a genuine weapons expert in d20 is going to have some form of magic to work with anyway; it’s simply too important to ignore.

In this case, I’ll be building this character around using the Guisarme

Why the Guisarme and not, say, the Duom? Or Talenta Sharrash? Or Executioner’s Mace? Or Spiked Chain? Or Minotaur Greathammer? Or Scorpion-Tail Whip? Or various other oddities that have been published at one time or another?

Mostly because almost all of those have serious problems. They’re from Dragon magazine or third party sources (and not allowed in many campaigns), were nerfed by errata or in Pathfinder, have blatant typos in the information on them, have a primary advantage (such as being reach weapons that can attack adjacent targets) that’s easily and cheaply purchased in Eclipse, are exotic weapons with benefits that fail to outweigh the cost of learning to use them, have no prices, come from unique sources that aren’t available in many campaigns,, or simply (and worst of all from my viewpoint) make no sense. The Guisarme, however, is from the SRD, is unchanged in Pathfinder, and actually makes sense – as demonstrated by the fact that it’s a real-world weapon. It’s also got decent damage, Reach and Trip – both of which are quite useful.

You could also go with Falchion, and double up the Reach bonus while eliminating the ability to ignore it and get much the same result with 18-20/x2 Criticals instead of 20/x3 – but that’s less helpful than it seems once Luck comes into play.

Since I find that some visuals and background always help bring some focus to vague requests (“A weaponsmaster who does a lot of damage”), I’ll be pulling some background from THIS character. Just watch out for Inuyashu, Shippo, and Kagome…

Finally, this build won’t be taking the Ubercharger route, or anything similar. Eclipse simply includes too many ways to no-sell single attacks, no matter how overwhelming they are – which means that all the alpha-strike builds are often going to find themselves out of luck. What we want here is a high BAB, extra attacks, a high Base Damage, and a lot of tricks. That way this guy will have a lot of things to do even if someone negates his favorite attack and will get a lot of chances to inflict decent amounts of damage.

Hiten Raiju, Level Two Thunder Warrior

Basic Attributes (3.5 32 Point Buy): Str 16 (18, +4), Int 14 (+2), Wis 12 (+1), Con 14 (+2), Dex 14 (+2), Cha 8 (-1).

Racial Modifiers: Yokai Human: Bonus Feat (+6 CP), Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Half Cost (3 CP).

Yokai Humans are naturally attuned to the energies of negative emotions. This translates to a form of Dominion: if they can get enough people to hate and fear them, and are utterly obnoxious villains who commit all kinds of evil acts just for the fun of it, they get Dominion Points based on the area they terrorize. Technically this is Specialized Dominion, and worth 3 CP. Of course, it also comes with a minor disadvantage; Yokai Humans always show obvious signs of their dread heritage, They are widely, and for rather obvious good reasons, distrusted (-3 CP).

Available Character Points: 72 (L2 Base) +10 (Disadvantages) +4 (Clan Duties) +18 (Human, L1, L2 Feats) = 104 CP.

Basic Purchases (68 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +2, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (+6) / Pole Arms Only, Guisarme Only (12 CP)
  • Hit Points: 16 (L1-2d8, 8 CP)+12 (Immortal Vigor) +24 (4 x [Con Mod + Str Mod]) = 52 HP
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +2 (Con) = +4.
    • Reflex +0 (Purchased) +2 (Dex) = +2.
    • Will +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +1 (Wis) = +3.
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP).
  • Skill Points: 4 SP (4 CP) +20 (Fast Learners. Upgrade Human Fast Learner to Double Effect only for buying Adept Skills (+1 CP), buy Fast Learner Specialized for Increased Effect (Skills), Corrupted / only for buying Adept skills (4 CP)) +10 (5 x Int Mod) = 34 SP.
    • Adept x 2 (buys four skills of choice and four Martial Arts for half cost, 12 CP). All Adept Skills at +5 Base (20 SP), leaves 14 SP left over for other skills.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Shimmermail) +2 (Dex) +2 (Shield) = 18 (Or more if Shield effect augmented). This is quite variable depending on what Martial Art and Enhancements he is currently using.
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30′ + 30′ (Enhancement) = 60′.

Usual Weapons:

  • Guisarme: (Storm Fist Style): +13/+13/+8 (+6 BAB +3 Comp +4 Str), 3d8+6, Crit 20/x3, 15′ Optional Reach, drawn as a free action, +2 to Trip Attacks, may use Whirlwind Attack, no penalty for use in tight spaces.
  • Javelin: +7/+7 (+0 BAB +2 Dex +4 Str +1 Martial Art), 1d10+4, Crit 20/x2, 30′ Range Increment 80′, on a critical hit the target must make a DC 19 Fortitude Save or suffer a -2 penalty on Attacks, AC, and Saves and a 20% chance of spell failure for 2d4 rounds. This will not work on creatures two sizes or more larger than the user or who are immune to critical hits. It also looks like the user is throwing small lightning bolts.
  • Shikon Jewel Shard: Two instances of Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (6 floating CP) / only changes once per user, only to buy magical boosts that are in-theme for the character. Basically, this is a 2 CP relic that’s different for each character – although it’s only useful to those who HAVE a magical theme. This brings his Thunder Yokai Ki (see below) into action.

Special Abilities (36 CP):

  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Adds (Str Mod) to (Con Mod) for HP Purposes, Specialized and Corrupted / applies to levels 1-6 only (6 CP).
  • Grasp Of Sun Wukong: Anime Master, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Pole Arms Only, Guisarme Only. This allows the user to wield a Guisarme that is “one size larger” (well, usually just heavier) than usual (2 CP).
  • Iron Stave Grip: Immunity/the reach of your own weapon (Common, Minor, Minor, Specialized / only for Pole Arms, 2 CP). This talent allows the user to ignore the Reach quality of pole arms when he or she does not wish to use it – allowing them to threaten and attack adjacent spaces with ease.
  • Will Of Destruction: Lunge, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for Guisarme (2 CP). This useful talent allows the user to increase his or her effective Reach with a Guisarme by five feet.
  • Spirit Of Steel: Immunity/the distinction between weapons and the self (Common, Minor, Major, Specialized in Pole Arms, Corrupted for Guisarme Only, 2 CP). The user’s Guisarmes are an extension of themselves. They are treated as natural weapons and any touch-based powers and “unarmed” combat enhancements or martial arts that the user possesses operate through them.
  • Honing The Blades: Augmented Attack / +2 Damage with Pole-Arms, Corrupted / only with Guisarme (4 CP). This effectively increases the base damage of a Guisarme from 2d4 to 2d6.
  • Demon Ki Mastery: Innate Enchantment: All Spell Level Zero (1/2) or One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated (1000 or 2000 GP Base), Corrupted for Reduced Cost / each individual effect requires an specially-crafted token to work .Up to 8500 GP Base Value (6 CP). In theory – at least in 3.5 if not in Pathfinder – this costs 220 XP to activate everything. In this case, I’m going to ignore that since a single adventure a level behind the rest of the party will pay off enough XP to catch that up.
    • Broach Of Defense: L0. Lesser Force Shield (+2 Shield Bonus to AC, x.7 Personal-Only, 700 GP).
    • Buckle Of Might: L1, Enhance Attribute (Str) +2 (x.7 Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Enduring Girding: L1, Immortal Vigor I (x.7 Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Ring Of Clay: L1 Morphic Touch (Personal-Only x.7, Guisarme Only, x.5 – 700 GP).
    • Runic Guisarme: L1 Lead Blades (Guisarme Only [raises damage to 3d6], x.5 = 1000 GP).
    • Thunder Bracers: Lo Weapons Mastery: +3 Competence Bonus to BAB with Guisarme (Personal Only x.7 = 700 GP).
    • Void Gloves: L0 Void Sheathe (Guisarmes Only, x.5, no more than (Dex Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) at a time x.8 = 400 GP). The user can put his or her Guisarmes away… somewhere. Don’t ask where).
    • Wind Fire Wheels: Personal Haste (60′ Move, Bonus Attack on Full Attack = 2000 GP).

Morphic Touch (Transmutation 1, Casting Time: One Swift Action, Components V, S, Range Touch, Target Weapon or Armor Touched, Duration ten minutes/level, Saving Throw None. Lets you make the weapon or armor touched look however you like. For armor Max Dex increases by one and Armor Check Penalties are reduced by two. Weapons can be drawn as a free action and may be used in confined spaces without penalty.

  • Lung Ki: Shaping, Specialized for double effect (Cantrips) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for weapons magic tricks, requires the use of a rune-inscribed staff (or pole-arm shaft…) as a focus (4 CP).
    • Reflex Training (Extra Actions Variant), Specialized and Corrupted / only to “cast” weapons magic tricks, requires the use of a rune-inscribed staff (or pole-arm shaft…) as a focus (2 CP).
    • 1d6 (4) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for spell enhancement, only to enhance shaping-based Weapons Magic Tricks (2 CP).
    • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore the spell enhancement pool, above (4 CP).
      .
      Lung Ki allows the user to work weapon-enhancing spells of up to level three as supernatural abilities – albeit not very many of them beyond level zero during any one fight.

Sample Level Zero Effects:

  • Call Weapon: an unattended weapon leaps into your hand from up to thirty feet away as a swift action.
  • Fast Draw: a weapon on your person appears in your hand as a swift action.
  • Mend Weapon: A swift-action Mend that only works on weapons.
  • Weapon Blaze: Cause your weapon to glow as a free action, gaining a +2 Circumstance Bonus on Intimidation and Feint attempts.
  • Wind Weapon: You conjure a normal weapon for one minute as a swift action.

Sample Level One Effects:

  • Adamant Strike: Weapon acts as Adamant for one minute.
  • Deafening Clang
  • Fancy Footwork: Gain +5′ Natural Reach for one minute as a swift action.
  • Magic Weapon
  • Master’s Parry: Block 15 points of incoming damage as an immediate action.
  • Sudden Strike: Make a single attack at your full BAB as a swift action.
  • Sweep: As per Burning Hands, but Force Damage.
  • True Strike
  • Warding Blade: Weapon functions as per a Shield spell.
  • Whirlwind Strike: A standard action, otherwise as per Whirlwind Attack.

Sample Level Two Effects

  • Death Blossom: A standard action, as per Whirlwind Attack with +10 reach.
  • Eldritch Weapon II (The Practical Enchanter)
  • Grandmaster’s Parry: Blocks 25 points of incoming damage as an immediate action.
  • Guardian Stance: Weapon provides a +6 shield bonus to AC and negates magic missile attacks.
  • Litany Of Warding
  • Storm Of Blades
  • Whirling Blade
  • Whirlwind Kata (as per Protection From Arrows).
  • Winged Step. Cast as a Swift Action, for the next one minute per level you may take a move action as part of a full attack action.

Sample Level Three Effects:

  • Eldritch Weapon III (The Practical Enchanter)
  • Greater Magic Weapon
  • Lightning Dance: Cast as an immediate action, gain +3 AoO for the next minute.
  • Paragon Defense: Weapon provides a +7 Shield Bonus to AC and negates Magic Missile attacks.
  • Paragon Parry: Blocks 35 points of incoming damage as an immediate action.

.

Skikon no Tama Shard Power: Thunder Yokai Ki

  • Thunder Yokai Ki uses the same basic structure as Lung Ki, but shapes Storm Magic effects instead – allowing the user to employ his or her Guisarme to project blasts or balls of lightning, call up fogs, hurl blasts of wind, and many similar tricks. Not surprisingly, you can also learn Fire Demon Ki, Healing Hand Ki, and lots of other variants. All of them use different focus items and work independently.

Thunder Clan Storm Fist Style (Str):

Surprisingly enough, the Storm Fist style is a gentle one – albeit it generating a bioelectrical display that is incredibly obvious to everyone nearby. Even the weather seems to participate, often providing dramatic bolts of lightning to backlight the user or punctuating his attacks with dramatic crashes of thunder. Of course, when you’re “blows” are often electrical arcs, the speed of your physical movements is often irrelevant.

  • Requires: At least a +2 Melee BAB, Yokai Blood.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power 3, Defenses 4, and Strike.
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Improved Trip, Improved Disarm, Reach, and Whirlwind Attack.
  • Occult Techniques: Storm’s Fury (Inner Strength), Thunderbolt Strike (Touch Strike), Lightning Stride (Vanishing), The Living Storm (Wrath, Electrical).
    • Known Techniques (5): Power 3, Reach, Whirlwind Attack

Thunder Clan Roving Wind Style (Dex).

The wind passes over the earth, and the earth knows it not. No man knows from where it comes or where it goes, it leaves no tracks. It travels where it will, for none may harm it. Practitioners of the Roving Wind Style touch but lightly upon the earth and set down no roots. They seem to drift lightly away from attacks, traveling where they will without harm.

  • Requires: Dex Mod of +1 or more, Light or No Armor.
  • Basic Techniques: Defenses 4, Toughness 4, Synergy/Stealth, and Synergy/Survival,
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Expertise (Trade Attack Bonus for AC), Instant Stand, Mighty Blow, and Mind Like Moon.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Healing Hand, Ki Block, and Light Foot.
    • Known Techniques (4): Defenses 3, Mind Like Moon.

Thunder Clan Lightning Bolt Style (Str)

Given how common the power of Flight is among the Thunder Demon Tribe, it is little surprise that the Clan has an art devoted to hurling missiles (Javelins) against their foes. Given the egotistical nature of the Yokai… it is also not unexpected that the style relies on the power of a pair of Talismans – Bracers Of Hurling that grant thrown weapons the range of a bolt from a Light Crossbow and a Tulthara (Javelins) lets the user have a small thunderbolt / javelin appear in his or her hand whenever he or she wants one.

  • Requires: Use of Charms and Talismans (in this case provided by a World Law since there seem to be very few basic d20 magic items about).
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power 3
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Mighty Blow (Automatic Trip on a critical hit), Expertise (Trade up to -5 AC for up to +5 Attack Bonus), Augmented Bonus (Adds Str Mod to Dex Mod for attacking with Javelins), Blinding Strike (target must save on a critical hit or suffer penalties).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Wrath (Fire), and Ki Focus (+4 Strength).
    • Known Techniques (5): Attack 1, Power 2, Augmented Bonus, Blinding Strike

For his fourth style… how about Dungeon Crasher? That’s quite handy sometimes.

Equipment:

  • Talismans: Shimmermail, Bracers Of Hurling, Tulthara (Javelins).
  • Charms: All-Weather Cloak, Amulet Of The Stallion, Captain’s Torc, Diplomatic Sash, Foothold Boots, Sculptor’s Smoke, and Sealed Helm.
  • Otherwise Hiten has several rune-enscribed Guisarmes to focus his power, a nice outfit, and few bits of basic supplies (food, water, rope, etc) stashed around his person, and a rather nice house. He rarely carries money. Why bother? He takes what he wants from the local peasants.

Hiten is already a formidable damage-dealer and (if he’s running the proper enhancements) a fairly good battlefield controller. He needs a few more levels and tricks to fully handle that role – but that’s sort of inevitable for a level two character. In fact, if he draws on his weapons magic he can already pull stunts like Charging and then going into a Whirlwind that covers a 15′ radius – not all that often, but he CAN.

Of course, he’s also pretty heavily optimized for many games – but physical fighters often need all the help that they can get.

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Eclipse, Exalted Feats, and the Vow Of Poverty

Loh, in the fathomless depths of d20 lurk the books of Exalted Deeds and Vile Darkness. And in them was… a lot of stuff. Quite a lot of it was either silly or honestly didn’t work that well. Still, there’s a question that comes up every so often, and it’s been asked again recently – so here it is:

How would you build the Vow Of Poverty in Eclipse?

In this case… it’s more “How would I build a notably-improved Vow Of Poverty in Eclipse”, because – except for a few special situations and builds – the Vow Of Poverty was a pretty poor option. Just to start with, it made many characters unplayable. You could have mundane simple weapons, basic clothing, a days food, and a spell component pouch – and nothing else. The only other items you could use were potions and spell components, and then only if a friend gave it to you and you used it right away. So no Spellbook, or Holy Symbol, or Thieves Tools, or Alchemy Kit, or Healers Kit. That left a lot of characters pretty much out of luck. Yes, Vow Of Poverty provided some decent bonuses – but a lot of characters need some equipment just to function and most of them use magic items to cover gaps in their abilities and compensate for weakness, not just to get bonuses.

On the other hand, if you happened to be playing a shapeshifter, or were in a low-treasure or low-magic setting, or were using a few specific builds, or no one ever used any tactics… Vow Of Poverty could be quite overpowering. After all, if no one could get much of any items, or you were using a class designed to function without them, then the benefits were pure gravy.

I’m also not going to worry about the level-structure the Vow had. Sure, it sucked in a few people with early bonuses, but trapping players isn’t really what the game is all about and you could take it at any time anyway.

Classically, taking Vow Of Poverty required the expenditure of two Feats / 12 CP – one on Sacred Vow and one on Vow Of Poverty.

Taking the Eclipse version also requires 12 CP:

  • Siddhisyoga: Specialized for Increased Effect (Value of Powers = Value of Treasure Given Up) / The user cannot interface with external magical items, and so cannot use Magic Items other than Potions (taken internally) or Oils (applied to something else) and may use neither Artifacts nor Relics. He or she is also barred from the use of technological equipment that interfaces with the nervous system and cannot use cyberware, treasure given up must be donated to charity or other good works and – when items that must be resold are donated – only counts as the (50%) resale price. The return rate may not be upgraded further: 100% is the maximum (6 CP).

This is “poverty” in d20 adventurer terms; no magic items beyond potions. Baseline d20 worlds are worlds of Wealth By Level, were even first level commoners are doing very very well by real-world medieval standards. Past a certain point in d20… mundane gear means very little.

  • Immunity to Dispelling (Common, Minor, Grand, Specialized / only to protect Siddhisyoga powers, not external spells, potions, or other items (6 CP). The user’s abilities are not affected by Dispel Magic, Greater Dispel Magic, or similar powers, but will not function in an Antimagic Sphere, Dead Magic Zone, or similar.

The upside? Your items cannot be taken away and are immune to targeted dispelling (not that that is a very common tactic since it mostly briefly inconveniences a single character, which is a bad use of an action). The downside? You can upgrade things, but can’t really trade them out and cannot take advantage of party item crafters to double up the value of your gear.

So what will you be buying?

Armor Class Bonuses:

  • Force Armor or Shield +2/4/6/7, Spell Level 0/1/2/3, CL 1/1/3/5, Personal-Only, costs 700/1400/8400/21,000 GP.
  • Barkskin: +2/3/4/5 Natural Armor, Spell Level 2, CL 3/6/9/12, Personal-Only, costs 8400/16,800/25,200/33,600 GP.
  • Shield Of Faith: +2/3/4/5 Deflection, Spell Level 1, CL 1/6/12/18, Personal-Only, costs 1400/8400/16,800/25,200 GP.
    • Base: +10 total Armor/Shield +2 Natural +3 Deflection = 26,200 GP.

Survival Effects:

  • Crystal Of Adaption: Endure Elements 500 GP, add Immunity to Planar Alignment Traits +1000 GP, add Immunity to Positive and Negative Energy Planar Traits +1500 GP.
  • Ring of Sustanence: 2500 GP. Need not eat or drink, needs little sleep.
  • Necklace Of Adaption: 9000 GP, protects against all gases, the user may breathe anywhere.
    • Base: Endure Elements + Sustanence + Necklace of Adaption = 12,000 GP

Attribute Boosts:

  • Individual Attribute Option: +1/2/4/6/7/8 to an Attribute, SL 0/1/2/3/4/5, CL 1/1/3/5/7/9, x 2000 GP (Unlimited Use Use Activated) x.7 (Personal Only) = 700/1400/8400/21,000/39,200/63,ooo GP.
  • Universal Option: +1/2/4/6/7/8 to All Attributes, SL 3/4/5/6/7/8, CL 5/7/9/11/13/15, x 2000 GP (Unlimited Use Use Activated) x.7 (Personal Only) = 21,000/39,200/63.000/92,400/127,400/168,000 GP.
  • Base: +2/4/6/8 = 93,800 GP

Resistance Bonus:

  • Warding Rune: +1/2/3/4 Resistance Bonus to Saves, SL1, CL 1/3/6/9, x 2000 GP (Unlimited Use Use Activated) x.7 (Personal Only) = 700/1400/8400/12,600 GP
    • Base: +3 = 8400 GP.

Damage Reduction:

  • Flesh Ward (Conjuration Variant), DR 1/2/5/7/10 versus choice of Good/Evil/Adamantine/Etc, SL0/1/2/3/4, CL 1/1/3/5/7, x 2000 GP (Unlimited Use Use Activated) x.7 (Personal Only) = 700/1400/8400/21.000/39,200 GP.
  • Base: 10/Evil = 39,200 GP.

Attack Enhancement:

  • Bless Weapon or Magic Weapon: L1 x CL1 x 2000 GP = 2000 GP.
  • Magic Ghost Touch Weapon or Magic Weapon +2: L2 x CL3 x 2000 GP = 12,000 GP.
  • Magic Holy Weapon or Magic Weapon +3: L3 x CL5 x 2000 GP = 30,000 GP
  • Holy “Sword” (or whatever weapon you happen to lie, including unarmed): L4 x CL7 x x 2000 GP (Unlimited Use Use Activated) = 56,000 GP.
    • Base: Holy “Sword”, 56,000 GP. (Actually an upgrade, but close enough).

Special Functions:

  • Phylactery of Faithfulness: 1000 GP.
  • Ring Of Freedom Of Movement: 40,000 GP.
  • True Seeing: L5 x CL9 x 2000 GP (Unlimited Use Use Activated) x.7 (Personal Only) = 63,000 GP.
  • Regeneration: Pearly White Spindle Ioun Stone: Cracked (1/Hour, 3400 GP), Flawed (4/Hour, 18.000 GP), Whole (6/Hour, 20,000 GP)
  • Universal Energy Resistance: L4 x CL7 (For Resistance-10) or CL11 (For Resistance 15) x 2000 GP (Unlimited Use Use Activated) x.7 (Personal Only) x.25 (Quarter Effect) or x.5 (Half Effect) = 9800 GP for Resistance-5, 19,600 GP for Resistance 10, and 30,800 for Resistance 15.
    • Base: Ring Of Freedom Of Movement, True Seeing, Regeneration (Cracked), Resistance 15 = 137,200 GP.

That’s a total of 372,800 GP. Admittedly, that’s a lot – about what you could expect to have at around level sixteen or seventeen – but it lags well behind the 800,000 or so you could expect to have around level twenty and offers no information about epic level stuff.

Of course, Vow Of Poverty also provided up to ten Exalted Feats – although not, of course, the ones that Vow Of Poverty rendered useless.. Now Feats in items are usually valued at about 10,000 GP each – but the problem with Exalted Feats is that most of them were pretty useless and some – for example, improved Familiars, Mounts, or Companions – basically don’t do anything at all in Eclipse.

There were even a bunch of mutually exclusive ones that provided a +1 Luck Bonus once per day. Now that’s not only lazy writing, but it’s hardly worth a Feat. Others provided some minor skill bonuses.

  • Improvisation: SL1 x CL10 x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x.2 (The Pool of Luck Points is limited per day, not per casting) = 4000 GP. The user gets 20 “Luck Points” per day and may spend up to 5 of them to improve any given attack check, skill check, or ability check, declaring the use before the roll. You may take this more than once; that expands the pool size, but not the spending limit.
  • There are a number of Exalted Feats which give +4 to a particular set of saves (usually at a high price, which we won’t be paying attention to) – for example, Poisons and Drugs, Charms and Phantasms, Compulsions, and Disease and Death. These can be duplicated with a special-purpose, personal-only, first level spell effect for (1400 GP).
  • Skill and Check Bonuses are not uncommon: Skill Mastery, SL 0/1/2/3 at CL 1/1/3/5 (for +1/2/4/5 Competence Bonus to All Skills and Checks) x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x.7 Personal Only = 700/1400/8400/21,000 GP.
  • For general-purpose survival consider Ruin Delver’s Fortune: L4 x CL7 x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command Word Activated) x .8 (Four uses / Day) x.5 (each effect may only be used once per day) = 20,160 GP.
  • One provides access to some arcane spell formula. That’s meaningless for a Sorcerer in Eclipse and the total value is only 5100 GP for a Wizard. In this case, what you want is a Runestaff, which can provide some very helpful flexibility.

A few – like the Vow Of Nonviolence or Vow Of Peace – are gamebreaking, not because of their power, but because “I will not harm or kill anyone” puts you pretty out of step with almost any d20 game.

Others provide…

  • +1 Sacred Bonus to AC (Ward Of Light, L1, 1400 GP)
  • Immunity to Fear (A L1 Minor spell or – if you wish to protect the party against Fear, Stunning, and Confusion, Banner Of The Storm’s Eye, 15,000 GP)
  • +4 Spell Resistance Versus Evil Spells (Another L1 effect, falling under Attribute Enhancement, 1400 GP).
  • Minor Healing (Healing Belt x 10, 7500 GP, 30 charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 to heal 2/3/4d8 damage, +2 to Heal Checks).
  • Light Of Purity (L2, Shed bright light in a 10′ radius, shadowy out to 20, 1d4 damage/round to undead).
  • Small Morale bonuses to the user (L1 Inspiring Word, Personal Only, 1400 GP).
  • Add uses of stuff that’s based on Attributes (The attribute boosts cover that. No cost).
  • Let you detect particular types of enemies within 60 Feet (L1, like Detect Undead, or L2 to make it automatic).
  • Provide small boosts to weapon damage (L1 or L2 again, there are many such spells).
  • Inflict a Ravage (an evil/undead only poison) on those you strike. Probably L2 or L3.
  • Adding 3d6 Damage to your Turning attempts (Probably L2, as this is nowhere near as good as Holy Storm).
  • Iron Fist (L1, +2 to the Save DC for your Stunning Fist, one round of being Staggered follows the round of Stunning, 2000 GP).
  • Gentle Wrath (L2, turns your melee damage into nonlethal damage, Personal Only, 8400 GP).
  • Let you use your (Wis Mod) instead of (Str Mod) with a weapon. (L2, Personal Only, 8400 GP).

And that’s about it. There are a few other Exalted Feats that might be worthwhile in some builds, but most of them are pretty much incompatible with Vow Of Poverty. Since a character using this version of Vow Of Poverty will have extra money to buy them – or other useful powers – with, this should work just fine.

Overall, this version still has it’s limitations, but it’s now a viable tool for creating a wide variety of builds. If it’s a general rule in a game, it means that money can be spent on charity, building up kingdoms, caring for orphaned children, and similar projects, rather than just buying more equipment with it.

Dungeon Crasher Style (Str)

There was a point in d20 where the “Dungeon Crasher” option for fighters was fairly widely recommended. After all, it opened up a niche that nobody else really had access to at the time – repositioning opponents without effectively giving up your actions to do it. It wasn’t the most powerful option of all time, but it was one of the few genuinely special toys that fighters could get. Personally I never ran into it much, simply because my games never ran much to Dungeons OR Classes; they tended to be wide-open transdimensonal Eclipse-based space operas where mages had trouble keeping up with martial types because a low-level fighter could be using advanced power armor, a microfusion missile launcher, ultratech grenades, and armored vehicles or spaceships. But there was a recent question about it, and it fits in among the other martial arts requests, so here is a (better edited and much more detailed) version of the quick notes that I gave that questioner to pass on to whoever-it-was that wanted it.

Dungeon Crasher is all about being a living wrecking ball – plowing through walls, traps, and opponents, smashing them between you and solid objects, and ignoring the consequences more or less as if you really were a huge ball of steel. You could build this as a spell or something – I once built a young 1’st edition mage who’s pride and joy was his thesis-project “boots of heavy kicking” that let him kick down doors, punt small creatures, and kick larger ones away from him as if he had 18/00 strength in his legs (only, and only a limited number of times per day, which made them MUCH cheaper than Gauntlets Of Ogre Power) – but this is a fighter thing, so I’m going to go with a nice cheap Martial Art. Any halfway decent Eclipse-built fighter will have several of those anyway.

Dungeon Crasher Style (Str-Based):

Requires: Improved Bull Rush (You no longer suffer an Attack Of Opportunity when you Bull Rush and gain a +4 bonus on your strength check to push back a defender) or equivalent point buy. A high Strength, a BAB of 2+, and an overwhelming desire to smash into things is highly recommended.

Basic Techniques:

  • Defenses 4, Specialized for Double Effect and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Applies to Saves too) / Only versus Traps. This will provide a bonus of +2/4/6/8 to the user’s AC and Saves against traps.
  • Power 4, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / adds +1d6 per level damage to the effects of Bull Rushing someone into a wall or similar obstacle. There’s a better technique later, but the basic technique is a start.

Master Techniques:

  • Breaking: You may add your Dungeon Smasher skill total to your rolls to break things. This can let you smash things REALLY effectively.
  • Sneak Attack 3: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (3d6 per time taken) / only with a successful Bull Rush maneuver ending in a wall to smash the opponent into.
    • Alternatively, you could reduce the maximum Sneak Attack rating to 2 and throw in Mind Like Moon: Specialized for Increased Effect / if the user is Surprised, he or she may roll initiative normally, but the only action they may take in the surprise round is to attempt to Bull Rush an opponent. If all opponents are too far away to be Bull Rushed, the effect is up to a full move towards them. This variant is a bit less damaging, but if surprise is a problem in a game can work surprisingly well.

Occult Techniques:

  • Inner Strength 2: This grants the user 6 or 12 (if taken twice) phantom “Constitution Points” to power other occult abilities with.
  • Light Foot: Specialized for Double Effect. The user may burn one point of Constitution (or a point from Inner Strength or Mana from Resilience) as a free action to gain +60 to a jump check or to Leap or run across water, grease, or other difficult terrain without difficulty / only to Bull Rush a target. This, of course, will let you slam people that you have no reasonable way to reach into walls.
  • Ki Block: Specialized for Increased Effect, The user may burn one point of Constituition or a point from Inner Strength or Mana from Resilience to may make a DC 20 Reflex check to block or dodge a single successful melee attack OR may make a second save (DC 15) against any attack which normally allows a Reflex save. If either save succeeds the effect is normal for a successful save. If both do the effect is entirely negated / Requires the use of a +3 or better shield.

So how does this match up with Dungeon Crasher?

Well, when Dungeon Crasher becomes available at level two (costing one feat) it offers +2 Competence Bonus to AC and Saves versus Traps, a +5 bonus on Strength checks to break a door, wall, or similar obstacle, and the ability to Bull Rush an opponent into a wall or other solid object to inflict 4d6 + twice your Strength bonus (if any) points of bludgeoning damage.

A level two character in Eclipse can spend 5 skill points on this martial art (or half that with Adept). If they have a +4 Strength Modifier (not hard to do in Eclipse if expensive in baseline d20) they’ll have a +9 total – five techniques.

If they take Defenses I, Power II, and Sneak Attack I they get a +2 (Typeless) bonus to AC and Saves versus Traps, a +9 bonus to breaking stuff, and can Bull Rush an opponent into a wall for (5d6 + Str Mod) damage.

That’s not a precise match – the bonus to breaking stuff is +9 instead of +5 and the Bull Rush damage is (5d6 + Str Mod) instead of (4d6 + 2 x Str Mod) which (presuming Str 18 again) would be an average of 21.5 versus 22 – but the overall costs are cheaper. If you really MUST get the average higher… Try taking “Doubled Damage” (6 CP) or persuade the game master that a body-check with a shield counts as using it as a two-handed weapon (which certainly sounds reasonable to ME).

At level six, the Martial Art version will have +4 Skill Ranks, for +2 Techniques/ Putting them both on the “Sneak Attack” effect would put the martial art at a +2 (Typeless) bonus to AC and Saves versus Traps, a +13 bonus to breaking stuff, and let the user Bull Rush opponents into a walls for (11d6 + Str Mod) damage instead of +4 (Competence), +10, and (8d6 + 3 x Str Mod). Still, the total Eclipse cost (presuming Adept) is only 1.5 CP for one-quarter use of Adept and 4.5 Skill points – the cost of one feat instead of two. Sticking another feat into it could upgrade the Martial Art version in all kinds of ways and still cost no more than the original ability.

Rather more importantly, the Martial Art version can continue improving at higher levels with more skill points, up to a maximum of a +8 (Typeless) Bonus to AC and Saves versus traps, (13d6 + Str Mod) damage on smashing targets into things, and an uncapped bonus to breaking things with a couple of extra abilities – being able to Bull Rush across chasms, water, and difficult terrain and being able to block an unlimited amount of damage several times per day. All at the cost of a half-feat plus (Level / 2) skill points. There are ways to boost that even further, but they start involving spending more character points or buying specialized gear.

I must admit that – while the idea is amusing – Dungeon Crasher isn’t my usual style. There’s nothing at all wrong with it of course, but I do tend to have a personal preference for subtle, clever, mages. Fortunately, there are usually other people playing who like being brutal fighters and such, so that my subtle mages have something to hide behind. Ergo, this style is for them.

Martial Arts – The Avalanche Style

While I’ve been too busy to post much for a while, there have been several requests for exotic or highly specialized Martial Arts styles. Those are fairly easy to fit into bits of time, so I’ll be posting a few of them. First up, it’s just about the oldest martial arts style of all.

Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies!

Humans throw stones. And while there are other creatures who do that, humans are unique in the real world in doing so with both force and accuracy. For nearly two million years, rocks were a proto-humans ranged weapon of choice. They were denser than sticks, they flew faster, they hit harder, and it didn’t much matter which way they turned in flight. They hurt. With enough throws, or a single really well-aimed or lucky one, thrown rocks could drive off, injure, or kill almost anything a band of hunter-gatherers was likely to encounter in the way of wildlife. Thrown stones brought safety, knocked fruit out of trees, and supplied meat and bone and hide. Later on various geniuses realized that smacking rocks together could make little sparks of fire and put amazingly sharp cutting edges on otherwise unremarkable pieces of stone, while tossing larger rocks from high places could readily do enough damage to seriously injure really large animals – but those were feats of high lithic technology, not the time-tested basics of throwing rocks that had served the Homids and proto-Homids for so long. Still, there are reasons why such advances in rock technology took so long to come into general use. For an example of those reasons, consider…

“Ow! Sharp chips flying! No Bang Rocks! Rocks Good Way They Are! PUT SOMEBODIES EYE OUT! WORSE THAN POINTY STICKS!”

“What you mean, “Make Fire”?!?! Fire BAD!! Burn up camp!!! Burn up US!!!! Throw rocks at demon who want MAKE FIRE AND KILL US ALL!!!!!”

“Hold heavy rock and stand on crumbly edge of cliff? NO! NOT WANT GO SPLAT! GIVE “GENIUS” A PUSH AND SHOW HOW WORKS!!!”

And thus was flint knapping and the controlled use of fire and heights delayed by half a million years.

Now, at least in d20 terms, while Strength, Dexterity, and Wisdom (through Perception) all do play a role in throwing rocks, the great keys to accurate throwing are:

1) Picking out a reasonably round, non-crumbly, rock of about the right weight. This may take some practice to learn to do it at a glance, but it’s not that big a trick.

2) Subconsciously working out angles and the resulting trajectories for the actual throw. This is considerably more difficult, but it is doable with some fairly straightforward unconscious computations. Basic ballistics isn’t really THAT complicated. In fact, in humans… it’s blatantly instinctive.

3) Timing your release. This is the really difficult part; natural neurons aren’t particularly precise oscillators, which means that achieving precise timing using them involves averaging the output of a LOT of the things. Potentially, billions of them. THAT is the part of this that requires a big brain. Ergo, this is an Intelligence-based style.

Which gives us…

Avalanche Style (Int):

  • Requirements: Avalanche Style has no special requirements beyond having functional hands and shoulders – although higher attributes are, as always, better. Sadly, due to this lack, it offers no occult techniques. It does, however, apply to both throwing basic rocks and to effects that throw rocks at targets (These include at least some applications of Avalanche Of Devastation, Earthbolt, Hail Of Stone, Hurtling Stone, Launch Item, Magic Stone, Scatterspray, and Stone Call as well as a few psionic abilities and other tricks)
  • Basic Abilities: Attack 4 (If used with something that offers a save instead of an attack check, +1 to Save DC per +2 Attack), Power 4, Strike, Toughness 2, and Synergy (Craft/Stone).
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Blinding Strike, Mind Like Moon, Rapid Shot (Thrown Rocks), and Quick Draw (Rocks).

How much damage does a thrown rock do? And what is it’s range increment? d20 has answers! In fact, d20 has lots of DIFFERENT answers. ranging from the simple to the absurd. Ergo it’s time to take a look at the real world and see what we find there. After all, people do spend a good deal of time throwing small round objects around so we ought to be able to find something to use as data.

For our purposes, a good throwing rock is comparable to a baseball – a commonly thrown item on which there are all kinds of statistics available. They’re nice and round, you get about three to the pound, and professionals quite commonly throw them the sixty feet from the pitchers mound to the batter with considerable accuracy. With a good deal less accuracy they are fairly often thrown up to three hundred feet. Ergo, they have a range increment of about thirty feet. a maximum effective range of 5 range increments, and can be thrown up to twice that far (albeit with no real chance of hitting what you aim at unless it moves to attempt to catch it). A well-chosen throwing rock is tennis ball sized or a bit smaller because it’s denser than a baseball – but that doesn’t matter a lot. So:

Well-Chosen Thrown Rock: 1d2+Str Mod, 30′ Range Increment, Crit 19-20/x2. Weight 1/3 Lb, Special/every human is considered to be proficient with thrown rocks. (Fortunately for would-be rock throwers, taking “Strike” upgrades the base damage to an easier-to-roll 1d4).

Rocks are really pretty lousy weapons by later standards, but they do have the advantage of being free if you pick them up yourself. Adventurers who actually want to throw rocks (there are probably a few out there) will doubtless prefer to give a kid a couple of coppers to gather up a bag full (the standard 50) rather than wasting their own time on the project.

“Come on… this is basic stuff! It’s not like you need to be a rock(et) scientist!”

Now, if someone wants to build a character around this instead of picking a more effective weapon to build a martial art around, it will probably be through something like the Hurling Hands spell:

Swift Hurling:

Transmutation, L1 Bard, Sorcerer/Wizard, Components: V, S, M (the missile or missiles to be launched), Casting Time: One standard action, Range: Touch, Target: Special, Duration: Instantaneous, Saving Throw: None, Spell Resistance: No

Swift Hurling will launch up to three arrows, bolts or sling stones as if fired from an appropriate weapon or hurl up to three items such as daggers, shuriken, rocks, flasks of holy water, or bottles of alchemical preparations, as if the caster had thrown them. Outside of the fact that the missiles need not be drawn and no mundane launcher (bow, crossbow, etc), is required, this is a normal attack – an attack check is required, range modifiers apply, and relevant Feats, attribute bonuses, and similar effects all apply normally. Where more than one possible mundane launcher or mode applies, such as a longbow or composite longbow, the choice is up to the caster. All shots are made at the user’s full BAB, they need not be launched at the same target, and the user may opt to either roll once for all the shots against a single target or for each independently.

I suspect that this sort of thing still won’t make for a terribly effective character in the long run, but it can certainly be reasonably effective early on – which, come to think of it, is a fair summary of the overall history of rock throwing. Humans may have outgrown it now – but it was a very useful talent to have back in the beginning.

Valdemar D20 Part III – Building Heralds and Companions

So what about game statistics? Well…

Companions:

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

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

Companions are basically Modified Light Warhorses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heralds:

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

So: your basic Gift will look something like this.

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

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

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

Well, for that buy

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

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

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

Mage-Gift:

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

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

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

To price this, buy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 week, 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 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!