Eclipse, Lesser Path Magics, Part II

Magical packages at the 18-24 CP level are fairly major investments for a low-level character, and invariably require a reasonable level of talent and/or working on developing their talents from fairly early childhood. As such, they’re quite uncommon; a village is unlikely to have more than a few people with powers on this scale – and it’s not uncommon for someone with the potential to never really put in the work to develop it effectively.

It’s worth noting that all of these packages – as well as the ones from last time around – are set up as fairly high-efficiency options. NPC’s typically aren’t all that optimized, but it’s also true that the point balance on minor villagers is pretty unimportant. PC’s are generally assumed to be a lot more talented than most NPC’s (although not as much so as in first edition, where actually having the potential to go past “level zero” was reserved for the one-in-a-thousand who had “adventurer potential”) though – and point balance matters a lot more to them. Ergo, these packages are all optimized to where they’d be a reasonable investment for a player character who wants some convenient low-level magical packages to pick from.

Witchcraft (18+ CP)

Many folk have small knacks. Before they know what is and isn’t possible… they can stir the mobile over the crib to delight their infant eyes, they can tell what the cat is saying, or call the butterflies. But such talents are very personal, and tend to fade as children begin to come in groups. What fun is a trick when it can’t be shared? 

But in a world of magic, some children refuse the abandon those tricks. Instead they develop their inner strengths, expand on those tiny psychic knacks, and – eventually – turn them into actual useful powers. Where things go from there tends to depend a lot on how the other children reacted to the kid who kept talking to themselves and doing weird things.

Witchcraft is probably the most common magical package of all. It’s fairly low-powered, but it is versatile, efficient, and extremely cheap. It also allows it’s users to take Pacts – each worth +6 CP to spend on advanced Witchcraft powers. Since a character can take two Pacts at level one, and another at levels three, seven, and twelve, a mere 18 CP can get you 48 CP worth of Witchcraft. Throw in a few extra Power and you can have quite a lot of tricks.

  • At the most basic, take Witchcraft II (12 CP) with Two Pacts – paying for +3d6 Power (6 CP) and Rite Of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized / only to recover Power (6 CP). That gives you a choice of three of the twelve basic abilities and enough Power to make good use of them. For some sample selections…
    • Expert Healer: Healing, Hyloka, and Witchfire.
    • Illusionist: Glamour, Shadowweave, and Witchsight.
    • Crafter: Hand Of Shadows, Witchfire, and Witchsight.
    • Shaman: Dreamfaring, Glamour, and The Inner Eye.
    • Telepath: The Adamant Will, Glamour, and The Inner Eye.
    • Combat (or Vengeful) Witch: Elfshot, Infliction, and Witchfire.
    • Mystic: Healing, Shadowweave, and Witchsight.
  • For another 6 CP you can get some more power and another four basic abilities or an advanced ability. Go ahead, learn to contact beings on other planes, or to project your spirit as a formidable creature, or channel spirits, or become a shadow, or to take minor animal forms, or any of a lot of other things.

The basic Bokor (Binder) Package also falls under Witchcraft, and costs 24 CP. Similarly, the Sith and Jedi 24 CP packages can be found in this category.

I tend to recommend that – unless they’re primary casters or extreme specialists – most characters take some Witchcraft. It can provide a wide variety of tricks and boosts quite cheaply – and thus gives fighter- and rogue-types a nice boost.

Entreaty Magic (21 CP)

The art of calling on mystical entities to empower your spells directly is quite versatile – if still limited to the type of effects that any specific entity is able to supply – but demands a fair amount of service to such entities to pay for their power. While 21 CP worth of Entreaty Magic only covers spells of up to level two and requires that the user have a minimum level of three to fully control those second level effects – entreating minor entities of Childbirth and Healing, Villages and Households, Hunting and Farming, Nature, and similar fields is unlikely to lead to any especially burdensome demands on a low-level character – and (unlike the 12 CP Hedge Wizard package) can both include effective offensive and defensive spells and is easily expanded to greater powers (+12 CP and a minimum level of five for level three effects, although getting up to the maximum of level six effects gets expensive) if some villager should prove to have enough magical talent for that.

Shamanic Magic (24 CP)

While closely related to Entreaty Magic, Shamanic Magic includes long-term (if very minor) blessings, some minor animalistic shapeshifting, and the ability to intervene on behalf of the dying, as well as the ability to call on various spirits for magic. A shaman will never possess vast magical power, but he or she is extremely flexible and well-suited to providing the kind of magical services that a small village or wandering tribe needs.

Spellbinder (24 CP)

A Spellbinder possesses a good deal of Mana, a vivid imagination, and a strong will with which to channel that Mana into the effects they imagine. That’s not a very efficient way to work magic, and it’s very prone to backfires and side effects since a lot of the Mana they shove in discharges at random – but it is quite versatile. A Spellbinder can produce virtually any arcane effect within their level limits, even if those same wild discharges keep them from storing their magic or using it to create magical objects.

  • 3d6 Mana with the Unskilled Magic option, Specialized for Increased Effect (only costs 1 Mana per Spell Level) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only usable for unskilled magic, calls for Gestures (limiting the user to light or medium armor and at least one free hand), Incantations (incoherent screaming works though), and a spell component pouch (variants may use other foci) (12 CP).
    • The Casting Level equals the user’s Level or (Mana Spent + Int / 3), whichever is less.
    • The maximum level of effect is the users base Will Save Bonus or (Wis / 3), whichever is less.
    • Keeping the side effects (normally of the same level as the spell attempted or one level less) down to inconvenient effects rather than dangerous ones requires a Cha check at a DC of (6 + 2 x the Mana Used). The side effects are always up to the game master.
    • The user MIGHT (GMO) gain “free” mana to use if under great emotional stress.
    • The user may invest an additional (Spell Level) mana points in a spell with a duration to keep it running until he or she drops it, something dispels or negates it, or he or she chooses to recover that mana. This is, however, limited to a maximum of (Con/3) levels of spells.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only recovers at 1d6 per half-hour of rest or sleep (6 CP).
  • +2 to the user’s Base Will Save (6 CP).

Spellbinders are quite rare, and often become actual adventurers (usually taking some Reflex Training and more Mana so as to get off more spells), although even if they pump their Wisdom, Intelligence, and Will Saves they are unlikely to reach particularly high-level magics. On the other hand, they can cast a (sloppy) version of pretty much any low-level arcane spell that you might want – including Hedge Wizardry effects – which is pretty useful and can keep Shield and Mage Armor up all day at first level, which is pretty handy.

Animist (24 CP)

An animist depends on talking things into helping him or her out – usually by simple appeals, but sometimes by trickery. It’s a subtle art, but one that requires little or no personal power besides a persuasive tongue.

  • Immunity/the normal limits of Diplomacy and Spoken Language (Common, Minor, Major, 12 CP). This ability allows the user to effectively communicate with ANYTHING – and to attempt to persuade it to help them out. They can speak with plants and animals, attempt to persuade locks and doors to open, fires to leave open a path of escape, spirits to answer, air to remember when it was stone, or stone to remember when it was molten rock or simple sand or whatever it once was. It’s usually fairly easy to persuade things to act within their natures – for example, doors are made to let people through, so getting one to open itself is fairly easy. Getting a lock to open without the key is considerably harder; locks are MADE to keep unauthorized people out.
  • Minor Privilege/most things that are not naturally communicative are pleased to be spoken to, and will be reasonably friendly (3 CP).
  • Spirit Favors: Major from the spirits of the physical world, minor from the spiritual entities of the elemental and appropriate alignment planes (9 CP).

An animist can occasionally pull off some pretty major stunts – getting a massive avalanche or tornado to turn aside, getting a ship safely through a hurricane, triggering an eruption, or otherwise massively influencing the course of events – but for the most part they’re going to be doing things like asking a rope to tie itself securely when they toss one end to the top of a cliff, or getting a lockpick to twist itself around to help them open something – and they have few limits on such minor tricks.

Cultist (24 CP).

Cultists are a bit tricky in d20. After all whether you are calling upon strange gods, eccentric demons, gibbering lovecraftian horrors, fey, or long-forgotten entities… they’re very rarely offering you anything that you can’t get in much more socially acceptable ways. In Eclipse, the answer is simple: the abilities in the Cultist package are generally Corrupted for Reduced Cost or Increased Effect / they have some weird side effect and call for odd, exclusive, rituals and such, Maybe they attract strange creatures, or corrupt nature, or spawn strange weather and other problems, or they drive their users insane if they overuse their powers, or whatever. That makes a cultists powers relatively quick and easy to obtain and simultaneously provides a reason for their being social objections to the cult. Even if they’re not evil… cultists make difficult neighbors The Standard Cultist Powers are simply:

  • 3d6 Mana, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Rune Magic, whatever limitations the specific cult involves (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted /only to restore the Mana Reserve for Rune Magic, requires a brief cult ceremony, specific cult limitations (4 CP).
  • Adept, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Two Skills Only (Rune Magic Casting and Mastery for a specific field), specific cult limitations (2 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus, adds (Second Attribute Bonus of Choice) to (Skills based on chosen attribute for Rune Magic), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only for Rune Magic, only for the Cult Rune Magic Skills, specific cult limitations (6 CP).
  • Rune Magic Casting and Mastery, Specialized for Increased (Double) Effect / doubling values only applies to the base skill points at level one, not to attribute or other bonuses, spellcasting is always seen as strange and unnatural, specific cult limitations. +4/+4 SP (+8/+8 to base total) (4 CP).
  • Knowledge / Religion +1 (1 CP). +3 Speciality in their own cult (1 CP).

Cultists do need an attribute bonus to really shine – but one attribute of 14 is quite sufficient. That will give them (+8 Base +6 (Augmented Bonus) = +14 in Rune Mastery and Casting at level one – an effective caster level of seven and access to third level spells in that specific field. That also, of course, helps to explain why Cults – despite all their negative effects – hang on. If the cultists of Shangarath The Fiery One all happen to be able to throw 7d Fireballs (among other fire effects), then attacking them might go really badly for a bunch of low-level types. Even without an attribute bonus… Burning Hands or Scorching Ray at caster level four can really ruin a normal persons day.

Cultists strike an interesting social dynamic: thanks to whatever weird side effects they produce, nobody really wants them around, or wants to get involved with them – until something is going badly wrong, at which point the relatively high-powered magic they can wield may suddenly be absolutely critical to the communities survival. Thus Cultists are usually tolerated, if isolated, parts of the community.

On a practical character-design level… Cultist magic tends to be extremely efficient at getting a narrow field up to mid-range power levels at low level – but thereafter slows down drastically, since another +19 skill points will only get them to +33 at level twenty. Admittedly, that’s eighth level spells and an effective caster level of sixteen – but it’s in one narrow field, you don’t get the price breaks for being a cultist on more Mana, and the rate of increase beyond level one is a lot less impressive than it is for a more conventional spellcaster with a proper, general, education.

There are quite a few other 24 CP Archetypes and Roles up that also fall into this category. As a sampling we have the  Aristocrat, Berserker, Commander, Laborer, Magus, Messenger, Shadow, Wanderer, and Wise Companion, Broken Spirit, Brute, Elder, Great Leader, Official, Scholar, and Shaman, Centurion, El Diablo, Performer, Romantic, and Thief, Fortunate Scion, Merchant, Seducer, and Stoic, (and the How-to-use-them guide), as well as the Star Trek Power Packages Ensign, infiltrator, and Engineer, Captain and Second In Command, Transporter Officer, Counselor, Mystic Counselor, and Doctor, Chief Security Officer, Cosmic Wedgie, Annoying Brat, the Mudd, and Holographic Characters.

Sacredos Pastor (24 CP)

The Sacredos Pastor is the intermediary between the greater realms and the circumscribed worlds of the peasants and farmers – and a dabbler in many different forms of magic. In practice, this is probably the most efficient package on this entire list, exploiting the inherent bonuses of first level Clerical Spellcasting, Ritual Magic, Witchcraft, a Shamanic Familiar, and Creating Relics to provide all the magical services a small village will normally need outside of serious emergency situations – although those will, as always, call for adventurers.

The Sacredos Paster – and the Oath Of The Postulant that leads to it – were actually part of an experiment; I rather wondered what might happen when a visitor introduced a very high-efficiency social optimizer package in the guise of a religious philosophy to a fairly classical d20 world. Sadly, the game folded up all too soon, and so I never got to find out. Oh well.

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

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

 

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Eclipse – The Sagacious Advisor

This package gives you the classic sage, mentor, or royal advisor – someone who can tell you that the unseasonable winter blighting the land is almost certainly the work of the Winter King wielding the reforged Fimbulwinter Blade from his Otherworldly Castle Of Ice, and that some heroes must journey there to stop him by shattering the blade once more so that the seasons will turn properly for another age of the world.

He will even – after enough research (waiting to draw the right card since he only gets new ones for his Hexcrafting magic when important things happen) that the situation has become utterly dire and the party has had to hold off multiple attacks by Polar Bears, Winter Wolves, and other ice-monsters – be able to open a path into the mystic realms of the Seasonal Spirits, so that you can reach the Castle Of Ice to do battle with the Winter King.

He won’t know that the Winter King was recently overthrown by his treacherous son Prince Iceheart wielding the reforged Fimbulwinter blade, and that to restore the balance of the world the party will have to rescue the old king, defeat the Prince, shatter Fimbulwinter once more, and perform a ritual to reinstate the link between the Realm of Winter and it’s once and future King. After all, that information is far too recent to appear in the Sagacious Advisors ancient tomes – but he can still get the party started on their adventure.

Similarly, he can put the dying king afflicted by the nigh-unstoppable mystic venom into stasis, and greatly slow the decay of the land that ruler is linked to – but he will have to stick around to keep recasting that stasis (after all, it starting to wear off is probably an important enough event to justify refreshing his powers), leaving the quest for the cure up to the player characters.

Of course, if you wind up having to take a Sagacious Advisor along on your adventures – perhaps you need one of those vastly powerful spells performed at a particular place – then you will have to babysit them through the trip and then protect them from the inevitable massive attack while they perform their ritual casting because they probably won’t be any use at all along the way.

The Sagacious Advisor (Usually an NPC):

Basic Attributes: Str 8, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 16 (Pathfinder 15 Point Buy).

Available Character Points: L3 Base (96 CP) -18 (Untrained) +12 (L1 and L3 Feats) = 90 CP.

Basics (25 CP): Hit Dice: 3d6 (6 CP), Skill Points +8 (Fast Learner at L0, 6 CP) +6 (6 CP) = 14 (six knowledges at +1, 8 points for other skills), BAB +0 (0 CP), Saves +0 (Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves, 4 CP), Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP).

Other Abilities (65 CP):

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect: only for Skills, only for Knowledge, Skills, user must spend a lot of time rummaging through ancient tomes and lore, information often contains gaps (especially about recent changes) that will need to be filled by adventurers, user is afflicted with great curiosity and a certain lack of caution (12 CP).
  • +6 Base Caster Levels, Specialized in Hexcrafting. (18 CP).
  • Hexcrafting: 4 Free Invocations (8 CP), 3 Cards (8 CP), 2 Fixed Cards (6 CP). All Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the user must fumble around with assorted arcane ingredients, speak, and gesture to do anything at all. The Cards are also Specialized for Reduced Cost / Ritual Only, it requires at least one minute of ritual per card expended to create an effect.
  • Berserker with Odinpower (+15 to Base Caster Level, -2 to AC) and +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / each use only allows the casting of a single spell, user forfeits his or her dexterity bonus while casting, only half effect when using a free invocation, (4 CP).
  • Choice of Houngan Conjurer (9 CP) or Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys (9 CP).

While the Sagacious Advisor is useful to have around, and makes a wonderful government official… he or she does not have the quick, or regularly-usable, power needed to be a real threat to the current rulers or to overshadow the player characters. Like it or not, he or she is effectively a plot device. Still, every so often, the Sagacious Advisor can perform a major ritual – opening the path to a realm of myths, transporting a city away from an attacking horde to an unknown alien realm (which will, of course, offer it’s own menaces and which will urgently need exploring), or stopping that volcanic eruption (while simultaneously upsetting some Elementals) – and then be quite unable to deal with the further consequences. Que the player characters having a new mission.

Given that the game is supposed to be focused on the player characters, that’s a good thing. I’ve played in entirely too many games where the megapowerful NPC’s could (and obviously SHOULD) easily fix the problem – but it gets shoved off onto the player charters for some unspecified reason. As an example from a game I once played in…

(My character) “So let me get this straight, The kings widely-loved daughter has been Kidnapped. So the King sent his most skilled (high-level) guards out to scoop up what must be the six weirdest, most incompatible (we had a Drow, a Minotaur, my chain-smoking modern Egyptian tomb robber who’d been drafted by Anubis to be a priest in a fantasy world, and several other weird types), people in the capital, whom he had no information on, who are not known as adventurers, and who he has no reason to trust, to send after her. He’s doing this on the advice of his supposedly good-guy Mind Flayer advisor. We’ve been told that she’s being held in a legendary tomb in the middle of the enchanted forest by bandits. The King refused to lend us a guide, or any guards to provide backup, or give us a map, or provide us with any gear. And we will be thrown in the dungeons if we don’t take on this mission. Well… Now that we’re approaching the forest… I vote that we make a break for it!”

The game master was extremely surprised when the party assumed that we were, at best, a sacrificial diversion for the real rescue mission – and that, at worst, the “lawful good king” was actually covering up the elimination of an uncooperative daughter. And why would we be asking for gear or a map or help? We had our first-level character creation funds!

With this build… that sort of thing is not a problem. The Sagacious Advisor can meet the magical needs of the kingdom, tell the party where to find the necessary plot coupons and mcguffins, and still remain low level and incapable of doing the actual adventuring himself. It also means that – in a setting where most of the world is low level – one can fairly readily find or train an effective royal advisor without having to assume that they just appear from nowhere when it’s convenient.

Nobilis and Eclipse – Estates, Persona, and Domain

“Estates” are one of the core concepts of Nobilis – and are entirely subjective, described by seven “points” worth of sentences, assigning more “points” to more central properties. Your estate could be Time, or Dragons, or Clockwork, or Pillows, or Cooking Programs, or Sid Mier’s Computer Games, or pretty much anything else. It really doesn’t matter what you call it, since it’s defined by those (usually four or five) sentences – not by external expectations. Are you a power of “Cold”? Perhaps…

  • (2) Cold isolates the heart, destroying an entities traits.
  • (2) Cold is an undisturbed void, rejecting reality through not caring.
  • (1) Cold is the death of self, with mind and body soon to follow.
  • (1) Cold is outside, always waiting to force its way in.
  • (1) Cold is eternal and timeless, while all else passes.

Or perhaps…

  • (3) Cold negates energy, for all ends in cold.
  • (1) Cold crystallizes, preserving what lies within.
  • (1) Cold allows things to function far beyond their limits.
  • (1) Cold opens the way for new beginnings.
  • (1) Cold lurks in the depths.

Or perhaps…

  • (2) Cold rides the winds everywhere, stealing heat and life.
  • (1) Cold kills, desiccates, and shatters.
  • (1) Cold is winter, the season of scarcity, famine, and death.
  • (2) Cold is ice, from the smallest snowflake to the greatest glacier.
  • (1) Cold isolates and entraps, preventing or forcing interaction.

The Nobilis book also gives a couple of other examples for “cold”.

  • (2) Cold freezes things.
  • (2) Cold makes things sick.
  • (1) Cold is melancholy.
  • (1) Cold descends.
  • (1) Cold is the snow and the ice and the dark.

Or:

  • (1) Cold slows things down.
  • (1) Cold chills the heart.
  • (3) Cold brings silence, stillness, and peace.
  • (2) Cold is driven to fill emptiness.

Or you could be a power of mathematics, necessity, finance and logic, and still call it “cold” (although altering the rules of logic is a REAL headache).

For that matter, you can be a power of Illogic or Acausality and make anything at all happen as long as it has no rational connection to whatever you did to cause it. You could also make A = Not-A – at which point nothing can be distinguished from anything else.

In any case, Domain and Persona give you powers based on your Estate – Domain focused on affecting objects and the environment and Persona focused on affecting creatures (including yourself). You get a bunch of minor stuff that you can always do and you get major stuff that you can do, but not at all often.

Of course, Nobilis then goes on to say that “The Power of Fire can make someone more fiery, or give them a dangerous feel, or make sure that now and again in life their plans will burn them.” – without talking about what Estate of Fire it’s referring to. What if the Fire Estate that’s currently in play is all about nuclear fusion, metabolism, explosions, and cooking?

I’m going to ignore that bit. D20 focuses a lot more on consistency.

Buying the Domain and Persona Attributes:

  • Both of them are 4d6 Mana, with Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, all Specialized and Corrupted / only for use Spell Enhancement, only for use with the “Shaping” ability below, only for effects targeting objects or the environment (Domain) or effects targeting creatures, including yourself. Rite of Chi, only recharges the specific mana pool it was purchased for and then only between sessions or when the game master opts to award a die (24 CP in total).

You’ll also need:

  • Dominion (Your Estate). This lets you draw power from administering, defending, and otherwise promoting your Estate, as well as allowing you to use it to influence large-scale events (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Estate. You can detect things related to your estate, whether that’s something affecting it on a large scale or its relationship to particular creatures. Note that – since you are the embodiment of your Estate – you can make perception rolls to figure out where attacks are coming from, even if they’re being launched by magic from another dimension. They are, after all, “things affecting your estate” (6 CP).
  • You can produce minor effects related to your estate. That’s Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Level 0 and 1 Effects) / only for effects related to your Estate. Note that this includes Destiny Spells related to your Estate, but they’re no more controllable than usual (6 CP).
    • This is also the foundation for higher-level Estate-related “Miracles”/Spells. Thanks to that “Increased Effect” modifier, 1 Mana will get you up to fourth level effects, two to seventh level effects, and three to tenth level effects. “Imperial Miracles” or Grandiose Edits can reach level 13, but pushing things that far generally leads to all kinds of backlash.

This is incredibly cheesy. Applying “Specialized For Increased Effect” to the Mana used in Spell Enhancement is pretty ridiculous. This sort of thing is only acceptable if EVERY major character is using equally horrible cheese. Fortunately, in a Nobilis styled setting… they all will be.

  • Adaption: Nobilis characters are avatars of their Estates, As such, they adapt to how their Estate fits into the local environment as a basic function of their Persona attribute. They will learn local languages within a few moments of their arrival, take on a suitable local guise (while remaining clearly themselves), and fit into their local role – whether that happens to be as one of the octopus people of an undersea dimension, a towering kaiju in a dreamworld of battling powers, the depths of space, or a mere exotic culture. Thus, if the game master decides to set a session in an exotic city or an alien dimension or something, Nobilis characters need not worry about “can they speak the local languages?” or “can they breathe the local air”.

    • This is an automatic self-polymorphing effect – a small part of their innate Estate-related Shaping – which is entirely under the game masters control (although a Noble may ask the game master to spend 1-3 of his or her Persona mana to trigger it – (lets say if they’re lost at sea with no boat and are about to drown). This will occasionally call for effects of well above level one, so this is they need to buy +1d6 (4) Mana that counts as part of the Persona Pool for recharging purposes, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost; controlled by the game master, only to power self-transformation spells to adapt the user to the local environment, has whatever effects that the GM thinks will be fun (2 CP).
  • You can become one with your Estate, either possessing an instance of it (wherever that is) or “communicating” with it. That’s Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Treats “your Estate” as a valid target, permits easy communication) / only to allow communication with the Estate and to get instances of it to act within their nature (for example, a gun might go off or misfire) or to fully transfer yourself into your Estate, leaving your body behind and undefended to possess and act through one or more instances of it (6 CP). Sadly, possessing more than one instance of your Estate at once requires an Immunity to disorientation to work effectively. Ergo, buy Immunity to the disorientation of spreading your “self” over massive areas (Uncommon, Minor, Major, 6 CP), allowing you to – for example – find which of the hordes thousand fires has the chieftains council going on around it.
  • You may take on an Affliction related to your Estate – or give one to someone else. That’s two instances of Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to take on an Affliction related to your Estate (12 CP) plus Adaption (Specialized for Increased Effect / may spend 2 Mana to change the points around instantly, Corrupted for Reduced Cost (cannot change otherwise), only for your Estate-Related Afflictions, above, 2 CP), plus Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to lend someone else an Affliction (2 CP).

Persona and Domain 4-5 are a problem; they’re where you can Create, Animate, Summon, Destroy, Adopt, or Cast Out (make something a part of your estate or not a part of your Estate, so that it transforms – although how is up to the game master). And while this is limited to a relatively small scale… unlimited Raise Dead, Create Undead, Slay Living, Animate Object, Summoning, and similar effects generally wreck the game.

The trick here is to recognize that such abilities aren’t really “unlimited” in Nobilis either; they may not have a base cost at this level – but trying to use your “Life” Estate powers to raise all the dead of a great battle will very shortly bring you into conflict with other powers. Nobilis conflicts expend resources to pump up your miracles very quickly too – so there won’t be many chances to use the free stuff there either. Finally, of course, the game master has a lot more input on what you get from any given attempt in Nobilis than in d20, where they’re basically just high level spells. That’s one reason why I’ve given the various Nobilis “Attributes” mana / “Miracle Point” pools of 4d6 instead of 5. They have some to spend on such effects, and so will get to use them about as often as they get to use them in Nobilis anyway. There’s no further cost here, since I’ve already included that.

That gives the equivalent of Domain and Persona 5 a total cost of 60 Character Points. Once again, that’s relatively cheap in d20 because most Nobilis “Miracles” are actually pretty straightforward in d20 terms. They may be high-level spells – but they’re just spells. D20 is a system where Raistlin – a mortal wizard – could challenge the entire pantheon of his world and destroy them all (OK, that was second edition, but the settings haven’t changed that much). In d20, power is a smooth scale; there isn’t any sharp division between “Mortal Magic” and “Divine Powers”.

Eclipse And Nobilis – Treasures

And for today it’s part of a question sequence – a follow-up on Nobilis Afflictions in Eclipse.

I assume that Domain and Persona would probably just be dweomer based spellcasting, but Aspect, Destiny and Treasure (especially the stuff that doesn’t easily fit into normal item creation) would be of interest.

-Jirachi

If something doesn’t fit into normal item creation, couldn’t you use “Create Artifact” for it? Maybe specialized and corrupted, depending on how restrictive it is/you want it to be.

-krackothunder

Somewhat? But there’s a couple of specific things that don’t have obvious translations to the create artifact system for complicated reasons.

-Jirachi

Well, lets consider Treasure in Nobilis.

Treasure is stuff that is linked to you, infused with your divine power and a part of your personal mythos – your panoply, associations, or what-have-you. You can treasure objects, memories, symbols, collections of stuff, and almost anything you can describe. As far as I can tell, Treasures can’t be destroyed without destroying YOU and they’re usually just presumed to be around somewhere when you want to use them (although there is a Treasure-4 effect that can summon them to you if, for some reason, they aren’t handy).

The trick here is that – in Nobilis – basic Treasures are channels for their owners powers much more than they are items with their own functions. At Treasure 3 you can have the equivalent of d20’s mid-level magic items as Treasures – Wings of Flying or some such – and you can have the equivalent of fairly major items at Treasure 5 – but their effects are still based on their owners “Treasure” trait. They can provide some small bonuses, but really only become effective on the Nobilis scale when you start channeling Miracle Points through them.

At Treasure-0 ordinary items and people that you bond to yourself as Treasures become – at your option – one of the best of their kind mundanely available and/or free of maintenance – as well as being mystically linked to you. So yes, if you really love your kid, but she’s sulky today, a passing thought can annihilate her balky body, mind, and soul and replace her with a wonderfully obedient, ideal, incredibly talented, straight-A student kid who won’t need to eat, sleep, or have a place to live. She’ll just be around when you want to play with your perfect little doll. Won’t that be wonderful?

Well, maybe we should leave kids out of this.

Lets think about a car instead. It won’t need gas, oil, or maintenance and it will perform like the best and fastest car around!

Wait a minute though. Everything in reality (and, with access to even a few other worlds, a lot of stuff that isn’t) is “mundane”, and can be obtained through mundane means if you happen to be visiting a world where it’s available.

  • So, just to stick with current-day Earth… if you and the game master happen to know about the vehicle siphon and waterproofing systems that let a car be driven underwater, you can presumably drive underwater.
  • How about the supersonic rocket drives for land speed record cars?
  • Did you know about amphibious cars that function as boats too?
  • How about the flying Aerocars? First built in the 1940’s!
  • Perhaps you’d prefer a Rinspeed sports car submarine?
  • Military vehicles cars often have mounted weapons and other gadgets. So do ambulance cars, even if their gadgets are a lot more peaceful. Executive limos often have some impressive armor plating and safety features. And then there are stunt cars and all the things you COULD put in a car, but generally don’t.

So what is your “mundane” car-treasure capable of or equipped with?

How would I know? That’s between you and whoever is game mastering your Nobilis game.

And there we see, once again, the basic problem with converting Nobilis to d20. D20 says “Ok, it’s called the Chalice Of Spring, what can it do?, How was it made, how hard is it to break, and how expensive is it?” while Nobilis says “Ok, you have the Chalice Of Spring, you can channel your power through it to do “Chalice of Spring” miracles – each likely a unique event.

In Nobilis the sword Severance could be used to win battles, sever fond memories from regrets, cut Death away from Life in a wounded character (leaving scars, but no wounds). It might make people get divorced, or seal gates, or make annoying kids no longer be related to their families.

To paraphrase Nobilis…

A Miracle-6 can declare that a Treasure uses its powers or abilities to create a definite outcome. Perhaps your sword wins the fight for you or you or your rocket car brings a new era of peace and prosperity to Mexico. The more absurd your choice of outcome, the longer it’s likely to take – but it WILL happen unless someone invokes an opposing miracle.

So how does that opposition work? Well, Nobilis is a diceless bidding system; you pick an attribute or special ability to use, possibly spend one or more “Miracle Points” to boost it, and compare the result to the difficulty. Given that the characters are all gods, that even a attribute of “0” is superior to a normal human (See: Heroic Scaling), and that the player characters all get a +3 on any mundane task (when a total of 2 indicates success) you generally don’t need to worry about any unopposed mundane action.

So lets take two Nobilis characters with Treasure II.

  • The Lizard Wizard happens to have a treasure described as “A legion of time-traveling cyberallosaur samurai with laser cannons. They do shadowruns.” Depending on where The Lizard Wizard picked them up, they might even be a Mundane Treasure. Nobody says that your treasures have to come from Earth.
  • Madame Olga has a Treasure she describes as “Incense Of Superlative Aromatherapy. It settles things down”.

Finding himself offended by the Chicago Museum Of Natural Histories exhibit that says that the Archosaurs are extinct, The Lizard Wizard decides that Chicago MUST BE DESTROYED!

Now, what level of miracle is required for this? It might not be any; after all, Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow (or possibly a neighbor with a pipe or similar minor accident) pretty much managed it once before. Having your minions set things on fire isn’t particularly outside the norm.

  • So The Lizard Wizard can send in the Saurian Legion (with its base rating of Miracle-2), to enforce his will and Chicago will be automatically destroyed (or at least set on fire) unless something else with miraculous powers intervenes. Mortals cannot oppose miracles!
  • But Madame Olga leans out her window and waves a fan, wafting the smoke from her Incense into the Saurian Legion to settle them down. They both are defaulting to Treasure II, and defender wins ties. So is Madame Olga defending? She is intervening on behalf of Chicago, but she’s doing it by trying to alter something else – but what she’s “altering” is negating an opposing miracle. Ergo, she’s defending, she wins, and the Saurian Legion mellows out and goes home. If the game master happens to feel otherwise though… well, Chicago is in trouble.
  • The Lizard Wizard, badly frustrated, blows his top and spends four Miracle Points to get to a level six Alter Destiny Treasure Miracle; Chicago shall be forever known as a place of monsters, reduced to a few ruined hovels that none save the beasts will ever dare inhabit again! The Saurian Legion goes back in time, to destroy Chicago before it ever gets beyond an Indian settlement! (Not that history is anything but a special effect in Nobilis).
  • If Madame Olga has four miracle points to spend, thinks that it is worth doing so, and fans harder… the smoke will go back in time, calm down the Saurian Legion once again, and Chicago will never have been in peril. If she does not, perhaps it is time to use her travel spell and move to New York City!

There are a few complications – mostly other traits that can come into play to provide free miracle points or to boost or diminish other miracles – and there might be other Nobilis involved, but that’s the essence of it.

Now, why mortals can’t oppose any of this when there are no laws of nature and thus their actions are also miracles (wouldn’t there being a distinction be a law of nature?) is a good question, but it’s the nature of Narrative games to ignore almost everyone except the major characters. Otherwise we’d be worried about the intervention of the hundreds or thousands of other major supernatural beings who might have an interest in Chicago, and the player characters wouldn’t be the primary focus any longer.

So Treasures are basically manifestations of the user, have a consistent Theme, and can produce all kinds of effects within that Theme when the user channels power through them. They aren’t necessarily individual objects, or creatures, or even physical.

Buying a “Treasure” attribute in Eclipse:

  • That’s 4d6 Mana, with Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, all Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with “Treasure” effects, no Natural Magic option, Rite of Chi only recharges this specific mana pool and only between sessions or when the game master opts to award a die (12 CP).

Buying Treasures in Eclipse:

  • Mundane Treasures are normal things that get souped up. For this you want some Rune Magic (Specified Treasure, such as Cars), Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only for that particular treasure at (3 + Att Mod) x 3 (6 CP). This will let you summon, repair, and boost beyond all reason, mundane treasures of the appropriate type.
  • Followers and Allies and such get are bought as Leadership or Companion with various modifiers, all Specialized / you have to spend Mana to get them to do anything important for you (6 CP).
  • Symbolic Treasures – where a particular symbol or set of symbols acts as channels for your power and senses – can be purchased as Immunity/The Distinction Between the Symbol and You (Uncommon, Major, Great, Specialized / must expend 2 Mana to activate with respect to specific instances of the symbol) (6 CP).
  • A collection of minor devices (Charms and Talismans from The Practical Enchanter) can be purchased as: Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans take some time to attune for use (6 CP). Another option that doesn’t cost Mana, since they’re pretty minor by d20 standards even in less-magical worlds.
  • Powerful Magical Devices are usually purchased as a Create Relic package: Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for making a particular four-point Relic or four-point collection of lesser Relics (2 CP), plus Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect and corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for making those particular relics (4 CP) – for a grand total of (6 CP). They don’t usually require Mana, since they’re associated with a very high Treasure rating anyway.
  • Labs and such can be purchased as “Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys” from The Golden Ones sample powers list. These can allow you to have a collection of minor items to use on your adventures.
  • For a collection of more-or-less “normal” d20 magical devices, buy Natural Magic / Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Reality Editing, only to summon, repair, or briefly boost up your normal wealth-by-level equipment (6 CP). Now you have a full-scale panoply of stuff – at least once you’re of a high enough level.
  • Mysterious Devices – like the sword Severance, or the Chalice Of Spring, or the Remote Control Of The Machine God or The Flying Dutchman’s Phantom Pirate Ship – are purchased as Natural Magic / Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Reality Editing, only to produce effects within a specific theme (6 CP). This can produce some pretty impressive miracles at times – but not very often.
  • For a mess of Technological Tools and Gear, purchase Innate Enchantment (5000 GP = 100,000 Dollars or Credits worth of d20 Modern / Future equipment) for (6 CP) and supply yourself with gear that simply appears when you need it and disappears otherwise.
  • If you just want Money, buy a Stipend or Privilege/Landlord. In either case, this basically defines you as being rich, having a nice lifestyle, and so on (6 CP).

There are other abilities that could be fitted into this category, but that should cover most things.

Thus a Nobilis character with Treasure-5 would have perhaps a eight to ten Treasures and the basic Treasure Attribute – for a total of 60 to 72 CP. Expensive, but Treasure-5 represents 60% of their available points for attributes.

And I hope that helps!

Hexcrafting Part II – Deck Creation

And for today it’s another Hexcrafting question…

Do you have any advice for creating Hexcrafter decks from scratch? How does the broadness of say, a hexcrafting card called ‘psychokinesis’, a rune magic skill called psychokinesis, and the telekinetic dweomer skill?

-Jirachi

Well, to cover the simplest bits first… if you want an actual deck, there are plenty of decks of medicine cards, tarot cards, oracle cards, and RPG whimsy cards out there (one player even used the I-Ching, but he got quite creative with his interpretations). You can also use some old Magic cards, or borrow some cards from various games, such as Everway. It would be nice if the backs all matched, but it isn’t really required. We’re playing d20, not engaging in high-stakes gambling.

If you want to make your own physical deck there are several free programs (Nandeck, Strange Eons, Cardmaker, Magic Set Editor) made just for that, or you can use Inkscape or GIMP. For that matter, our own Runecards can be printed out and work just fine (that is, of course, a shameless plug).

Now, I’m presuming that you’re more interested in what goes into a deck – and for that, it’s best to start with some examples and comparisons.

To compare with Thaumaturgy and Dweomer…

For a psychically-oriented Dweomer Hexcrafting Deck, you could easily construct a forty-eight card deck by simply using one card to represent each of the eight skills for each Dweomer field. That’s a bit dull, and a bit below the recommended 60+ cards – but Dweomer is an efficiently organized set of abilities with relatively little overlap between the various skills. That does have it’s downside though. Unlike, say, using Tarot Cards for a Hexcrafting Deck you will often find that only one specific card of your Dweomer Deck will do what want at the moment – and if you do not have it in your hand, then you are out of luck. A Dweomer deck would be effective, but it would also be kind of dull. Given that this deck would cover an extremely broad range of abilities, it would obviously be a “broad” deck.

For an arcanely-oriented Thaumaturgy Hexcrafting Deck, we have an example – “Necromancy”. One of the eight classical schools that contain almost all magic. So a broad Arcane Deck might well contain sixty-four cards – eight each for Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutation. Such a deck would probably cover a bit more than the Dweomer Deck, but then the odds of pulling the cards you wanted would be slightly smaller – the usual tradeoff for a larger, and thus more versatile, deck.

Unfortunately, comparisons with Rune Magic skills tend to be a bit misleading.

  • Hexcrafting offers access to spells of all kinds from the very start, at high power levels for any given level. The breadth of an individual card is far less important than the theme of the deck. On the other hand, access to those spells is somewhat random and it is very difficult to rebuild the user’s magical reserves.
  • Thaumaturgy and Dweomer offer in-depth access to a limited magical field at high power levels, use easily-renewed Power and/or Spell Levels, and can both offer and gain bonuses from other skills and rolls.
  • Rune Magic offers considerable flexibility within a narrow field, but relies on hard-to-renew Mana for power, offers considerably slower access to high-end spells, basically requires buying a caster level for each skill (equivalent to a Specialized and Corrupted caster level and lagging well behind other magical systems) instead of allowing the use of an overall caster level, and – since it’s a skill-based system – nerfs the most common methods of gaining bonuses. The far superior flexibility of Rune Magic skills comes at a notable cost.

Regardless of all of that, the Thaumaturgy and Dweomer decks obviously aren’t especially original – and they don’t cover much about creating your own deck. Ergo, so some further examples are required.

For a Narrow “Animal Spirit” or “Nature Spirit” deck, pretty much all of the animal cards may be used to summon, influence, banish, communicate with, and otherwise manipulate animals of the appropriate types. Almost all of them can be usede to take on animal powers of to shapeshift into appropriate animals. For some more individual effects…

  1. Ant grants strength, wall-walking, scent, acid, and organizational powers with minor access to spells that get large quantities of work done.
  2. Bat grants flight, echolocation, speed, and agility, with minor access to fireworks magic.
  3. Bear spells involve size and strength, claws, natural toughness, hibernation, and – traditionally – minor healing effects.
  4. Beaver is a woodcrafter, builder, hydraulic engineer, and swimmer. Beaver magic generally involves crafting and building things.
  5. Bee can provide flight, envenom blades, allow one to peer into the ultraviolet, communicate through dance, and summon and direct swarms.
  6. Butterfly grants metamorphosis, transformation, and beauty, although it’s stronger on personal than on external effects. It is, in fact, one of the more powerful and versatile animal cards.
  7. Caribou grants speedy and enduring travel, adaptability, and attunement to nature.
  8. Cheetah grants great bursts of speed, communicating with big cats, and taking on cheetah features.
  9. Coral can create walls, traps, and shelters, as well as some stinging and toxic touch attacks, but is considerably more fragile than just using stone.
  10. Electric Eel offers electrical senses and discharges, water breathing, slipping through narrow places, and biting.
  11. Frog can grant a deadly toxic touch, amphibious abilities, hibernation, a long, sticky, tongue, and jumping abilities.
  12. Goat grants climbing ability, agility, the ability to digest almost everything, and enhanced virility.
  13. Honey Badger grants claws, toughness, strength, burrowing, immunity to poison, and immunity to fear.
  14. Jellyfish can grant reaching tendrils, some rather nasty toxic touch attacks, water breathing, and the ability to regenerate from almost any injury,
  15. Octopus provides spells involving tentacles, clouds of darkness, poisonous touches, water breathing, and completing many tasks at once.
  16. Owl grants flight, night sight, enhanced hearing, taking on owl features (like talons), seeing through the eyes of owls, and perhaps some secret wisdom – such as you get from first and second level “Detect” spells.
  17. Parrot can be used to send messages, speak various languages, imitate sounds, gain winged flight, and bite.
  18. Serpent grants poison effects (some ranged), constriction, entrapment, infravision, stealth, and minor hypnotic effects.
  19. Tardigrade (Water Bear) can provide long-term hibernation and resistance to radiation, extremes of temperature, lack of food and water, and lack of atmosphere, as well as boosts to hit points and damage reduction.
  20. Wolf can summon packs of wolves, gain scent, claim territory, run a long way, and (traditionally) grant minor hunting magics.

And so on for Komodo Dragon, Shark, Turtle, Buffalo, Skunk, Rotifer, Amoeba, Bombardier Beetle, Spider, Cobra, Python, Starfish, Elephant, Hummingbird, Snapping Shrimp, Sponges, and the rest of the animal kingdom, both large and small. A few hours at the library, on the internet, or watching nature documentaries should provide plenty of inspiration for an Animal deck.

Still, while Shark may grant scent, electrical senses, massive bite attacks (Manyjaws anyone?), swimming, water breathing, and epic-level Sharknado’s, it is still an animal powers card in the end, like all the others. You can do a lot of things with animal cards – call up stampedes, destroy vegetation, spray acid, boiling clouds, or ink, produce toxins, undermine hills, and so much more – but there are also plenty of things that animals simply do not do. You won’t be using this deck to summon demons, or teleport, or program computers (Save, possibly, with an epic level “infinite number of monkeys” spell), or raise the dead, or generate hard radiation, or bind an army into a trance – and the list goes on. Even if you persuade the game master to let you throw in a few “plant” cards, the options there are fairly limited as well (not regarding the utility of a Tree Feather Token) and this will almost certainly remain a narrow deck. Real animals and plants simply aren’t very versatile compared to d20’s vast array of magical spells even if you throw in low-level access to a few mythic properties.

Now if you start throwing in mythical totems… Thunderbird may grant access to lightning and weather magic, Cave Bear to powerful healing magic, Cerberus to the Underworld, and so on – but this is no longer a Narrow Animal Powers Deck. It’s a broad Totem Spirit Deck.

You could also make a deck of Elemental Powers (could be Narrow or Broad depending on whether you include elemental associations), or Gods (usually Broad) – although the game master will probably limit you to the most direct aspects of their portfolios to keep this from being an “anything” deck.

And I hope that helps!

For next time on this topic, a complete “elemental” deck.

Eclipse, Entreaty Magic II, and Magical “Feats”

The article on Entreaty Magic presented a way to build yet another magic system – in this case a freeform system of calling on forces or entities that relied on earning the help of those entities. It offered an option to buy that system in eleven eight-point “installments”, rather than as a series of varyingly-sized chunks. That led to a question…

If you are going to have the ‘8 cp per level’ as a way to purchase the progression, is there any reason why you couldn’t just keep buying it past level 11? If so, what would that look like?

-Jirachi

Now that would be mildly awkward, since, while the parts of the Entreaty Magic package which use level-based formula continue to increase with higher levels, once you buy all 87 points worth of the package, you’ve bought all there is to buy. There isn’t any more because some of the basic powers it’s built on have hit their maximum at that point and they’re already Specialized and Corrupted to increase their effects. If you wanted to continue from there, you’d need to either buy secondary abilities that enhance your magical powers or persuade your game master to invent new rules to cover it.

I’d recommend the secondary powers personally. They’re easier and more interesting, and usually a lot less subject to breaking the game. After all, most of the upper limits on abilities in Eclipse are in there for a reason.

So lets extend that progression, spending eight character points per level.

First up, spend two per level on…

L12-L20: Archmagic. Extremely skilled and experienced Entreators may learn to channel brief bursts of even greater power from their patrons, achieving results far beyond the reach of lesser adepts. Unfortunately, they still cannot do so very often. Buy:

  • 3d6 (9) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Natural Magic Option, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for spell enhancement, only for use with Entreaties, effects so enhanced can have a maximum effective level of 6 at level 12 or less, 7 at level 13+, 8 at level 15+, and 9 at level 17+ (9 CP).
  • Rite Of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to refill the spell enhancement pool above, requires a nights rest (9 CP).
    • Split up over nine levels this basically provides a pool of (Level – 11) Mana that renews itself each day. This will allow the Entreator to cast a few higher level spells each day or to enhance them in various other ways.

To make up the rest of the 8 CP/Level you can take one magic-boosting Feat / 6 CP effect per level. Some possibilities here include:

L12) Patronic Panoply: This trick allows the user to channel his patrons energies manifesting as solid, physical, items – often magical items. This will require the investment of some skill points to make it really worthwhile, but will be an increasingly powerful option as the user goes up in levels. Buy:

  • Access to the Occult Skill Dream-Binding (3 CP), at normal cost (3 CP). As a rule, the items will be related to one or more of the user’s Patrons somehow. Many Entreaters will even develop one load-out for each patron, allowing them to chose a package to suit a given mission.

L13) Grand Petition: This trick briefly enhances the user’s ability to channel his or her patron’s powers. Activated as a part of using an Entreaty, it allows for a mighty surge of supernatural force, allowing the user to amplify the effects of some spells and overcome resistant creatures defenses. Buy:

  • Berserker (+10 to Caster Level, -2 to Reflex Saves) with Enduring (no fatigue afterwards), Corrupted / only allows the casting of a single spell per use. This trick will function (1 + Level/3) times daily (6 CP).

L14) The Forge Arcane: This trick allows the user to create three minor relics – one for him or herself and two for friends. While these invariably have drawbacks, they each offer the equivalent of two bonus Feats. Buy:

  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable to make one-point relics, only usable with points from Enthusiast, only relics related to one of the user’s patrons, all relics carry a disadvantage – although this does help reduce their cost (2 CP).
  • Enthusiast with Adaption, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (a total of three “floating” character points)/points may only be used to create relics (known as “conjures”), relics have a maximum cost of one point and no one can use more than one at any one time (4 CP for the ability to create up to three one-point relics. +1 Relic may be added per additional CP spent. The relics and rituals for the Houngan Conjurer may be helpful).

L15) Ward Of The Principalities: This trick invokes the user’s patrons to look after their agent – channeling in protective effects just when they are needed, although this still counts against their pool of obligations. Buy:

  • Reflex Training (Three extra actions per day variety) with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for defensive actions, only for Entreaties. The “user’s patrons” will obligingly, and instantly, erect mystical defenses for the user (6 CP).

L16) Summons From Beyond: This trick allows the user to summon a familiar, mystic mount, or other form of companion creature – or to either upgrade an existing companion or summon another. (It’s usually well worth investing some more Feats in your companions). Buy:

  • Companion (6 CP).

L17) A Patron’s Glance: This trick allows an Entreator to briefly turn a spell effect that requires concentration over to his or her patrons to sustain while he or she does something else, picking up maintaining the spell again later if he or she wishes to. Buy:

  • Harnessed Intellect (6 CP).

L18) Agent of the Powers: This trick allows the user to invoke the indirect aid of his or her patrons to bend fortune in his or her favor when necessary – a subtle, but powerful effect. Buy:

  • Karma (6 CP).

L19) Hand Of The Divine Craftsman:

This trick allows the user to create powerful, unique, magical devices through quests and deeds, some of them of potentially worldshaking power. (Alternatively, the character can be boring and take any one Create Item feat). Buy:

  • Create Artifact (6 CP).

L20) Citadel Of Magic: This trick allows the user to establish a Place of Power, Magical Sanctum, or similar location, enjoying various special abilities, the support of allies, and more while there. Buy:

  • Sanctum (as per THIS article).

There are, of course, thousands of other possible “progressions” – you could focus on combat casting, or ritual magic, or using Leadership to bind various sorts of outsiders to your service – but this is Eclipse. There are always thousands of ways that you could take a character.

Now if you’re wanting to expand on a more conventional progression, such as the Wizard… you can use Invocation with the Mighty modifier to gain access to spells of level ten and beyond, buy additional caster levels normally, and/or buy Mana as Generic Spell Levels (Specialized for Increased Effect / only acts as spell slots that expand an existing spell progression. With that, each 6 CP expended on expanding a progression provides 10 spell levels worth of additional spell slots.

D20, Ninja, and Eclipse, Part II – the Complete Adventurer and Pathfinder Ninjas

And to continue our look at building Ninja through the years – and on how to upgrade the various variants to current standards here are the next few types of Ninja. And if you missed Part I (the Rokugan and Mystic Eye Ninjas) they’re HERE.

The next major Ninja class was The Complete Adventurer Ninja (2005). They were a rather hesitant attempt to make “Ninja” mean something more than “slightly refluffed Rogue or Rogue Multiclass” in baseline d20. Unfortunately, the writers were – once again – pretty shy about giving non-spellcasters all that much in the way of exotic powers, so this version of the Ninja wound up with some rather weak “Ki Powers” that could only be used a few times a day – not even really up to “a ninja always has another trick to pull” standard of most fictional ninja and some actual ninja. They got…

  • D6 HD (40 CP). What a rogue got, and functional enough in those days of less-optimized damage levels.
  • 138 SP (138 CP or – with a modern build using Adept and Fast Learner – 58 CP)
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 to Saves (72 CP).
  • Proficiency with all Simple and Ninja Weapons (9 CP)
  • Defender, Corrupted/only when unarmored and unencumbered (4 CP). This helped to make up for the lack of armor a bit.
  • Advanced Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to AC), Corrupted/only when unarmored and unencumbered (8 CP). Another – and much earlier-into-play boost to AC. You’d still need some Bracers Of Armor though.

The Ninjas original Ki Powers were Ghost Step (L2, Invisibility for a round. You can become Ethereal for a round instead at L10), Ki Dodge (L6, one round of 20% miss chance), Ghost Strike (L8, Strike to and from the Ethereal Plane for one attack), Greater Ki Dodge (L18, 50% miss chance for a round), and Ghost Walk (L20, as per Ethereal Jaunt, 2 Ki) and a Ki Pool of (Ninja Level / 2 + Wis Mod) points. This version provides more powers, and a much wider selection of powers, because, honestly, the original set wasn’t very good for something that was a defining feature of the class and because building a power set that limited is actually a lot more trouble than setting up a worthwhile power set. Eclipse wasn’t designed to build useless abilities. This version also isn’t reliant on Wisdom, so it reduces the multiple-attribute-dependency problem.

  • Ki Pool: 4d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/only for use with quick (Swift or Immediate action) Reality Edits. Edits are divided into Minor (1 Mana, available at level 2+), Notable (1 Mana, available at level 6+), Major (2 Mana, available at level 14+), and Grandiose (4 Mana, available at level 25+ IF the game master is willing to put up with them) edits; the user is limited to a maximum of (level / 2 (increasing as the character levels up), rounded up) specific edits with his or her first purchase of Reality Editing and to half that (level / 4, also increasing as the character levels up) number of additional edits for each additional purchase. Edits are fixed once approved by the game master unless the user wishes to spend a lot of time on retraining or something. Will Save DC’s are 12/14/16/18 + Dex Mod (for fine control) for Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose edits and all edits are considered Extraordinary Abilities (24 CP).

Minor edits usually approximate first or minor second level effects. Possible minor edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Blazing Stars: As per the Fire Shuriken (Spell Compendium) spell.
  • Breath Control: As per Resist Energy (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Dance Of Wings: Add +30 to all your current movement rates for 2d4 minutes.
  • Face Dancer: As per Disguise Self (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Grace Of The Kami: Move at normal speeds when using Acrobatics, Balance, Climb, or Move Silently without penalty for 2d4 minutes.
  • Jujitsu: Make an immediate Escape Artist check with a +30 bonus. You may attempt to “escape” Paralysis or similar situations, but at DC 50.
  • Ki Strike: Gain a +10 Insight bonus to an Attack and +(Level) Insight bonus on it’s damage.
  • Light Foot: You make take 20 on Acrobatics/Hide/Move Silently checks and always land safely after falling or being thrown for 2d4 rounds.
  • Mongoose Fist: Make an extra attack as an immediate action OR make two extra attacks as part of a full attack action.
  • Phantom Blade: Make one attack into a sneak attack, even if it normally would not be.
  • Qigung: Get a +5 bonus on a save if triggered before rolling or reroll a save if used afterwards.
  • Smoke Bellows: Generate a 30′ radius cloud of dense smoke centered up to 30′ away. It lasts for 2d4 rounds.
  • Tongue Of Kanji: Cast a spell without it’s normally-required somatic component.
  • Vanishing: Become invisible and leave no trail for 2d4 Rounds, although Attacking will negate the invisibility part as usual.
  • Wind Stride: As per Air Step (Pathfinder) for 2d4 Minutes.

Notable edits usually approximate second or third level effects. Possible notable edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Alchemic Bomb: Turn a dose of an alchemical substance or poison that you are carrying into a full-effect 20′ radius burst within medium range. At level 12+ you can use two doses to create two bursts that may, but need not, overlap, and at 25+ three. The “doses” do not all have to be the same substance if you are using multiple doses.
  • Alchemic Synthesis: Produces 100 GP worth of alchemical creations or poisons. While these are obviously crude and unsalable, and become inert within twenty-four hours, they are effective if used within that time. At level 12+ the user may spend a second Ki Point on this to provide either a +2 DC on created poisons or saves on alchemical creations or to double the effect of an alchemical creation.
  • Dancing Shadows: Mirror Image (SRD) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Dispelling Strike: Add the effects of Dispel Magic (using your level as the caster level to a maximum of +10) to a physical attack.
  • Displacement: Attacks on you suffer a 50% miss chance for 2d4 rounds.
  • Expulsion: As per Neutralize Poison (SRD).
  • Find The Gap: As per the spell (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Ghost Strike: The user mays see and strike to and from the Ethereal Plane for two rounds.
  • Golden Armor: Gain DR 6/- for 2d4 minutes.
  • Haunting Shadow: As per Phantom Foe (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Healing Mudra: Personal-Only Cure Serious Wounds (SRD).
  • Ki Imbuement: As per Greater Magic Weapon (SRD) for 2d4 minutes, although it may also be applied to the user’s natural weapons, fists, or other “unarmed” martial arts attacks,
  • Lizard Walk: Full-speed wall-walking for 2d4 rounds.
  • Spellblade: You may make an immediate attack with a melee weapon to deliver any Touch spell that you just cast in place of the usual immediate touch attack that such spells provide.
  • Vital Strike: Trade dice of sneak attack damage for points of attribute damage with an attack. You may damage any attribute that you please.

Major edits usually approximate fourth or fifth level effects. Possible major edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Beast Jitsu: As per Bite of the Werewolf or Wereboar (Both Spell Compendium), lasting 2d4 Minutes.
  • Cloud Mind: As per Modify Memory (SRD).
  • Death Strike: Add the effects of Slay Living (SRD) to a physical attack. (Some Ninja use Enervation (SRD) instead).
  • Demon Ki Projection: As per Shadow Conjuration (SRD).
  • Doom Shuriken, as per Fire Seeds (SRD), but using shuriken for either function.
  • Dragon’s Breath: As per the Spell (Pathfinder).
  • Forge Of Ki: As per Greater Magic Weapon (SRD) for 2d4 minutes, but you may invest some or all of the “plusses” in special magic weapon functions. This effect may also be applied to the user’s fists, natural weapons, or martial arts attacks.
  • Freedom Of Movement: as the spell (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Ghost Step: Become Ethereal for 2d4 rounds.
  • Phantom Ways: as per Dimension Door (SRD).
  • Shadow Clones: Greater Mirror Image (Player’s Handbook II) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Shadow Form: as the spell (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Sniper: The user may make sneak attacks at any range for 2d4 rounds.
  • Spectral Mind: Personal Mind Blank (SRD) for twenty-four hours.
  • Unity of Mirage: Gain Greater Invisibility (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.

Grandiose edits usually approximate sixth to seventh level effects. They do, however, tend to be unique to each epic ninja, so I won’t be providing a sample list.

  • Evasive (Reality Editing, 3 CP). Using their Ki powers does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • Rite Of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/onl to restore the “Ki” pool above, requires a nights rest) (6 CP). This is more than is needed, but that does make it easy to make their pool bigger.
  • Augmented Attack (Sudden Strike, A.K.A. Sneak Attack, 10d6, 30 CP).
  • Trapfinding (No cost in Eclipse: Skills work the same way for everyone).
  • Resistance/+2 to Will Saves, Corrupted/only as long as Mana is available (4 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Value), Corrupted/only while unarmored and unencumbered (4 CP). All effects Spell Level 1/2 or 1, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated for a base of 1000 or 2000 GP each.
    • Monkey Fish (Pathfinder) (2000 GP, gain Climb and Swim Speeds of 10)
    • Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter) ( x.7, only to increase movement speeds by +30 (Enhancement), 1400 GP)
    • Apply Venom (Original, L0, safely applies carried poison to a weapon as a swift action, 1000 GP)
    • Acrobatic Master (The Practical Enchanter, L0 Skill Mastery / Tumble (Acrobatics in Pathfinder), +6 Enhancement Bonus, Personal-Only, 700 GP).

This little package gives them a +8 to Climb and Swim checks, with base speeds of 40 for both, 60 ground movement as a base (adding +12 to Jump or – in Pathfinder – to Acrobatics rolls made to Jump), and +6 Enhancement to Tumble (3.5) or Acrobatics (Pathfinder). That’s extremely efficient, but Innate Enchantment usually is – which is why it’s usually limited to 12 CP worth in total for any given character.

  • Great Leap (Immunity/Having to Run before Leaping, Uncommon, Minor, Minor, Corrupted / only while unarmored and unencumbered, 2 CP).
  • Fortune (Evasion Variant), Corrupted / only while unarmored and unencumbered, 4 CP).
  • Ghost Mind / Cloaking, Specialized and Corrupted / only versus spells of the Scrying Subschool, allows a caster level check of DC (20 + Ninja’s Level) to overcome it, otherwise the Ninja is not seen / detected.
  • Occult Sense / See Invisible and Ethereal things (6 CP).

This comes out to a total of 452 CP as a classical build or 372 CP as a modern one – and is still a notable improvement over the original design since that’s with the rewritten Ki powers and uses Innate Enchantment rather than buying the various minor boosts individually. The original 3.0 and 3.5 Fighter used 452 of their available 504 CP – so we should expect the Complete Adventurer Ninja to be just a bit more effective than they are since I used a couple of more efficient options in their design. So why does this class still fall behind? It’s most likely a result of the older tendency to evaluate combat-focused characters against the Fighter and to overrate Skill Points. Basic 3.0 and 3.5 Fighters simply are not that impressive, and skills have greatly devalued over the years – leaving the Complete Adventurer Ninja well behind the curve.

And, according to the rather extensive discussions underlying the Tier System, it is indeed down in Tier 5 with the Fighter, Monk, Healer, Soulknife, and Expert. Still, with either 52 or 132 CP left over, it’s easy enough to upgrade them considerably. You just have to go ahead and spend those points.

  • First off, upgrade the Rite Of Chi to get rid of the “requires a nights rest” corruption. That’s only (3 CP) – and another +16 bonus uses is only (12 CP). 25d6 worth of “Ki Points” (plus the basic recovery rate of one per night) daily will let them pull off a LOT more tricks.
  • Buying more powers is also in order – so another two incidences of Reality Editing (basically increasing their allotment of Ki powers to one power per level) will be very handy (12 CP).
  • Finally, another 2d6 Mana will help make sure that they don’t run out – and is only another (12 CP).

That’s only 39 CP – leaving enough room for a couple of bonus feats, even for the “basic” build, and will let a Ninja use a selection of swift and immediate action Ki powers in every fight. That makes them fast and tricky, which seems pretty appropriate. Throw in a decent Martial Art or two and you should be all right. For those two extra feats? Improved Initiative and Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Attacks. That way, when you really need to hit, you can be sure that you will.

For a modern build, you’ll still have 93 points left over even after that C’hi upgrade. That’s quite a lot really – enough for fifteen levels of the Wilder or Psychic Warrior progressions (both at 90 CP), or becoming a skill-based Partial Caster (usually about 80 CP), or throwing in a Template or two. Go ahead. Be an Advanced Pulp Hero Ninja or an Ancient One Ninja (both 64 CP), or a Ninja Master Of Stars (58 CP), or even a Ninja Space Marine (63 CP) or Ninja Lycanthrope (from the basic Eclipse book, 64+ CP depending on what extras you buy).

  • If you’d prefer more combat power… buy off those “only while unarmored and unencumbered” corruptions (10 CP) and pick up some light armor with the “Smooth” modifier (6 CP). Get your BAB up to +20 (30 CP), use Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (18 CP) to add your (Dex Mod) to your (Con Mod) for Hit Point purposes, and throw in five more combat-style feats (30 CP). OK, that’s 94 CP and you’ll have to drop a skill point – but it will work just fine.
  • If you want a full-out Spellcaster-Ninja, you might want to take the Entreaty Magic package (88 CP). It’s nicely flexible, and full of unexpected tricks, while holding down the total amount of magic available to keep it as a secondary focus.

All in all, any of those approaches should get this version of the Ninja firmly up into Tier 3 or so – and make them a great deal more entertaining to play.

Finally, we have the Current Pathfinder Ninja.

Pathfinder gave the Ninja the standard Pathfinder upgrades of +2 Skill Points per level and larger hit dice, but otherwise only gave the Ninja the usual slight overhaul. Their Ninja get…

  • d8 HD (80 CP).
  • 8 SP/Level (160 CP, presume Fast Learner and Adept for 80+12 CP).
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 Saves (72 CP).
  • Sneak Attack 10d6 (30 CP).
  • Proficiency with Ninja Weapons and Light Armor (12 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP)
  • 5d6 Mana as a Ki Pool (As per the Complete Adventurer Ninja above) (30 CP) This gets an extra die worth of Mana because a couple of minor abilities have been folded into the Ki abilities – and so a few extra points are needed to pay for using them on occasion.
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, only to restore chi pool, requires a nights rest, 6 CP)
  • Reality Editing: Gains an extra edit at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and so on (6 CP).
  • Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted / provides only three minor swift action tricks for 1 Mana each (2 CP):
    • +1 Attack at Full BAB,
    • +20 Move for a round
    • +4 Insight Bonus to Stealth Checks for 1 Round.
  • Evasive (Reality Editing, 3 CP). Using their Ki powers does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • Immunity/Being Found or Recognized. Very Common, Minor, Major, Corrupted / not versus scrying or when you’re not making an effort to remain undiscovered (8 CP). This provides a +6 to Disguise and Stealth checks and a +6 on the DC of tracking the Ninja. Secondarily, it prevents spells such as Invisibility Purge, See Invisibility, and True Sight, from automatically revealing the user when he or she is invisible; the user must make a perception check against the ninja’s stealth skill to detect him or her even with such assistance. Similarly, the user can effectively use Stealth against Blindsense, Tremorsense, Scent, and similar unusual senses.
  • Awareness and Flankless (Specialized/Does not function against opponents with a four-level or better advantage over you) (9 CP).
  • Trapfinding (No cost in Eclipse: Skills work the same way for everyone).

That does simplify a couple of things from the original build – but it also somewhat expands the Ninja’s Ki Powers and gives them a slightly larger Ki pool, which is quite close enough.

Given that we’re well out of the “classical” era from before skills were devalued here, we need no longer consider anything but the “modern” build (using Fast Learner and Adept to make skills cheaper) – so this comes to a total of 446 CP – leaving 58 CP left over even with the minor upgrade to their Ki powers I’ve added to save time and avoid having to list individual “ninja tricks”. That’s not nearly as bad as many of it’s predecessor ninja classes, but it’s not very good either; it’s part of why the Pathfinder Ninja is still down on Tier 4 (with occasional arguments for Tier 3 or Tier 5) in the Pathfinder Tier Lists. Their tricks are rather neat, but they simply do not get enough of them – both in terms of the number of different tricks available and in terms of the number of times they can afford to use them.

If you just want to stick with the basics you can use the same approach as with The Complete Adventurer Ninja.

  • Upgrade the Rite Of Chi to get rid of the “requires a nights rest” corruption for ( 3 CP) and add another +16 bonus uses for (12 CP). With the ability to recover an average of 87.5 “ki” per day in minutes rather than 10-16 overnight, your ninja can now afford to use a Ki Power – all of which can be used as Swift or Immediate actions – in pretty much every round of every fight.
  • Add another incidence of Reality Editing (6 CP) to boost their allotment of Ki powers to one power per level. That gives them a pretty good selection of tricks to use.
  • Add another 1d6 Mana (6 CP) to get their average base Ki pool up to 21 points. That should be enough for any long fights.

That’s only 27 CP, leaving 31 – enough for a couple of bonus feats and a nice set of Martial Stances. A Ninja using the Call Of The Wyld Style – perhaps taking Kitsune Tricks, Panther Silent Prowls, Perfidious Rat Strikes, and Striking Serpent Coils for 4 CP each – will suddenly be a lot more dangerous in combat.

That should put this version of the Ninja firmly into Tier 3.

If you want to get into a real power build for any of these four versions of the Ninja, you’ll want to throw in:

  • Duties – perhaps to a particular clan or village – for +40 CP. This is where Clerics, Druids, and Paladin-types get some extra points – and ninja generally weren’t independent wandering rogues. They were working members of clans and undertook missions. Go ahead. Admit that you have allies, mentors, an organization to provide you with some backing and information, and a reason to go adventuring beyond “wealth and power”, and get character points for it. Admitting that you have ties to the rest of the universe is NOT a weakness.
  • Buy Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds Dex Mod to Con Mod when calculating hit points, 18 CP). This particular trick is in the system for the same reason that Adept and Fast Learner are; just as Skills have been devalued over the years, so have Hit Points. So this allows you to take a smaller hit die and still have plenty of hit points – giving the martial types a nice boost since dropping from – say – a d10 to a d8, or a d8 to a d6, or a d6 to a d4, saves them 22 CP over twenty levels. Dropping two steps saves 62 CP over those same twenty levels – and really, at (say) Con 16 and Dex 18… (1d4+7) averages 9.5 per die, while (1d8+3) only averages 7.5 per die. You can even Specialize and Corrupt it (“only applies to levels 1-4″ perhaps?) to save points at lower levels and buy off those limitations as you go up in level.
  • You might be able to apply a Restriction – perhaps you will never use non-ninja weapons or armor no matter how tempting (No Celestial Armor at higher levels for you!) and get +20 CP out of it at +1 CP/Level.

Squeezing in an extra 120 CP is enough to buy any one of…

  • 15 levels of Bard, Cleric, Druid, or Classical Illusionist casting. You won’t get the secondary features – but you can easily spend a few Feats to push up to getting those ninth level spells with Clerical and Druidic casting.
  • 20 levels of Adept, Psychic Warrior, or Wilder Casting. Go ahead; use a feat or two to throw in an augmentable version of Summon Monster instead of Summon Astral Construct and call up your own goon squads for backup.
  • Tbe Bokor (Binder) Package at about 60 CP. That still leaves room for – say – getting the BAB up to +20 (+30 CP) and five extra Feats (30 CP).
  • The Entreaty (87 CP) Magic Package and perhaps 30 CP worth of magic-absorbing or negating powers. Or you could get some Mana and Spell Enhancement to let you power your way up to casting the occasional ninth-level spell.
  • Twenty extra Feats at 6 CP each. For example…
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP) lets you automatically make five saves of your choice each day. Or perhaps it’s only for attacks, or skill checks? Automatic success under pressure can be very nice indeed.
    • Some innate enchantment? That little package from the Complete Adventurer ninja made them a LOT more mobile.
    • Reflex Training, to take occasional extra actions when you really need them.
    • Action Hero (Stunts)? The ability to pull out a trick you’ve never used before (and might never use again) every so often is often a lifesaver.
    • Some Path Of The Dragon to allow you to absorb incoming spells and turn the power in them to your own uses.
    • Mystic Artist? Bardic-style powers can be quite handy, and getting started is pretty cheap.
    • Berserker? Spell Resistance? Some Enthusiast and a Specialized version of Create Relic to let you make your own magical gear? A Stipend? There are many thousands of other possibilities.

While the Tier system is a lot less meaningful once you start using Eclipse to build unique characters and erase most of the division between “Full”, “Partial”, “Half”, and “Non” -casters in favor of a continuous spectrum of “who relies more on what”, this sort of thing will let a mystically-inclined Ninja power-build his or her way up into Tier 1. Personally I don’t really advise pushing things that far – more limited characters tend to be more interesting to play – but Eclipse was designed to let people build the characters that they want.

Next time around on this topic it will be a a look at building your own Eclipse-style Ninja, rather than using an older classed version as a base.