Randolf Upton Pickman, A.K.A. Pharaoh Nephren-Ka, E-poh of the Tcho-Tcho, Mylakhrion of Theem’hdra., and others.

The planes where mankind can exist are a tiny island in an infinite sea, surrounded by reefs of possibility and dedicated guardians. Yet there are things – some minor, others vast and powerful – which sometimes walk our realms when the stars are right and a gate is opened. Some find our little island little more than a shortcut, an amusing path less trodden, or a source of some desired oddity. Others… take an interest. Some even wish to understand, and seek that understanding in strange and maddening ways.

If some mortal is very, VERY, unlucky… they may even take a liking to him or her. Whether that means that said mortal was never entirely mortal at all, or whether they become so retroactively has never been determined.

Favored of the Outer Ones

+2 ECL Race or +3 ECL Acquired Template – although baseline d20 humans can “acquire” it for a mere +2 ECL since their racial advantages can simply be subsumed into “In The Guise Of Humanity”.

In The Guise Of Humanity (9 CP):

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (3 CP).
  • Bonus Feat (6 CP).

Randolf appeared (mostly) human as a child, and – at least for now – can easily pass for one as far as conventional examaination goes.

The Hidden Eye That Sees Unveiled (30 CP):

  • Adept: Craft/Visual Arts, Diplomacy, Knowledge/Arcane Lore (Specialized in Mythos Lore for Double Effect), and Perform/Oratory (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized Skills, Corrupted/only to give his Adept skills a “racial modifier” of +(effective Level) (4 CP).
  • +3 to each Adept Skill (4 CP).
  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Resilience, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable for the Resilience Natural Magic (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to restore Mana, only usable for the Resilience function (4 CP).
  • Occult Ritual, Specialized and Corrupted; Can only perform the terrible, sanity-blasting, rites of the Outer Ones using his Mythos Lore (2 CP).
  • Major Privilege: Gets along with virtually all of the Outer Gods and their Servants, despite how incredibly awkward this is (6 CP).

Randolf, while still rather human, sees what is hidden – and can present it to other humans. He is also highly resistant to the dread effects of interacting with the Outer Gods and their servants in their true (or near-true) forms (those he explains to are rarely so fortunate) – although too much of that sort of thing will overwhelm even his defenses and slowly erode his (debatable) humanity. Oddly enough, most of the Outer Ones are quite willing to go along with this.

Guardian Spawn of The Dark Tapestry (15 CP):

(Dreamspawn) Companion, with +4 Template Levels, Great Form, and Transform (Corrupted; only the Companion can transform), +3 Speciality in Managing it. Specialized with the Standard Dreamspawn limitations (15 CP).

I’ve only put up a few specific Dreamspawn. To save time, I’d suggest using a minor variant of Queen Yintor. As Randolf is level one,:”she” gets a 3 CP bonus – in “her” case buying a particular Trick; the first time anyone sees Randolf’s companions true form” he or she will suffer 1d4 points of Wisdom Damage, 1d4 points worth of Wisdom Drain, and 1d4 rounds of Confusion. A successful Will save will reduce this to the minimum effect – one point of damage, one of drain, and one round of confusion. This is, however, Specialized; it can only affect any given creature once during their lifetime (3 CP).

The Outer Ones have vouchsafed Randolf a companion on his voyage beyond the gates of sanity, a guardian and supporter that may at times appear human, but is anything but. In it’s questioning and attempts to understand it’s new master it may, perhaps, become a little more human – or it may simply wind up increasing Randolfs upcoming dementia faster than ever.

Still, the enhancements and powers it grants him make surviving the many enemies that Randolf has acquired for simply existing a lot easier.

The Dreamer In The Labyrinth (66 CP):

  • Mystic Artist (Craft/Visual Art, including Painting, Drawing, Etching, and – possibly – Film-making (6 CP).
    • Basic Abilities: Skill: 3: Fascinate, 4: Emotion, 5: Block, 6: Hold Audience, 9: Suggestion, 12: Emotional Auras, 15: Freedom, 18: Amplify, 21: Harmonize, 24: Mass Suggestion, 30: Serenity, 36: Alter Attitudes, 48: Puppet Master, and 60: Rule the Horde.
  • Bonus Uses: +4 (6 CP).
  • Path of Whispers: Subliminal, Conditioning, Compelling, Immersive, Undertow, and Worldgate (36 CP).
  • The Art of the Occult: The Hidden Way, Spellweaver, and Sphere of Mastery (18 CP).

Randolf paints and draws – and dreams and visions of things that cannot exist in the world as it is pour through his pen and into reality, each work a potential gateway for that which is beyond and a crack in reality that helps to reshape the world into somewhere where such beings CAN exist. Those who gaze upon a work that happens to be “active” at the moment may find themselves subject to strange compulsions, experiencing memories and visions of the realms beyond, subject to the plots and themes of inhuman entities, or possibly can even be drawn into the realms beyond. Unfortunately, at the moment, he has little control over such events.

Similarly, while he little knows it at the moment, his images can also back any magic he happens to learn with the energies of the Outer Realms or even carry him partially beyond the boundaries of the world.

Whispers Of The Black Tapestry (108 CP):

  • Mystic Artist (Perform/Oratory) (6 CP).
  • Bonus Uses +8 (12 CP).
    • Skill: 3:Block, 4: Emotion, 5: Fascinate, 6: Competence, 9: Greatness, 12:Excellence, 15: Mass Greatness, 18:Mass Excellence, 21:Group Focus, 24:Harmonize, 30: Serenity, 36: Mass Heroism, 48: Double, and 60: Rule The Horde.
  • Basic Modifiers: Amplification, Echoes, Rapid, and Seeking (24 CP).
  • Path of Dissonance with Selective Targeting (+6 CP): Dissonance, Distracting, Disrupting, Stunning, Maddening, and Banishing (42 CP).
  • Chords of Fate: Harmonics (affects Undead), Spirit Summons, Spirit Channels, and The Great Summons (24 CP).

The Voices of the Outer Ones leak into Randolfs voice – and disrupt the very structure of reality and the creatures within it, whether living or dead. With time and practice he may be able to learn to disrupt the restraints that keep his targets from using their full potentials and store borrowed magics in the inflections of his words – but at the moment, only the disrupting energies of alien realms are really his to call upon, and he’s barely aware of even that.

High Priest of the Outer Ones (20 CP):

  • Dominion (Cultists) (6 CP)
  • Path of the Pharaoh: Manipulation, Sphere of Influence (Mortal Ties with The Outer Realms, Corrupted/he is drawn to points where contact is occurring, and there will try to sort it out so that everyone involved comes out OK), and Godfire (Corrupted; cannot actually spend any save to return from death but does get the side effects – such as not aging and not losing attribute points to disease) (14 CP).

Randolf doesn’t actually control any cults yet – but he’s their natural leader. He senses it when they open gates and call upon the outer ones, he can grant them a certain amount of actual power through various unspeakable and incomprehensible Offices, and he can manipulate events to help enable or cover up their activities.

As Randolf makes the acquaintance of more Cultists, and (willing or unwillingly) becomes a major figure in their rituals and beliefs, he will become ever harder to keep dead – and he will come ever closer to the ability to warp the Earth into a pocket-realm where the Outer Ones can easily come and visit, whether he wishes to do so or not.

His Unspeakable Destiny (38 CP):

  • Unique Returning with a Minor Rewrite, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Randolf reappears at a point in time and space chosen by his unnatural patrons, each time he reappears he becomes less human and more a creature of the “Cthulhu Mythos”, each reappearance sends him into a predestined role. The only way to stop the sequence (and his eventual rise to join the ranks of the Outer Ones) is to travel back in time to one of his prior appearances and there find a way to massively disrupt the timeline and thwart his destiny. In effect, he must be raised or resurrected quite promptly or he will become very difficult indeed to retrieve (8 CP).
  • Privilege: The “Favor of the Outer Ones” doesn’t have to be “paid for” up front – although that also means that the character doesn’t start off with much knowledge of his abilities, much less understanding how to use them or how they work. Levels Two and Five are (or will be) devoted to paying for the template and picking up an increased understanding of his talents. Randolf thus had a somewhat disturbed, but otherwise fairly “ordinary”, childhood (3 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (4 floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / only for use with “Create Relic”, all the Relics Randolf “creates” are actually borrowed from the Outer Ones; they’re usually very weird, they’re only available when the Outer Ones feel like lending him something, and what he gets is entirely up to the game master. (4 CP).
  • Create Relic / Specialized and Corrupted / All the Relics Randolf “creates” are actually borrowed from the Outer Ones; they’re usually very weird and what he gets is entirely up to the game master (2 CP).
  • Inherent Spell with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased (Level Nine) effect (15 CP). L9 “Anyspell” effect, producing any Arcane effect of up to L6. Note that this requires that he call upon an appropriate Outer One, is considered blatant blasphemous and horrible black magic by pretty much everyone except the Outer Ones, will not be fully under control until he reaches L17 (and the ability to control a ninth level inherent spell properly), requires a modest ritual at least 1d4 minutes long, calls for a minor offering, and gives the Outer One invoked a limited point of entry into the “normal” universe – allowing some sort of tinkering or even a minor manifestation (15 CP).
  • Major Favors: The Outer Ones (6 CP).

Randolf has encountered several of the Outer Ones – although the forms they have chosen to take in his eyes are a lot more “normal” than any other entity could reasonably expect and it generally hasn’t been for long. They are, however, definitely taking an interest.

  • Baba Shiby” (“Mother of Shiva”, Life Manipulation, Monsters, Conjuration, and Relationships) usually acts sort of like a genial “house mother”. After all, she DOES have a thousand young – even if they are all aberrations of one sort or another. She seems to see Randolf as being one of them. Hopefully, she is wrong.
  • “Gnarly Hotep” (“The Twisted Way At Peace”, Darkness, Mind Control, Transformation, and Conflict) shows up in a variety of forms. Gnarly just can’t resist stirring up trouble, just to see how far people will go – and the greater the powers they bring into play, the better he likes it. He’s still especially proud of “The Rain Of Colorless Fire” – whatever that was.
  • “Uncle Yoggy” (“Elder Conjunction”, Time, Space, Dimensions, and Gates) is surrounded by a fiery froth of opening and closing wormholes traversing space and time, and as a result is never more than partially in any one place. He’s extremely distracted and quite obliging – but almost always gets whatever-it-is quite wrong.
  • “Ozymandias” / “Ozzy” (“The Fallen Eternity”, Chaos, Creation, Destruction, Music and Werewolves) acts like a stereotypical drugged-out hippie full of nihilistic wisdom, tells people not to worry or plays music that drives mortals mad while weird monsters appear nearby and eat them, and often leaves the people who survive his visits with strange curse/powers – commonly including forms of Lycanthropy which render them near-mindless monsters while transformed.

No, Randolf has no idea why any of them have chosen to look the way that they do for him. He thinks that they’re just whimsically pulling images from somewhere, and for once he’s right. 

For when Randolf has lived his second-to-final incarnation, and been slain at long last by what-he-must-become, all mortality and humanity will be subsumed, and what once was Randolf will return at last to Earth, sliding down from the far realms, the spaces between the stars, abandoning his place in the dark tapestry to come again to his birthplace. There he shall wait, dreaming in a death which is not a death, until R’leyh rises once more, and he – the perfected high priest of the Outer Ones and now their Native Guide – shall stride forth to stand beside his ancient friends as an equal. And he shall show them around the place, and they shall make themselves comfortable upon the Earth which is his house, and there shall be a party at the twilight of the gods that none save the Outer Ones will understand.

That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons, even death may die.

ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn


At 286 CP that is one heck of a template. That’s in +8 ECL territory, and it probably well deserves it even if most of the powers it grants are a bit more subtle than blasting the enemy. After all, this is a Template that grants godhood (even if rather limited) to a first level character. Fortunately for Randolf, however, the entire thing is Specialized and Corrupted.

  • His abilities attract attention of the Outer Ones and their Servitors. This is not a (direct) problem for him beyond the occasional damage to his sanity, but can be hard on the rest of the world.
  • He feels responsible for managing the impact of the Outer Ones and their Servitors on the world – often frantically attempting to manage them so as to minimize the impact.
  • His abilities attract the notice of investigators, demon-hunters, and similar groups. Generally they are not happy about them and would like to see him dead.
  • His artwork is easily-recognized, and can be used to trace his incarnations across space and time.
  • He is subject to nightmarish visions of the Outer Ones and their Servitors, which he is compelled to express in his imagery.
  • He is occasionally asked to run “errands” or perform rituals for the Outer Ones. Declining results in ill fortune and (once he knows about them) his powers becoming even more erratic.
  • He is compelled to display his artistic talents, but often has little control over the results.
  • His occult powers are easily recognized as forbidden black arts by anyone who pays attention to his activities and their effects. In most places they are banned.
  • The “performance” of the Whispers Of The Black Tapestry cannot be sustained; the duration is thus limited to the basic 5 rounds plus the Echoes duration.
  • He occasionally utters terrible prophecies or unleashes dark forces without even meaning too.
  • He is a veritable magnet for strange and bizarre events, rifts in reality, dark artifacts, and other people’s prophecies. Oddly enough, this often makes it possible to anticipate him by finding a relevant prophecy.
  • His mere presence often causes conventional devices to malfunction. At best, he effectively only gets one-third to one-half of the treasure and equipment his level would normally grant.
  • His mystical abilities with the visual arts only work in conjunction with his nightmarish visions of the Outer Ones; only images of such visions express these powers.
  • He is compelled to draw his visions, activating at least some (GMO) portion of the Path of Whispers on one each day without even being aware that he is doing so.
  • He starts off mostly unaware of his various potential abilities.
  • His magical powers are too bizarre to be used in the creation of conventional magical items, and will influence any conventional talents he develops enough to bar their use as well.
  • The Template subsumes Duties (to the Outer Ones) and Restrictions (cannot use divine powers from any “normal” deities, including those bound into items). Given that this would eventually be worth rather more CP than the character gains from the items that wind up double-Specialized and/or Double-Corrupted (normally a big red flag) I’ll let this particular Template get away with that.
  • The user counts as whichever of a human, a non-human, an outsider, and a native of the prime material plane is most disadvantageous at any given moment.
  • Mortals who are psychically or magically sensitive, or are aware of the presence and nature of this Template, are instinctively wary of the user, generally preferring to avoid them entirely. The user’s social life is going to suck.

That brings Favored of the Outer Ones down to 95 CP – the upper limit for a +2 ECL race (or +3 ECL Template). Are those enough limitations to justify that?

Probably. After all, at low levels Randolf doesn’t have the knowledge or control to use his nifty powers that effectively. Sure, he can optimize the use of Whispers Of The Black Tapestry, His Unspeakable Destiny, or the abilities granted by bonding with a Dreamspawn (all of which have some serious downsides) at mid-levels, but it’s not like other characters can’t optimize and Mystic Artist is hardly the go-to path for raw power. At high levels… there will be lots of more outrageous characters around.

Randolf Upton Pickman

Level One Would-Be Hapless Bystander

Randolf is a nice, obliging, fellow. Unfortunately, he’s so out-of-tune with humanity that he’s had a terrible childhood – and finding himself to be the chosen high priest of the outer ones (or even a potential Outer Lord) has not really improved matters. In a rather weird way, Randolf is baby-sitting his patrons in their interactions with earthly creatures while they baby-sit him in his interactions with the creatures and powers of the outer realms.

Racial Package: Favored of the Outer Ones.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level Base) +2 (Untraveled, a variant on Illiterate. Randolf has never really been beyond his country birthplace and the local woods and town. He has a little bit of theoretical knowledge of the world, but is essentially unfamiliar with other cultures, species, and places) + 12 (Racial and L1 Bonus Feats) = 62 CP.

Package Deal: Student (Privilege/gets basic housing and support for free, has access to university facilities and libraries, 3 CP), +1 each with Computer Use, Craft (Writing), Drive, Knowledge (Art and History), and Research (6 CP), and Enthusiast (Specialized in Skills, for Double Effect, 3 CP). If transplanted from d20 Modern into a fantasy world the Pathfinder Package Deal is probably preferable.

Basic Attributes: Str 8, Int 14, Wis 16, Con 12 (14), Dex 8 (10), Chr 10. (22 Point Buy).

Languages: Common, Latin, and the “Dark Speech” of the Outer Ones.

Basic Abilities (31 CP):

  • Hit Points: 20 (L1d20, 16 CP) + 2 (Con) +16 (Dreamspawn Link) = 38 HP.
  • BAB: +1 (6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +2 (Con) = +2 (Effectively +8 due to Companion)
    • Reflex: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) + 0 (Dex) = +0 (Effectively +8 due to Companion)
    • Will: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) + 3 (Wis) = +5 (Effectively +6 due to Companion)

Combat Information:

  • Proficiencies: Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Pistols (3 CP).
  • Initiative: +0.
  • Move: 60′
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Mage Armor) +2 (Judo) = 16. Also, Protection from Law.
  • Usual Weapons:None

Special Abilities:

  • Bestowed by Template Companion: Need not Eat, Drink, Sleep, or Breathe, effectively immune to poison*, Fast Healing I (up to 20 points/hit die/day)*, Protection from Law*, and True Strike 3/Day*. May employ 4L1, 4L2, & 4L3 Absolute Command effects daily used as Reflex Actions at caster level equal to his level. These require making both a Fortitude and a Will save against the spell at +4 to avoid fatigue. All use-activated. Effects marked with an “*” are subject to dispelling and antimagic versus caster level one – but will come right back again next round.
  • Adept: Pays half cost for Decipher Script, Disable Device, Research, and Spot (6 CP)
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect (6 CP).
  • Witchcraft II with the Rituals and Karmic Links Pacts paying for Witchcraft III and +3d6 Power (24 total) (12 CP). Save DC 13. Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will, Glamour, The Hand of Shadows, Healing, The Inner Eye, Shadowweave, and Witchsight. Notably, combining Glamour and The Inner Eye allow him to bypass language barriers – at least for living things.

Skill Points: 7 (CP Spent) +8 (Int Mod x 4) + 8 (Racial Bonus Feat spent on Fast Learner at L(-2)) = 23

  • Computer Use +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Craft/Writing: +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Craft/Visual Arts: +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) +4 (Race) = +10
  • Decipher Script +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) = +6
  • Diplomacy: +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Cha) +4 (Race) = +8
  • Disable Device +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Dex) = +4
  • Drive +1 (1 SP) +0 (Dex) +1 (Package) = +2
  • Knowledge/History +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Knowledge/Arcane Lore (Specialized in Mythos Lore for Double Effect), +2 (1 SP*) +2 (Int) +4 (Race) = +18
  • Knowledge/Art +3 (3 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +6
  • Martial Art/Tai Chi: +1 (1 SP) +3 (Wis) = +4 (Provides Defenses 2, already in his AC above).
  • Perform/Oratory +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Cha) +4 (Race) = +8
  • Research +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +7
  • Spot +4 (2 SP*) +3 (Wis) = +7

Note that his Companion can grant a +20 Insight Bonus on a skill check three times per day. A “*” indicates half cost due to Adept.

Personally Randolf is a competent starting sage-type and has a number of psychic tricks to call on – but he really isn’t much of an adventurer. He isn’t likely to master most of his template powers very soon either – but he will learn to use the powers his Companion grants fairly rapidly, if only because she’s quite capable of explaining them and because the passive durability-enhancements will work whether he quite understands them or not. That will make him a tolerably effective and surprisingly durable minor mage.

Of course, Randolf intended to be an artist, not an adventurer or mage. If he really MUST develop some combat abilities he has lots of levels to go as of yet.

Future Development: Randolf could REALLY use some luck for Saves and some for Skills, but that’s cheap enough to pick up quite soon. More Witchcraft – and some more durability effects, such as a bit of damage reduction, will help his career as well.

Really though, he’s set up assuming a more or less “realistic”, even if Lovecraftian, setting. Massive leveling up is not really a thing under those assumptions.

Randolf is loosely inspired by “Ow, My Sanity”, a webcomic spoofing the Magical Girlfriend and Harem genres in a Call of Cthulhu setting. Of course, given that this is d20 and that the characters quite commonly achieve godlike power in the setting, Randolf is a lot tougher and more powerful than the hero of that comic. Unfortunately, “Ow, My Sanity” is on indefinite and possibly permanent hiatus – but what there is of it is well worth a look.

Eclipse d20 – Binding Mysterious Spirits VIII, Kyrie, The Dread Wyrm, Halphax, Orthos, and Vierdan Sanguine.

As usual, all of these Mysteries build on the powers of the basic Bokor Package – although that is cheap enough that it’s normally well worthwhile.

Kyrie (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Accursed (Dark Visions). Those who channel Kyrie are prone to fits of prophecy, always foreseeing disasters and tragedies, ranging from the small to the great. Each time Kyrie is summoned there is a small chance that the channeler will be called on to try and stop such a disaster – although the greater the deed requested, the longer it will be before another deed is required).

Abysm isn’t a mythological figure. It’s simply an obscure word for a dark – and thus apparently bottomless – pit. So what we have here is a larger version of Poul Anderson’s “Kyrie” – with the victim no longer being a single powerful, telepathic, alien falling into a black hole, but an entire psychic city, leaving its eternal psychic scream behind to empower others who can tap into that frozen moment. Unfortunately, Abysm made you a very poor psion – so Kyrie will provide some serious upgrades.

  • +1 on Knowledge/Psionics (1 CP).
  • Improved Occult Talent: Specialized for Increased Effect (L0 slots become L1, L1 slots become L2) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the user may only select one power plus one per every two levels above level one from each incidence to use during each summoning (all are available at L15+), using these powers has destructive side effects on the environment as the Fall of Abysm begins to leak into normal reality and may eventually release some of the horrors that destroyed Abysm into the world. Each instance provides 5 L1 and 3 L2 Powers and 14 Power to use them with at a cost of 8 CP. Three instances (24 CP).
    • Available Powers for the First Instance:
      • L1) Astral Construct, Entangling Ectoplasm, Inertial Armor, Psionic Grease, and Psionic Minor Creation.
      • L2) Animal Affinity, Clairvoyant Sense, and Psionic Levitate
    • Available Powers for the Second Instance:
      • L1) Attraction, Demoralize, Control Light, Crystal Shard, and Mind Thrust,
      • L2) Concealing Amorpha, Energy Missile, and Read Thoughts.
    • Available Powers for the Third Instance:
      • L1) Call Item, Catfall, Channel the Psychic Dragon, Minor Metamorphosis (Pathfinder), and Vigor.
      • L2) Compelling Voice (Pathfinder), Feat Leach, and Share Pain.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Power, only usable between encounters (4 CP).
  • Companion (Witchcraft): Psi-Crystal. +4 Power, Bestows the Persistent Metamagical (Psionic) Theorem and +2 levels of Streamline, Specialized and Corrupted/only for First and Second Level Psionic Powers granted by Abysm, requires a full minute of concentration when a power is used to obtain this benefit. This extends the duration of relevant effects by two steps on the following list: Turns to Minutes, Minutes to Tens of Minutes, Tens of Minutes to Hours, and Hours to a Full Day (the upper limit) (6 CP).

This version of Abysm is quietly effective. Granting a total of 46 power and the ability to recover an average of 52.5 points through the day makes calling on Abysm a reasonable choice even the disciplines it offers are all low level (if numerous) because it’s generic Power, which can be used to fuel abilities granted by other Mysteries – and the extended duration of some of the powers it grants is very handy: Astral Construct goes to ten minutes/level (even if you must create them well before the fight to take advantage of it), Animal Affinity, Channel the Psychic Dragon, Concealing Amorpha, Feat Leach, Minor Metamorphosis, Read Thoughts, and Vigor go to Hours/Level, and Call Item, Share Pain, Inertial Armor, Levitate, and Minor Creation all go to a full day. Given that, you can afford to buff yourself (including using Vigor, sharing it with your Psicrystal, and then using Share Pain on your psicrystal to effectively gain 10 HP/Power spent) at the start of the day and can even repeat it a time or two if someone dispels part of it.


The Dread Wyrm (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive (Revenge). Anyone channeling the Dread Wyrm will suffer no slights; those who are rude may suffer a scathing appraisal of their faults and those who have harmed or insulted the channeler are greatly preferred targets; the user suffers a -1 penalty on attacks or the DC of saving against his or her abilities if they attack someone else while such a preferred target is available).

Ashardalon was the big bad dragon of some adventures, but was mostly notable for trying to use his resources to get more magical power instead of just going for “bigger and meaner” like most of the other standard d20 super-genius, major spellcasting, incredibly wealthy, elder dragons who (for some reason known only to lazy writing) usually seem to ignore that possibility entirely.

In other words, he managed to hand somebody else the idiot ball a few times before the end.

Really though, this is extremely generic: you get extra tough, you can find and evaluate treasure, you scare people, and you are quite resistant to fire. Honestly, that could be pretty much any basic dragon from about five hundred different sources couldn’t it? For a penultimate-level Mystery, I think that some improvements are in order.

  • Occult Skill Access: Bullet Time (3 CP), with +3 Skill Points to make it a “relevant” skill to start with (+3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on Appraise (yes, this can be used to list off a target’s personal faults), Bullet Time (specialized in buying off damage only, for double effect; reduce the current score by 1/2/3 to buy off 12/20/24 points of damage. This does not count as an action), and Search (Perception in Pathfinder) and must be distributed evenly between them. This provides a (Cha Mod x 4) “racial” bonus on each of those skills (6 CP).
  • The Dragon’s Fury/Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • The Dragon-Aura/Glamour: The user may expend 5 Power and a Standard action to generate the effects of a Fear spell (Save DC 16 + Cha Mod). Once used this cannot be used again for 1d4 Rounds.
    • Burning Wrath of the Dragon/Hyloka: The user may accelerate his or her metabolism to the point of becoming a being of burning plasma at the cost of 9 Power and an Immediate Action. This is equivalent to the Elemental Body spell, but only allows the use of the Fire Elemental Form. If deactivated, this cannot be activated again for 1d4 rounds.
    • Torrent of Flames/Hand of Shadows: While Elemental Body is running – and only then – the user may spend 5 Power and a move action to become a rushing mass of flames, tracing a path up to ninety feet long which may pass through the air. Occupants of the squares moved through suffer (3d6 + User’s Con) fire damage (Fortitude Save DC 16 + Cha Mod for half, affects objects) and the effects of a Gust of Wind spell. The user reappears at the end of the path. If the path collides with a solid barrier, it ends there, with the user and the barrier each suffering the indicated damage. If the path passes through rain, ice storms, or similar difficulties the user suffers 1d6 damage per square of such conditions passed through. If the user passes through water he or she takes 3d6 damage per square passed through.
    • Acuity of the Dragon/Witchsight: You may spend 1 Power to gain 60 foot Blindsight for the next hour.
  • +4d6 Mana as +6d6 (21) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Dragon’s Fury abilities listed above (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Dragon’s Fury abilities listed above (4 CP).
  • Damage Reduction 4/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / versus physical damage only, bypassed by Cold Iron weapons. Net DR 12/Cold Iron (9 CP).

The Dread Wyrm is actually a pretty balanced Mystery. It lets you absorb quite a lot of damage, gives you some skill bonuses, a fear attack, an elemental transformation, an unusual movement / attack power, blindsight, and decent damage reduction that’s only bypassed by a reasonably uncommon material. Admittedly, none of those add up to particularly awesome power unless you’ve got to wade through an army of mooks – but they’re a nice solid backup for pretty much any other Mystery you want, and at this level a Bokor will be routinely channeling two or more Mysteries. If the other one happens to be highly specialized, The Dread Wyrm is a pretty good choice.


Halphax (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. Halphax demands that his channelers act like true aristocrats – demanding the best of food and drink, wearing fine clothing, claiming some form of title, and showing at least a bit of noblesse oblige).

Halphax (also Halphas, Malthus, Malthas, or Malthous) is another escapee from the Ars Goetia. There he is said to build towers and fill them with weapons and send his subordinates into battle. Wizards of the Coast let him provide some architectural skills, some personal toughness, create walls of iron, and secure shelters – and let him use an “imprisonment” effect that works nothing at all like the Imprisonment spell; it’s basically equivalent to “Time Hop” – a level three effect.

Well, some architecture might be fun. Pathfinder made it much more reasonably priced and you can use Innate Enchantment for mundane gear (even if it’s rarely done) – so why not use it to take along some “rooms” to combine into various structures? Sure, if they get destroyed the damage will persist until the next summoning or until something is done about it – but popping up a few walls and such can be pretty useful in a battle and fortified camps are very nice indeed. So is having a pleasant tavern/inn to stop in every evening, even if it’s not much help in a battle.

  • Damage Reduction 4/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / versus physical damage only, bypassed by Adamantine weapons. Net DR 12/Adamantine (9 CP).
  • Access to the Ninjaneering Occult Skill (3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on Profession (Siege Engineer), Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering, and Ninjaneering. This effectively provides a bonus of (Cha Mod) x 4 skill points in each those three skills and must be split evenly between them. If the user doesn’t have the skill otherwise the relevant attribute modifier gets added in as well (6 CP).
  • Trick / Temporal Throw: You may make a melee touch attack as a standard action to try and throw a target creature one round per level into the future. The target may make a DC (10 + Level/2 + Cha Mod) Fortitude save to negate the effect. Unfortunately, only a single creature may be affected at any one time and if a creature makes its save you may not use this ability for 1d4 rounds (6 CP).
  • Imbuement (“Brigadoon” gains a Ward Major), Specialized for Reduced Cost/never improves past the “+4″ equivalent that it starts at (which, coincidentally, covers the cost of an appropriate level four ward, 3 CP). Four Minor Powers:
    • Enduring. The eldritch structures have triple their normal hardness and Spell Resistance 30.
    • Non-Euclidean. The village has many local portals and can be put into places that are completely unreasonable and far too small. Up to one ton of material can be kept in it with no effective encumbrance.
    • Industry: Variant; production is only 5x normal, but anyone working within one of the buildings is presumed to have a relevant set of masterwork tools for the user of their skill(s) and an appropriate workspace.
    • Sustenance: Residents need not eat, sleep or breathe while within the village. Those who get tired and hungry outside it will still need to sleep and eat to fix that, but they will not get hungrier or sleepier while they wait.
  • Brigadoon: Innate Enchantment, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: includes no spells or items, only for “rooms” and “teams” purchased according to Pathfinder’s Downtime System (not much of a limitation since you’re buying specific things anyway, but worth noting), the maximum value that can be used at any one time is equal to the user’s (Knowledge; Architecture and Engineering x 500) GP, once a structure is “brought out” it cannot be dismissed or modified for at least one minute, user must gesture dramatically to produce and place structures within short range, structures must be appropriately placed (no, you cannot drop houses on the wicked witch), creatures that would be within a structure may make a DC (16 + Cha Mod) Reflex save to pick where in the structure they wind up. Sadly, any external items left “inside” when a room is not manifested count against the user’s encumbrance and anything left inside when Halphax is dismissed vanishes – usually to reappear elsewhere, but sometimes lost for good. .

Brigadoon:

Available “Rooms”:

  • Armory x4 (1560 GP).
  • Bar (250 GP).
  • Bedrooms x3 (900 GP).
  • Brewery (380 GP).
  • Cells x2 (360 GP).
  • Ceremonial Room (1180 GP).
  • Common Room (300 GP).
  • Courtyard x2 (360 GP).
  • Crypt (490 GP).
  • Defensive Walls (Stone, 20-40 squares, 20′ tall) x2 (1040 GP).
  • Defensive Walls (Standard, 10′ Tall, 20-40 squares) x2 (520 GP).
  • Dock (with four 20-foot rowboats/sailboats, 520 GP).
  • Drawbridge (320 GP).
  • Escape Route (360 GP).
  • Fortification x4 (Note that the +2 Hardness is tripled by the Ward Major, 1200 GP).
  • Furnishings x3 (900 GP).
  • Garden (180 GP).
  • Gatehouse (Iron Door, Iron Portcullis, Gauntlet, and a Carriage, comes with assorted L1 Experts as minor guards, 2310 GP).
  • Gauntlet x2 (320 GP).
  • Kitchen (160 GP).
  • Labyrinth (370 GP).
  • Laundry (120 GP).
  • Lavatory x2 (240 GP).
  • Lodgings x2 (860 GP).
  • Magical Repository (730 GP).
  • Office (120 GP).
  • Roman Bath (Sauna, Pools, Etc, 350 GP).
  • Sitting Room (480 GP).
  • Stall x5 (1250 GP).
  • Storage x2 (240 GP).
  • Summoning Chamber (1040 GP).
  • Torture Chamber (330 GP).
  • War Room (300 GP).

Total Rooms = 20,040 GP.

Available “Teams”:

  • Bureaucrats: A set of five L3 Experts: Lawyer, Scribe, Seneschal, Bookkeeper, and Herald, 200 GP.
  • Cavalry: A set of five L3 Warriors with light warhorses, 410 GP. (Note that you can get out the horses on their own if you want to ride or have them pull a carriage or something).
  • Cavalry Archers: A set of five L3 Warriors with light warhorses, 470 GP.
  • Craftspeople: Three sets of three L4 Experts: Alchemist, Bowyer, Carpenter, Glassblower, Healer, Herbalist/Gardener, Librarian, Smith, and Tanner/Leatherworker, 600 GP.
  • Elite Archers: A set of Five L3 Warriors, 380 GP.
  • Elite Guards: Two sets of Five L3 Warriors, 340 GP.
  • Elite Soldiers: Two sets of Five L3 Warriors, 660 GP.
  • Lackeys: Three sets of five L1 Experts: Bartender, Bath Attendant, Butler, Carriage Driver, Cook, Courtesan/Masseur x2 (one male and one female), Innkeeper, Janitor, Maid/Laundress, Mason, Squire, Valet, Waiter, and Weaver/Seamstress, 360 GP.
  • Priest: A L3 Cloistered Cleric/Witch (Eclipse-style Witch, Knowledge, Magic, and Witchery domains) or Sacerdos Pastor, 810 GP.
  • Robbers: A set of five L3 Rogues, 200 GP.

Total Teams = 4430 GP.

  • Thanks to the Ward Major, any skill user effectively has access to masterwork tools appropriate to the skill and a workspace. Thus the Alchemist has an Alchemy Lab, the Librarian has a Library full of reference works giving a bonus on knowledge skills, the Smith a Forge, the Leatherworker a Leatherworking Shop, the Healer an Infirmary, and so on. For Downtime purposes, these are effectively “Workstations” (x30).

Yes, the GM is free to give the “minions” personalities, and have them carry over from one summoning to the next. Even slain minions will, however, be just fine the next time Halphax is summoned – and are well aware of it. If one is TOO irritating though the summoner does have an option; push him or her out of time and dismiss Halphax. Next time he’s summoned… that minion will have been replaced. This process is, however, irreversible.

Grand Total: 24,470 GP, for 25 CP worth of Innate Enchantment – or (8 CP) after being Specialized and Corrupted.

Anyone channeling Halphax is essentially hauling along a village (of about 75 “rooms” and 80-odd employees), and the Pathfinder Downtime system, along. In conjunction with the production increase from the Ward this provides an “Extravagant” lifestyle, 250 GP in spending money per day, and some (paid for) Downtime Capital – 4 Goods, 4 Labor, 4 Influence, and 2 Magic per day. While there will be no special events in the village pocket realm while it’s not manifested, it does have enough of a population to serve as a normal village for other purposes (Purchase Limit 2500 GP, Spellcasting Services of up to L3 are available (but must be paid for – unlike the services of the “teams”, which are free), items of up to 500 GP value are available for purchase, items of up to 2500 GP value may be sold, and 2d4 Minor and 1d4 Medium items with values above that limit will be available, changing each lunar month).

No, that doesn’t make a lot of sense – but Halphax IS a “Mystery”, that’s what the settlement and downtime rules say, and it’s not like most d20 settings or systems of magic make a lot of sense when examined in detail anyway.

A character hosting Halphax will have a fortress to stay in, good food, fine wines, a backrub, people to repair his or her gear, a squire to polish his or her armor, guards for the night, clean clothing, someone to warm his or her bed, mundane supplies, and all the comforts and security of staying in a nicely civilized area every night. That’s certainly convenient. Besides… it’s worth it just to be able to produce a lawyer and a personal herald on cue.

In combat Halphax doesn’t offer a lot in the way of direct abilities – but he allows a channeler to set up a battlefield to suit himself or herself in a way that few spellcasters could match if they tried. Being able to look about, place a few walls, a couple of strongpoints, a few troops, a dimensional shortcut or two, a pit, and a field of caltrops, can be pretty handy. So is extra money, having endless supplies ready to hand, and being able to sleep tight in a dimensional pocket in a dungeon. I’d go for it just for style.


Orthos (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. When a channeler of Orthos encounters slaves or prisoners he or she must make a substantial effort to win their freedom. If he or she does not do so Orthos will not again answer his or her call foe one lunar month).

Orthos (Orthros, Orthrus, Orthus) was a monstrous two-headed dog in greek and roman myths – a sibling of Cerberus, one of the offspring of Typhon and Echidna and the father of the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion. He was Geryon’s herd dog and guarded Geryon’s oxen – and was slain by Hercules as a casual speed bump to his twelve labors. And that’s pretty much all there is about Orthos, which is kind of sad considering that his parents and siblings were more dangerous than most of the gods.

As a forgotten figure, something of a blank slate, and a sibling to Cerberus – guardian of the gates of the underworld – Orthos is actually a pretty appropriate choice as the elder Mystery, the guide and guardian of the paths of spirits that can neither fully live nor fully die. I’ve no idea why he got a wind blast though. Oh well. When you’ve really got nothing to go on, why NOT go with wind? It’s easy enough.

  • Tornado Blast: Weathermonger, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (The user may spend a Standard Action and 3 Power to generate a 60′ cone of wind that does 1d6 damage per level you possess (Reflex DC 19 + Cha Mod for half) and those affected must also make a Fortitude save at the same DC or be knocked prone and moved 1d4x10 feet away or to the limits of the area of effect) / The user may not sense the weather, gain bonuses to saves against weather and wind effects, summon mists, constant, or lesser winds, produce rain, steer lightning, generate or banish storms, etc, etc, etc (6 CP).
  • The Winds from Beyond: Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations, taken twice for eight powers and (12 CP).
    • Read the Winds / Witchsight: You gain blindsight out to 30 feet. This is a continuous effect with no cost.
    • Gyre Mirage / Shadoweave: You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to generate a personal Displacement effect lasting up to one hour per level. It affects you, your equipment, and any steed you happen to be riding. During its duration you may suppress or resume the effect as a free action.
    • Voice of the Wind / Glamour: You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to invoke a Sending effect – with the additional option to send it to a location and announce it’s message on cue, similar to the effect of a Magic Mouth.
    • Winds of Alchemy / Witchfire. You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to turn a potion, drug, poison, or suitable (liquid or gaseous) alchemical item into a 60′ line, 30′ come, or 15′ radius with a center up to thirty feet away, applying normally to those within the area.
    • Harness the Wind / Hand of Shadows. You may spend 2 Power and an Immediate Action to animate a chunk of the air to serve you as a Phantom Steed – although it’s hit points are equal to your own.
    • Bind the Vortex / Hand of Shadows. You may spend 5 Power and a Standard Action to animate and bind a mass of air to your will, creating the equivalent of a Huge Air Elemental. It will serve you for up to one minute per level or until dispersed.
    • Cyclonic Barrier / Hand of Shadows. Once per round, on or off action, you may spend five Power to harden the air into a momentary force barrier capable of blocking up to sixty points of damage from any one attack – and negating any special effects (poison, energy drain, or whatever) that it might have if that blocks all damage. If it does not, it still provides a +6 Circumstance Bonus on any required saving throw.
    • Eye of the Hurricane / Hand of Shadows. As a standard action you may spend 3 Power to create a Wall Of Force effect.
  • Voice of Winds: +4d6 Mana as +12d6 (42) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Winds from Beyond powers listed above (8 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Winds from Beyond Powers, above (8 CP).
  • Speak Language (Auran) (1 CP).

Orthos really only has one trick – air control – but is surprisingly versatile with it. Admittedly, direct-damage blasting is far from the best shtick out there, and Orthos lacks the metamagical / metapsionic boosts to really compete with optimized blasters – but he’s reasonably effective at it for the rather small investment of one Mystery slot. He also has the interesting option of making potions and alchemy potentially relevant again at fairly high levels and some decent defensive and utility abilities.


Vierdan Sanguine, the Bloody General (Bonus Mystery) (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Insane: Gods too fall before the blade, and the Iron Lord has seen a myriad pass while he endures. Their priests and servants may wield a power they call “divine”, but they will fall before the blade as easily).

Under a thousand names, across ten thousand realms, the bloody general has led men into battle – overthrowing nations, replacing rulers, and even slaying gods – caring for nothing save war itself and the clash of arms. Even the most chaotic of war gods reject him, for he sees them only as yet another challenge to his skills. He has embraced the existence of a Mystery, since only thus can he lead men into battle forever more.

Vierdan Sanguine grants…

  • The complete Strategos Package (30 CP). The user may call upon a variety of “auras” that grant him or her, and his or her allies, substantial bonuses.
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized for Double Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/points may only be spent on Knowledge / Military (battles, tactics, military engineering and vehicles, etc) and Profession / Military Commander – effectively providing a “racial bonus” of +(Cha Mod x 4) to each. If the user does not have either skill already, add the relevant attribute modifiers (Int and Wis) to determine the effective skill level (4 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge: The many historical battles he has commanded (1 CP).

Vierdan Sanguine offers access to a selection of a dozen (very, VERY) powerful party-enhancing auras and allows the use of three of them at a time. Admittedly some of them are level-dependent – but a Bokor needs to be fairly high level to channel Vierdan anyway. Just using the first three at level fifteen where Vierdan normally becomes available grants an entire party a +10 Luck Bonus to AC, Saves, Attacks and Damage and a +4 Morale bonus to Checks, Attacks, and Saves.

Admittedly the Strategos package is completely over-the-top optimized, but you’ve got to expect some of that for a penultimate level Mystery. Just as importantly, Vierdan Sanguine provides no active abilities whatsoever. He provides plenty of numerical bonuses, resistances, and heightened movement – but if you want active powers you’re just going to have to channel another Mystery.

Thanks to various problems posting here has been seriously delayed for a bit – so I’m going to backdate this and the next few posts just to keep things together a bit.

Eclipse d20 – Binding Mysterious Spirits VII, Ansitif, Eligor, Marchosias, and the Exemplars of Magic.

As usual, all of these Mysteries build on the powers of the basic Bokor Package – although that is cheap enough that it’s normally well worthwhile.

Ansitif (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Ansitif exists to destroy sacred things, and his channelers will always make sacred places, holy relics, and people linked with the upper planes their primary targets).

Ansitif or Ancitif was apparently a lesser demon who was involved in the possession of the Nuns of Louviers in the 1600’s – possessing Sister Barbara of St. Michael – and that’s about it. He was one name on a long list. From there he (probably he anyway; most medieval demons seem to be he’s) became a quick note in some of those medieval catalogs of demons which scholars of religion and the occult spend so much effort compiling. Those demonic catalogs became a source for a list of (completely undeveloped) demon lords in first edition AD&D. He later got fleshed out a bit in the Fiendish Codex and Dragon Magazine for third edition. In 3.5 he became a Vestige, bestowing some fairly generic demonic powers – which is about what you’d expect given that the grand total of actual source material on this one seems to be about three sentences long. And that’s terrible.

I think I’ll give him some more demonic powers. Why not?

Ansitif the Corruptor is a true spawn of the abyssal depths. He comes from nowhere, he exists only when summoned, and he creates misery with no reason or purpose beyond corruption for it’s own sake. With neither body nor motivation to call his own, he exists merely through his summoner-victims – who thus cannot escape taking full responsibility for choosing to fill their souls with dark power and work evil upon the world.

  • Speaks Infernal (1 CP).
  • Channeling (Abyssal Energies), 1 Use with +4 x (Cha Mod) Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (8 CP), Conversion, two sets of four level five spells, corrupted for increased effect (level seven effects) and Specialized for Reduced Cost (12 CP) / the user radiates evil, attracts holy opposition, will find any good divine abilities they may possess twisted into evil versions, his or her alignment will become evil, he or she can be affected by spells that target evil outsiders, if he or she dies while channeling Ansitif once (if) resurrected he or she will never be able to stop doing so, the user can only produce the same spell effect once every five rounds and may only use two spell effects per three rounds, and whenever Ansitif’s power is employed small evils will grow nearby as dark thoughts gain prominence, cursed items become more easily found, and the lower planes whisper temptations to the vulnerable. The available spells are Blasphemy, Bestow Greater Curse, Dread Litany (as per Prayer, but the bonus and penalties are +4 and -4 respectively), Destruction, Energy Immunity (Fire, Acid, and Cold only), Infernal Transformation, Infernal Vigor, and Planeshift (only to and from the lower planes, with Medium Range). Save DC’s are (17 + Cha Mod).

Infernal Vigor (Transmutation, Cleric 7, Casting Time 1 Standard Action, Components V, S, DF, Range Close, Targetes 1 creature/level, no two more than 30 feet apart, duration one round per level, Fortitude Negates, Spell Resistance Yes.

Your targets are filled with an unholy vigor. For the duration of this spell, each affected target can choose one of the following bonuses for that round at the beginning of its turn (their choice): 1) +60′ Speed. 2) May stand up if prone and/or take a bonus move action without provoking attacks of opportunity. 3) Make an extra attack, on or off initiative, at it’s full BAB. 4) Gain a +4 (dodge) bonus to Attacks, AC, and Reflex Saves. 5) Cast a single spell of level four or lower as if it has +1 level of any desired metamagic on it. Targets may not use both one of these bonuses and any ability derived from the powers of the upper planes in any one round; they must choose to use one or the other. (Yes, this is a basically a metamagiced version of Pathfinder’s Blessing of Fervor).

  • Improved Spell/Power Resistance, Specialized for Reduced Cost/only against Divine Magic (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Corrupted/only while performing evil acts (8 CP).

Ansitif is a spirit of the void, a dark mirror to the finer qualities of creation. When someone looks too long into the abyss… it is Ansitif who looks back. His powers are little more than raw malice given form, including the ability to set an infernal flame burning within mortal flesh to provide it with demonic (and subtly addictive) vigor. His summoners are granted power in exchange for becoming a gateway through which evil seeps into the world. But all too many are willing to make that bargain, falling to the temptation of using the dreadful spells and powers he offers.

On the practical level, Ansitif offers a good selection of offensive powers. Blasphemy is selective and very nice against appropriate enemies, Bestow Greater Curse is a Will Save-or-Suck, Dread Litany is a nice no-save area-effect buff/debuff combination, Destruction is a Fort Save or Die (with decent consolation damage on a save), and Planeshift (with range!) is an effective Will Save-or-Lose. That’s not a bad selection of options even without throwing in a few other buffs as lagniappe.

Eligor (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsively Honorable. Those channeling Eligor will find themselves accepting challenges, fighting honorably, protecting children, and keeping their word – if not necessarily being “good”).

Eligor is from the Ars Goetia, where he is said to “discover hidden things and know the future of wars and how soldiers should meet. He attracts the favor of lords, knights and other important persons. He is depicted as a knight carrying a lance, an ensign and a scepter”.

OK, so knight it is and mounted combat it shall be.

  • Warmage. All effects Specialized and Corrupted/they require gestures, incantations, and a spell component pouch to work, involve invoking Eligor, have ominous and disturbing special effects, cause the user to display obvious physical stigmata related to Eligor (these also reveal some their current powers to the knowledgeable), and provoke rather strong reactions in people. Bokor are generally regarded with great suspicion by Clerics and similar characters given that they call on strange and unreliable beings – some of them beyond the influence of the gods themselves.
    • Witchcraft/Wrath of the Sea at Double Effect. The user may spend 1 Power as a free action to gain a +12 bonus to Str for the next ten minutes (4 CP).
    • Witchcraft/Bones of Iron at Triple Effect (6 CP).
    • Witchcraft/Leaping Fire (2 CP).
  • The Inner Fire, Specialized for Increased Effect (Bonus “Slots” are converted into Power (2 Points/Level of the bonus slot, bonus slots converted to Power cannot be used for other purposes) and the user may select psionic abilities from the Psychic Warrior list) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (The user is restricted to effects of level three and below, the caster level and safe usage level limits (Casting Level = 1/2 User Level, Maximum level of spell usable safely = User Level/4, rounded down) of The Inner Fire continue to apply. These are normal manifestations, not supernatural powers (4 CP).
    • L1) Call Weaponry, Deaden Blow, Inspire Mount, Defensive Precognition, Vigor, and Inertial Armor.
    • L2) Concealing Amorpha, Body Equilibrium, Damp Power, Detect Hostile Intent, Incite Bravery, and Psionic Lions Charge.
    • L3) Breath Barrier, Dimension Slide, Ectoplasmic Form, Evade Burst, Greater Concealing Amorpha, Hooves (Claws) of the Vampire
      • Using Charisma-Based Bonus Spell Slots… Charisma 12+ = +2 Power, 14+ = +6 Power, 16+ = +12 Power, 18+ = +20 Power, 20+ = +32 Power, 22+ = +48 Power, and so on.
  • Doubled Damage when Charging, Specialized/only while mounted (3 CP).
  • Split Movement (Attacking), Specialized/only while mounted (3 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only for Power (7 CP).
  • Steed of Eligor / Birth of Flames (6 CP):

Steed of Eligor: Large Psychic Construct. 10d10+30 HP (85 HP), Initiative +1, Speed 40 (50 as a Quadruped, 70 Flying), AC 10 + 15 Natural +3 Martial Art +1 Dex -1 Size = 28, Attacks +21/+21/+21/+21 for 1d12+12 with Crit 20/x2 and 10′ Reach, Fort +3, Ref +4, Wil +3, Str 33, Dex 13, Cha 10, Wis 11. Darkvision 60′, Construct Type and Traits. May be manifested, or returned to mental “storage”, for 1 Power.

Construct Options:

  • Sentient: Int 10, 40 SP (Perception +10, Acrobatics +23, Equine Martial Style +21 (+4 to Attack, Defenses +3 to AC, Damage 1d12, Combat Reflexes, Mobility, Improved Bull Rush), and Fly +10]. Three Feats: Air Heritage (+30 Flight Speed, +2 to Acrobatics), Mystic Link with the Identity Link Upgrade (Rider and Mount are both affected by relevant powers and magic), and Fortune (Reflex Variant).
  • Extra Attack. This provides two extra attacks for more powerful constructs. These have already been included above.
  • Fast Healing II. Note that this continues even when the Steed is not manifest, so it will almost always be fresh.
  • Bonded: May be mentally commanded / communicated with as a free action.
  • Fly x 2 (40 feet, 70 total, Average Maneuverability).

The steed is a pretty good mount, even at rather high levels.

This version of Eligor makes you an aerial knight, Yes, you’ll want some weapon proficiencies, some existing Power, and a few moments to get ready – but Eligor can provide you with some major boosts to strength and armor class, a fast flying mount that can rip it’s way through mooks and heal you at the same time, and an immense range of other enhancements. As might be expected for a seventh level Mystery, Eligor is a very, very, good basis for a mounted warrior-gish.

Marchosias (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. Marchosias is a horrible liar (suffering a -3 penalty on bluff checks) and always tries to follow through when he announces his intentions. If his channeler says that he or she is going to kick in the door and duel the evil emperor, than that’s what he or she is going to do).

According to the Ars Goetia, Marchosias appears as a wolf with gryphon’s wings and a serpent for a tail, spewing fire from his mouth. He’s a powerful fighter, truthful, and loyal. He’s loosely associated with the moon, and – in some later sources – with shapeshifting and lycanthropy.

OK; what Wizards of the Coast did with him is hardly worth mentioning, so I think I’ll go with the classical version.

  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on a Hide, Move Silently, and Tumble (Acrobatics, Stealth, and Survival in Pathfinder) and must be distributed evenly between them (6 CP).
  • Witchcraft III. Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • Death Strike: Infliction, Specialized for Triple Effect / only usable once every three rounds, can only be activated as a part of a successful melee attack.
    • Void Walker: Shadowweave, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only usable to enhance your ability to hide. You may hide in plain sight and, when you hide, creatures who are scrying, or who have exotic senses such as blindsense, blindsight, scent, or tremorsense must make a Listen check or a Spot check to find you, just as sighted creatures need to. In addition, if they fail to locate you, you can flank creatures that have the all-around vision special quality.
    • Bladestorm/Hand of Shadows: You may spend 2 Power and a standard action to attempt one attack at your full BAB against everyone you desire either along a 60′ line, in a 40′ cone, or in a 15′ radius around yourself. Hits inflict normal damage for your base attack.
    • Touch of Doom/Witchfire: You may spend 2 Power and a standard action to imbue one weapon (or up to 50 projectiles) with “+2″ worth of weapon enhancements of choice for the next three minutes. This stacks with dissimilar abilities from other sources (albeit not with itself) and need not include an Enhancement Bonus – but weapons without enhancement bonuses do not count as “magic”.
  • Advanced Witchcraft/Flesh Like Mist, Specialized for Increased Effect/Dire Werewolf Form only (equivalent to Bite of the Weretiger). This costs 1 Power and a Standard Action to invoke, but lasts for one hour, plus one hour per additional power spent. The first time this power is used each day it provides the equivalent of one days healing. Corrupted for Reduced Cost/Standard Bokor limitations (4 CP).
  • Advanced Witchcraft/Flesh Like Mist II (Gaseous Form): Corrupted/this cannot be activated for at least five rounds after returning to solid form, the user’s presence is easily noted by the smell of burning sulfur and the dim red glow of sparks and embers the cloud emits. It otherwise functions normally (4 CP).
  • Burning Wrath: Presence, Specialized for Increased Effect/Use requires a swift action each round, user is surrounded by wisps of flame and is blatantly obvious (equivalent to being affected by Faerie Fire), user may accidently set unattended objects within his or her aura on fire. Any enemy within 15′ is subject to the effects of a Combust spell each round (6 CP). Note that this can be used while in Gaseous Form.
  • +2d6 Mana as +6d6 (21) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Witchcraft abilities listed above (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +7 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Witchcraft abilities listed above (5 CP).

Marchosias is pretty straightforward; he wolfs out, he sets enemies who get too close to him on fire, and he hits anyone who is tough enough to handle being set on fire for a lot more damage. If there’s a problem getting to his targets he can try to sneak up on them – but that’s about it. Still, if you want to stomp in and hit things, or are expecting crowds of mooks to be set on fire, you could do a great deal worse than Marchosias.

Bonus Mysteries: The Exemplars of Magic (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Varies with the individual Exemplar).

The Exemplars of Magic are the spirits of various types and schools of magic or psionics – and all of them basically follow the same design

  • Sixteen levels of the Wilder psionic progression, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / no bonus power for high attributes, all powers or spells must drawn be from an extremely narrow theme (this doesn’t actually mean much to a Mystery, but it is worth noting for those who want to build this sort of thing into other characters), the power or spell levels provided may only be used for the exemplars spells or disciplines, spells or disciplines may not be modified by other abilities, powers, or metamagical/metapsionic feats (although they may have built-in metamagic as usual), the user will be convinced that the powers of the Exemplar(s) that he or she channels represent the greatest of all magics and can be used to meet almost any eventuality (the GM may require will checks to avoid using or relying on the exemplars powers even when they’re not appropriate), opposing Exemplars may spontaneously empower opponents just to demonstrate that they’re “better”, the user is compelled to research and teach the type of magic that the Exemplar embodies when the opportunity becomes available, and the user becomes extremely competitive with those using other magics (32 CP).
  • An Exemplar also provides a +2 bonus on Knowledge/Arcana (2 CP) with a +3 Specialty in whatever kind of magic it represents (1 CP).
    • An Exemplar provides 221 Power or 123 Spell Levels with which to Manifest or Cast a set of nine psionic abilities or spells – generally one each of levels 1-8 and one extra of one of those levels, although you can drop a higher level one to get another one of a lower level. Thus Ikon drops his L5 effect to get an extra L4 effect.

Sample Exemplars:

  • Ikon of Unreality: L1) Color Spray, Disguise Self, L2) Invisibility, L3) Major Image, L4) Phantasmal Killer, Greater Mirror Image, L6) Project Image, L7) Greater Shadow Conjuration, L8) Greater Shadow Evocation. Anyone channeling Ikon suffers a -4 penalty on saves against illusion magic
  • Kalcine Firelord: L1) Burning Hands, L2) Combust, Pyrotechnics, L3) Fireball, L4) Wall of Fire, L5) Greater Fireburst, L6) Dispel Flame (Quickened Greater Dispelling, but only works against Fire effects), L7) Empowered Firebrand, L8) Empowered Quickened Scorching Ray. Kalcine absolutely HATES creatures that are immune to fire (and will insist on throwing at least three fire spells at them “just to be sure”) and sometimes causes his channelers to refer to themselves as “Tim”.
  • Raphim the Warder: L1) Resist Energy, L2) Wings of Cover, L3) Magic Circle Against Evil, L4) Greater Earthward, L5) Greater Blink, L6) Globe of Invulnerability, L7) Greater Ruin Delver’s Fortune (Double Effect), Quickened Greater Dispel Magic, L8) Quickened Wall of Force. Those channeling Raphim will insist that all plans have escape options built in and that they are, if at all possible, near a possible exit before confronting anyone.

Greater Earthward: L4, activates once per round on it’s own, on or off action, blocking 40 points of damage from any one attack as well as any special effects – poison, energy drain, or whatever – that it might have).

The Exemplars are optimized raw power – more magic than is even faintly reasonable for a Mystery to grant. The only thing that makes them even remotely playable is that they can easily create nearly as many problems as they solve. Even so, a game master should consider carefully before allowing them into a game. While their power isn’t unlimited, it isn’t going to run out soon – especially if the channeler is strong-willed enough to do anything but use it as much as possible. A character channeling four Exemplars will know as many spells as a 20’th level Sorcerer, have at least 80% more spell levels to cast them with (with no slot level limitations), and will be able to tweak his or her spell selection each day – even if that selection is subject to four reasonably tight themes. And they could trade some out for just the Theme they need and a partial resupply on those spell levels.

Honestly, if I hadn’t liked the notion of giving someone the ability to play comic-book wizard by throwing up a protective spell each round as well as doing something offensive, I probably would have just skipped this notion. It’s really that broken. Oh well. At least I’m telling you that in advance. This is definitely a Tier-1 option – and even so it’s probably less broken than Zercyll.

Eclipse d20 – Conversion, Dominion, and Path of the Dragon

And for today, another question…

I’m still confused as to how Dominion is supposed to be incredibly powerful. The ability to blast someone on a yearly basis with a level 12 effect and the possibility of unlimited power without any control (as in, a plot coupon at best) seems sorta underpowered compared to blasting people with up to 18th level spells Cha Mod +4 times per day (Channeling) or casting Miracle at-will, possibly with Amplify-Metamagic to allow the duplication of up to level 12 cleric and level 10 (everything else) spells (Path of the Dragon; Though even if the Amplify Metamagic doesn’t work (as the wording specifies the effect inflicted as opposed to the spells effect), you can buy Mighty Hysteria and power it with Blood of the Dragon).

Channeling, with a set of Wish, Miracle, Greater Invocation (“enter theme here”) and Summon Personification (according to the theme) does a better job more reliably (you can at least talk to the personification as opposed to not having any input at all or even the opposite effect, can cast higher level spells of your theme and never fall below a level seven effect).

The only other thing I can think about would be the abilities that unlock with Godfire (as in, Channeling of up to a level 9 base) or the fact that it can slightly exceed the limits of Wish.

-Krakothunder

Incredibly powerful? Well, like most abilities, Dominion has it’s good and bad features.

  • Small-scale Dominion can be convenient. The ability to spontaneously toss in three levels of any desired metamagic(s) lets you pull all kinds of tricks, it provides effective immunity to attribute losses (but not gains) due to age, and it lets you cast spells across massive areas. Still, you can’t do that very often.
  • Of course on the social scale… it lets you hand out minor power packages on a permanent basis, it can be used to grant four positive levels to up to 10,000 people at a time for lengthy periods (sufficient to accomplish almost anything if you use Action Hero/Stunts or specifically tailored abilities), and it lets you manipulate events across entire empires regardless of their size.

That really isn’t bad for the first 6 CP ability in a chain.

There are a few other high-powered abilities in there – for example, Spirit Channeling will let you tap into heartstones, wards major, nature gods, land spirits, and magical power nexi throughout your domain, although how useful that is depends on how much background your game master is willing to admit to. Quite a few of them are, however, things which will affect the setting – possibly long after your characters departure from it. If your game master will let you get away with it, you can use a limited version of Divine Attribute to retain control while picking up some near-absolute ability, define your own divine realm filled with whatever resources you wish, and so on.

Conversion can do some very impressive things – but can only power divine spell effects that are “appropriate to the energy type”. As usual in Eclipse, that is not flavor text. It’s a rule. So looking at the various sourcebooks…

  • Positive Energy is associated with Vitality (Boosting Hit Points, Healing, Raising the Dead, Life Extension, possibly including positive emotional effects if the GM is feeling generous) and Raw Energy (Light, Most Evocations, including force-constructs. Possibly including Astral Constructs if the game master is feeling generous. Includes most Metamagic Addition effects under “pouring more raw energy into the spell” and for back-compatibility with Divine Metamagic). Secondarily it seems to have minor associations with the Higher Planes (covering relatively minor summons and limited contact effects, simple blessings, and purifications/sacred light – but nothing of very high level that doesn’t overlap into raw-energy blasting).
  • Negative Energy is associated with Darkness (Darkness and Shadows, Necromancy, Corruption and Curses, and, if the GM is feeling generous – negative emotional effects) and Destruction (Disintegration, Cause Wounds / Harm, and Negation/Dispelling). Secondarily it seems to have minor associations the lower planes (covering relatively minor summons and limited contact effects, simple curses, and making things toxic or infections).
  • Some worlds offer other sources of power that can be channeled. As those were world laws specific to individual settings, they don’t get much support in Eclipse itself, although there’s some on the blog here.

So we can look at some examples:

For Positive Energy we have:

  • The Centurion Archetype uses positive energy conversion to infuse followers with heroism, resistance to injury, fleetness of foot, and to remove paralysis – all basic Vitality-boosting effects.
  • Georgina De’Flower uses positive energy conversion to power Cure Moderate Wounds, Lesser Restoration, Remove Paralysis, and Sutra (a half-strength Prayer effect). That’s three for Vitality and one minor blessing.
  • Li Kao can convert positive energy into Cure Serious Wounds, Remove Curse, Lesser Restoration, and Cure Blindness/Deafness – that’s Vitality, Purification, Vitality, and Vitality.
  • Malachai converts positive energy into Blade Barrier, Channel Coure, Globe of Invulnerability, and Heal. That’s Force Construct, Minor Higher-Plane Summons, Force Construct (a bit debatable, but hardly the most abusive thing in Uncle’s build), and Vitality. Of course, Malachai is already a sentient item follower for a hyper-optimized character.
  • Matthew uses Channeling to Channel a minor Archon, to heal, to funnel extra power into other spells, and to revive the newly dead – pushing the limits a bit on summoning from the higher planes, using a bit of “add metamagic”, and using Vitality effects. He later learned some other tricks, but the theme remained.
  • Pathfinder Paladins channel positive energy to Heal, Disrupt Undead, Sanctify Weapons, and summon a celestial mount from the higher planes. That’s Vitality, Vitality/Purification, a minor Blessing, and a minor upper-plane Summoning.
  • The Silmaril of the Water allows the creation of a wide variety of Holy Light based effects – that’s Energy/Light/Purification.
  • Timothy Keldin can produce solar effects, scorching rays, cure moderate wounds, and pyrotechnics. That’s Energy/Light, Energy, Vitality, and a minor stretch of Raw Energy (use up all the fuel right away. It’s also not technically a divine spell, but it seems reasonable enough for druidic types).

For Negative Energy we have:

  • Anek Borez uses negative energy channeling to animate the dead, create a Harm effect, and unhallow areas. That’s necromancy, destruction, and corruption.
  • Darius Metaxis uses negative energy to power Greater Magic Weapon, Dispel Magic, Bestow Curse, and Vampiric Touch. Greater Magic Weapon, of course, is adding destructive power to a weapon, Dispel Magic is a Negation effect, Bestow Curse is a basic curse, and Vampiric Touch is simple necromancy.
  • Darklings are probably channeling power from the plane or shadow, but their ability to create shadow magic effects would work with plain negative energy since Shadow Magic is just a subset of darkness and deception powers.
  • Howl-of-Death channels negative energy to draw on the powers of the dead – pure necromancy. Given that all of her effects are non-standard, if you want to look at them you’ll need to follow the link.
  • Kevin channels negative energy into making demonic pacts. He has the most versatile set of effects on this list – mostly because he’s a god (of negative energy in particular), and a full-blown reality editor, and the Federation-Apocalypse setting not only takes all the limits off of almost everything but because it lumps negative emotional energy, the survival imperative, and quite a lot of other stuff in with “negative energy”.

I am the Darkness-that-Defends, the Light of the Abyss and the Angel of Nightfall. In the darkness is the rage of the oppressed, the wrath of the injured, and the vengeance of the bereaved. It is the drive for survival and dominion. I will not permit the fall of the Core worlds or for the race to fail it’s destiny – no matter what that requires.

  • Secondarily, as discussed HERE, his various powers are mostly effectively only special effects. In his identity as Melkor in middle-earth he gets away with even more because he is one of the local creator gods and his power has infused the entire world. There he can lay curses, call upon the dark power in the world to make it’s elements obey his will, change his shape, and change creatures into monsters by amplifying the dark power he’s infused them with. He’s even more versatile than Kevin is at his base, but – as an identity – Melkor’s powers only work within the limits of the world that he helped shape and which is saturated with his power.
  • Sauron – as a Federation-Apocalypse identify of Marty’s – can channel negative energy to further corrupt the world with deception, necromancy, and dark fires. Of course, he’s another near-deity, federation-apocalypse character who is operating in a world that’s thoroughly saturated with his “master’s” power.

For alternative power sources we have:

  • Amilko comes from Thera, where there are sixteen different power sources for Channeling available to mortals (and two more available only to the Celestial Host and the Spawn of Apophis respectively). Amiko channels the power of raw chaos – basically a way to convert a non-Eclipse power base specific to Thera into Eclipse.
  • The Chimeric Master uses Dream powers. That’s actually pretty straightforward.
  • The Drow Racial Template uses Channeling to represent racial abilities to draw on a particular god – in this case Lloth. It’s generalized to allow gray elves with special talents, but (once again) this implies drawing on various power sources other than positive and negative energy.
  • Elemental Infusion Template users channel power from the Elemental Planes to produce a limited subset of (not surprisingly) elemental effects.
  • The Fair Folk Templates use Channeling to produce some classical fey effects. This actually stretches the rules quite a bit – but that’s why the note that they only use it to power their natural magics. You could consider that a Corruption to increase the variety of effects that can be produced (or that they’re really drawing on Light and Dark fey magic), but I just took it that truly classic fey only exist in very specific worlds, where simple positive and negative energy carry a good many more complications.
  • Janni channel Elemental Energy to produce a variety of elemental effects, as might be expected of creatures that are living links to the elemental planes.
  • Raven is drawing on the primal wild magic of creation – a power source beyond the gods and roughly equivalent to the Big Bang – and even so, all he can do with it is command Earth, Fire, Air, and Water within rather strict limits.
  • Spirit Binders draw on the spirit plane to produce the effects of Banishment, Spirit Mastery, Spirit Summoning, and True Seeing – all classical shamanic powers drawing on spirit magic.
  • Terin Aderath is using Channeling to represent Ritual Magic – a fine example of using a given mechanic to represent something else entirely. In this case, as a world-hopping character for the Federation-Apocalypse game, no one wanted to have to worry about how rituals would function or vary in each new world, or to bother with component-hunts, or anything like that – and so a fixed mechanic was used instead. That’s also why he can only perform one ritual a day and why no one cared whether he was channeling positive or negative energy to begin with.
  • Thunder Dwarves come from the Twilight Isles, where the energies of the Eight Thunders (Air, Fire, Earth, Water, Spirit, Life, Death, or Magic) are an integral part of the world around them and their own flesh – and can channel power from whatever Thunder they were born most attuned to into appropriate “elemental” effects, bind such effects into talismans for later use, and a bit of Elemental Channeling.

Now the trouble with attempting to use Conversion to duplicate Wish is that Wish is not a divine spell and is extremely multipurpose – and so is not “appropriate to the energy type” for either positive or negative energy. Miracle has the same problem of not being related to a particular energy type. Similarly, “Summon Personification” generally isn’t related to either positive or negative energy. A Greater Invocation might be “appropriate” (depending on theme), but getting to high level effects that way will require either godhood, epic levels, or applying Specialization and possibly Corruption to increase the level of effect available – and Corruption and Specialization always restrict the use of the power they’re applied to. The softest option is to restrict the applications of a flexible or otherwise broadly-applicable power – but if you choose other methods there will be plenty of times when you won’t be able to use your power.

The Path of the Dragon does allow spellcasting in two different ways – Ride the Dragon / Wings of the Dragon (providing a small set of spells you can channel available magic into casting) and Shaping (offering access to almost any spell, but rapidly becoming very expensive). Either can be Specialized and Corrupted to increase the effect of course, but it’s a bit tricky with Ride the Dragon and Wings of the Dragon since they only provide a few prechosen spells – so all of the ways of “limiting your choices” are meaningless; restrictions like “only fire spells” mean nothing – and so do nothing – when you were only taking fire spells and can freely take the ability again to get the non-fire spells you want. If a Specialization or Corruption does not meaningfully restrict you, it doesn’t do anything. So you can’t really achieve Wish-at-Will or Miracle-at-Will – or even Limited-Wish-at-Will – without some meaningful restrictions.

Using Shaping gets expensive. Reaching a base of level four effects costs (12 + 24 + 48 + 96) = 160 CP, before considering the costs for getting basic Shaping (6 CP), Pulse of the Dragon (42 CP), and whatever method you choose / your game master allows for keeping that power under control. Thus Kevin, who used Specialization and Corruption to triple his abilities, spent 84 CP to be able to shape Abjuration, Evocation, and Transmutation effects of up to level six – at least until (if the GM applied all the restrictions) his daily limit on spell levels (4 x Constitution) ran out. That was pretty good – but at that point he was ECL 12 and that was one of his major power sets.

Secondarily, Hysteria can only be powered with Mana or Power – not spell levels. Blood of the Dragon only provides spell levels, and only allows them to be spent on Dragonfire, Breath of the Dragon, and Shaping effects – and the only Shaping effects in the Path of the Dragon are the basic Shaping ability, Heart of the Dragon, and extending the range of Mindspeech.

Of course, every GM will probably do things a little differently, so they may allow variations, or not apply some of the restrictions, or otherwise modify things (and optimized character writeups tend to push the rules beyond all playability since most of them were never really intended to be playable anyway) – but that’s always been a game master’s privilege. So long as they and the players are having fun, they’re doing it right.

Eclipse and Magical Schools Part I: Historical Notions

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

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

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

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

-Alzrius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse d20 – Binding Mysterious Spirits V. The Psychopomp, the Whisper From The Grave, Balam, Dantalion, Geryon (and his Bulls of Wrath), and Kagura.

As always, these Mysteries presume that their Channeler has the basic Bokor package, at 24 CP.

The Psychopomp and the Whisper From The Grave

Acererak was the Arch-Lich “responsible” for the classic Tomb of Horrors, and – as a Vestige – is apparently still clinging to his “unlife” after a fashion. He supposedly grants a tiny portion of the terrible powers he once wielded.

Of course, if being powerful, unwilling to fully die, and slain by adventurers was really enough, then half the dark lords who have ever lived should have become Vestiges. This illustrates a general problem with Vestiges. With a nigh-infinite number prime material planes, each with the potential to host a nigh-infinite number of worlds, even the most bizarre circumstances will pop up over and over again. Why aren’t there an endless host of Vestiges?

Just as importantly… why some no-longer-undead guy should bestow some undead powers that were almost entirely based on his transformed (and no longer existent) undead physical form is beyond me. Wouldn’t some of his knowledge, or magical power, or something else that was a part of HIM instead of being a part of a generic template make more sense?

So, OK; how about something a little more interesting?

The Psychopomp (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Duties. The Psychopomp must be a listener and faithful guide to the dead, regardless of his or her personal opinion of them or their lives)

The Psychopomp stands between life and death, a part of neither and a guide to both, a guardian at the crossroads, offering enigmatic advice to the incomprehending. Unless a spirit accepts their judgement, they do not judge, but merely ensure passage. Anubis, Charon, the Grim Reaper… all fill the role. It is not, however, a role that calls for divinity; shaman, deceased relatives, and lesser spirits all commonly take the role.

Among them, Bokor who choose to channel the Psychopomp.

  • Guide of the Dead: Privilege/The spirits of the newly dead and any other free spirits in the area get to spend a few “minutes” out of the normal flow of time speaking with the Psychopomp. If such a spirit agrees to a destination, or has none in mind, the Psychopomp may send the spirit on to either reincarnation or to any appropriate afterlife (3 CP).
  • On The Paths Of The Dead/Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • Dreamfaring/In Dead Mans Shoes: By expending a standard action and 3 Power a Psychopomp may briefly abandon his or her hold on the material plane to become an incorporeal free spirit. Incorporeality can only be safely maintained for (Will Bonus) rounds. After that, resisting the siren call of the afterworlds to return to the material realm requires a Will check at a DC equal to the number of rounds you are already past your limit. If the user fails three such checks in a row, he or she will depart for the afterworlds.
    • Infliction/Transcendent Blast: As per triple-effect Infliction, but this radiance only affects the Undead (including incorporeal ones) and blatantly reveals the user’s nature.
    • The Adamant Will/Citadel of Souls: A Psychopomp cannot be involuntarily possessed. Such attempts can be blocked for an entire hour with the expenditure of one Power. This does not count as an action and may be automatically activated whenever a possession is attempted.
    • The Inner Eye/Tales Of The Dead: A Psychopomp can read the traces of death upon an object, area, or corpse – determining details such as if and when an item was used to kill, what the killer felt about the victim, how long ago a creature died, and what they were feeling when they did, and so on. Secondarily, he or she can sense the presence of spirits and undead and the approach of death. This sense may be activated as a free action for ten minutes at a cost of one Power.
  • Strengths Of The Dead: +2d6 Mana as 6d6 (21) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Paths of the Dead abilities given above (4 CP).
  • Touching The Fading Light: Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to rebuild the Paths of the Dead power pool above, only usable in the vicinity of a recently slain creature (4 CP).
  • The Unfallen Mantle: Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in saving throws (6 CP).
  • The Instant Of Death: Reflex Training (three action per day variant) with +8 Bonus Uses, Corrupted / may not be used more than three times in any one encounter (12 CP). A Psychopomp may occasionally invoke the timelessness of death, stepping momentarily out of the normal flow of events accomplish some task in a mere instant.

Being a soul-guide doesn’t offer a lot of raw combat power – but it can provide a great deal of information and it does include two of the handiest defensive abilities that Eclipse has to offer – the ability to automatically succeed on a save when you really need to and the ability to take extra actions when you need them. Being able to blast the undead is just a bonus.

The Whisper From The Grave (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Insane. Those who channel the Whisper have an irrational fear of death; if confronted with a serious chance of being killed, they tend to flee expeditiously).

Death in d20 is not an especially frightening thing. People KNOW that their spirits continue after death, they can go and visit various afterlives, they know that resurrection, reincarnation, various forms of transfiguration (becoming a god, or demon, or various other outer-planar creatures), and visits from the dead occur on a regular basis. Even if you betray your god, or are horribly evil, or have other problems… there are plenty of other gods who will approve and reward you. And while there are plenty of ways to put it off… there’s no avoiding it in the end. Sooner or later the odds will catch up with you no matter what, even if it takes a million years, and you will just have to put up with moving on. It is still a big change though – and there are always some who listen to that whisper of fear, of doubt and uncertainty and choose to linger in the embrace of the grave rather than moving on. To call upon that dubious host is somewhat foolish, but all too common.

  • Innate Enchantment (6000 GP Value / 7 CP. All Spell Level One, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use use-Activated).
    • Detect Undead (2000 GP).
    • Hide From Undead (2000 GP). Note that this can be granted to companions with a simple touch.
    • Protection From Good (2000 GP). This too may be granted to companions.
  • Presence (Resist Energy), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/only affects the user, only protects against Cold and Electricity (6 CP). This provides 20 points of resistance to start, 40 at level seven, and increases to sixty at level eleven.
  • Occult Sense / Deathlore (3 CP): The user may gather about a paragraph’s worth of information from a corpse. If this is about the circumstances of death and and general information about the deceased and the cause of death, success is automatic. If the user would prefer other information he or she must share a language with, or use an effect which would allow communication with, the deceased. If the deceased would not have wanted to give up that information the corpse may make a will save (DC 14 + User’s Cha Mod) as if it was alive; if it succeeds it may censor the information it provides. Specialized/Any given user may only target a given corpse once with this ability.
  • Trick / Paralyzing Touch (4 CP): As a standard action once every five rounds you may make a touch attack to paralyze a living target. If the target fails a Fort Save (DC 10 + Level/2 + Cha Mod) it will be paralyzed for (Level/2) rounds. Corrupted/the victim gets a new save as a full-round action each round to end the effect.
  • Immunity to Negative Energy (Common, Major, Major, 9 CP).
  • Grant of Aid, Specialized and Corrupted for 3x the daily number of uses (1/Level) / Can only be triggered by exposure to negative energy, cannot restore negative levels (6 CP).

The Whisper From The Grave isn’t an especially versatile entity, but it can be awfully handy when dealing with a more subtle scenario – and even if it’s only real offensive ability is the paralyzing touch, it’s a pretty good one. A channeler could do much worse. 

Balam (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Irreverent. Balam has seen enough of various gods to have some pretty serious doubts about them being any more than really powerful people – and shares those doubts with his summoner. A channeler cannot regain divinely-granted spells while Balam is present).

According to the grimoires, Balam gives perfect answers to queries about things past, present, future and can make men invisible and witty. The name is probably derived from the biblical Balaam, a prophet-magician who was called on to curse Israel and could not, because god did not command it (although he did offer the upset king who had demanded his services some practical advice – basically “get them sinning and god will favor them less”). He supposedly died in battle. What a prophet was doing in a battle where he was going to get killed is never really explained.

In Wizard’s d20 version Balam possesses some combat-related foresight, a small gaze attack – perhaps to represent cursing groups – and a rather nice reroll ability, which is a pretty reasonable way to represent some prophetic ability. That’s a fairly reasonable place to start.

  • Luck, with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable to reroll, only usable once every five rounds (8 CP).
  • Advanced Augmented Bonus: Add (Dex Mod) to (Str Mod) for combat purposes (12 CP).
  • Eyes and Hands: Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • Witchfire/Ice Eyes: You may spend 2 Power and a Swift Action to gain a Gaze Attack with a 30′ range that inflicts 3d6 Cold damage, or half that against a DC (16 + Cha Mod) Fortitude Save for up to one round per level. This supernatural ability works on constructs and, under the usual, rules, – does not require an action on your part to employ.
    • Witchsight/Death Eyes: You may spend 2 power whenever the game master calls for an Initiative Check or Reflex Save to see the patterns and flow of combat, gaining a + (Level/4) insight bonus to your Armor Class, Initiative, and Reflex Saves for one minute per level.
    • Hand of Shadows/Crushing Hand: You channel your determination into your weapons, allowing them to inflict damage as if they were one size larger. This is a constant effect with a cost of one Power per hour.
    • Witchfire/Icefire: All your attacks carry an aura of icy fire with them, and inflict an extra 1d8 cold damage. This is a constant effect with a cost of one Power per hour.
  • +2d6 Mana as +6d6 (21) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the four Eyes and Hands powers listed above (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Eyes and Hands Powers, above (5 CP).

Balam effectively comes with better than 90 power – which should be quite enough to run those four abilities for a day. Admittedly this version only has a limited number of rerolls available, but – since that once every five rounds limitation tends to promote saving rerolls for emergencies – a limited number of daily uses will have much the same effect.

Dantalion (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsively nosy. Those channeling Dantalion cannot stand there being things they do not know or motivations that they do not understand, and will try to read the thoughts of anyone in the vicinity who is doing something for unknown reasons and will want to stop and do research or discuss matters if they ever fail a knowledge check).

Here we have yet another resident of the Ars Goetia. According to the Lesser Key Of Solomon…

“The Seventy-first Spirit is Dantalion. He is a Duke Great and Mighty, appearing in the Form of a Man with many Countenances, all Men’s and Women’s Faces; and he hath a Book in his right hand. His Office is to teach all Arts and Sciences unto any; and to declare the Secret Counsel of any one; for he knoweth the Thoughts of all Men and Women, and can change them at his Will. He can cause Love, and show the Similitude of any person, and show the same by a Vision, let them be in what part of the World they Will.”

Well that pretty well covers most of the things you could want doesn’t it? Doesn’t it EVER occur to would-be demonologists that if this had any chance of working the world would long since be under the thumb of a successful summoner?

Oh well. Wizards of the Coast gave him the ability to prevent others from attacking (for one round in every five), a bonus to knowledge checks, the ability to read thoughts, and short-range teleportation. That could be a lot worse. Of course, it could also be better…

  • Ten Thousand Faces / Superior Improved Presence: Dantalion lacks a true form of his own, and so borrows one from the mind of anyone who looks upon him. This is equivalent to a constant Disguise Self effect – allowing him to change his own appearance, and that of anyone else within a ten foot radius, to suit his whims. This does not count as an action. He gains a +4 Circumstance bonus when interacting with anyone who can be affected by mind-affecting powers and anyone who attempts to attack him (whether physically, magically, or what-have-you) must make a Will save (DC 13 + Cha Mod) or lose their action. The save must be repeated each round, although if the Channeler is currently attacking someone they get a +5 bonus (18 CP).
  • The Rule of Will: Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • Tap the Akhasic Record / The Inner Eye: Drawing on the psychic echoes of knowledge past, the user may spend 1 Power as a part of a knowledge check to gain a +12 bonus on it – and to count as being skilled.
    • Read Thoughts / The Inner Eye: You may use the Read Thoughts psionic power at will at no cost. Creatures may resist with a DC (16 + Cha Mod) will save.
    • Phantom Step / Hand of Shadows: you may expend 2 Power and a Standard Action or 5 Power and a Swift Action to instantly transport yourself and any objects you carry up to heavy load to any location you can see within medium range. If the space is occupied by something you cannot see, you will collide with it, stunning yourself for one round.
    • Who Walks Unseen / Shadowweave: You may expend 2 Power and a Standard Action to create an effect equivalent to the Greater Invisibility spell.
  • +3d6 Mana as +9d6 (32) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Rule of Will powers listed above (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Rule of Will Powers, above (5 CP).

Dantalion has some substantial defensive abilities. Even a moderate chance of an enemy losing their action whenever they try to attack you is a major benefit, and throwing in invisibility and even short range teleportation can go a very long ways towards not being targeted – but Dantalion has no real offensive abilities at all unless you get very creative about disguising appearances.

Geryon (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. Those hosting Geryon will find themselves speaking in thieves cant, like a gangster, or in some other dialect which will serve as a warning to the knowledgeable).

In Greek Myths Geryon was a grandson of Poseidon and a fearsome giant warrior, possibly with extra arms and bodies. Sadly for him, Hercules shot him with a poisoned arrow so as to steal his cattle. Much later on Dante’ put him in the Inferno as the venomous avatar of Fraud and a winged transport for Dante and Virgil. From there he made it into the first edition Monster Manual as an Arch-Devil with poison, ice powers, and a horn that summoned Minotaurs (his “cattle” – and the secret cow level). Later editions deposed him (and gave him vastly increased abilities). Still later, he somehow wound up both alive and a Vestige.

Well, OK. The “Giant Multibodied Warrior” version is kind of hard to implement (and just what it would do is kind of dubious anyway, although I may throw in some Minotaurs to give him more bodies to work with) – but the master of fraud and corruption who moved Dante and Virgil past deadly dangers has possibilities. To make sure there’s some combat power there I think I’ll equate “corrupting” to “corrosive” – and in d20 that means “acid”. So, some minor acid power that can affect large numbers of people.

  • +1 Bonus to Speak Language (Infernal, Specific Knowledge/The Fifth Layer Of Hell (2 CP).
  • Master Of The Infernal Realms: Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations, taken twice, for a total of eight specific effects (12 CP).
    • Witchfire/Disrupting Gaze: You may spend 2 Power and a Swift Action to gain a Gaze Attack with a 30′ range that inflicts 2d6 Acid damage (your targets being torn apart by molecular telekinesis), or half that against a successful DC (16 + Cha Mod) Fortitude Save for up to one round per level. This supernatural ability works on constructs and – under the usual rules – does not require an action on your part to employ.
    • Shadowweave/Expanded Vision: You guide the light from all around you into your eyes – allowing you to see in all directions at once. You gain a +6 bonus to Spot and Search checks and cannot be flanked. On the other hand, you cannot avert your eyes from gaze weapons, and suffer a -3 penalty on saves against bright lights and similar visual threats. This is a constant effect with no cost unless you intentionally deactivate it, in which case it costs 1 Power and a free action to start again.
    • Witchsight/Perfect Nightsight: You see in twilight, shadows, and darkness, including magical versions thereof, as if it was full daylight. This is a constant effect at no cost.
    • Dreamfaring/Eyes of the Archdevil: You may see, and strike into, the Ethereal, Near Astral, and Shadow planes at no cost as a constant effect.
    • Hand of Shadows / Phantom Step: You may expend 2 Power and a Standard Action or 5 Power and a Swift Action to instantly transport yourself and any objects you carry up to heavy load to any location you can see within medium range. If the space is occupied by something you cannot see, you will collide with it, stunning yourself for one round.
    • Glamour / Forked Tongue. You gain the benefit of a constant Glibness effect.
    • Hand of Shadows / Fingers of the Night. You may expend 1 power and a move action to make a Disable Device, Open Locks, or Sleight of Hand check at a range of 60 feet. For an additional 2 Power you gain a +5 on the roll.
    • Shadowweave / In Mortal Guise. You gain a constant Change Self effect.
  • +3d6 Mana as +9d6 (32) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Master of the Infernal Realms powers listed above (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Master of the Infernal Realms Powers, above (6 CP).
  • Birth of Flames with +4 Bonus Uses, Bonus Uses are Specialized/must be identical to the first construct (9 CP). Geryon can call on the services of five Bulls of Wrath. These may be called forth, or returned to mental storage, for 1 Power each.

Bull of Wrath (Astral Construct VI / Large Construct).

These appear to be massive minotaurs, carrying axes.

  • Basic Statistics: 10d10+30 (85) HP, Initiative +1, Speed 80, AC 27 (Base 10 + 15 Natural +2 Martial Art), Attacks 3 x +21 Slam for 1d10+12 damage, 10 x 10 Space, Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +3, Str 33, Int 10, Wis 11, Con -, Dex 13, Chr 10. 60′ Darkvision, Low-Light Vision
  • Construct Traits: Immunity to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromancy effects, mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects), and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects or is harmless. They are not subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability damage, ability drain, fatigue, exhaustion, or energy drain. They cannot normally heal damage save by their own fast healing, but can be repaired.
  • Options:
    • Celerity: +10 Movement (80′ total).
    • Knockdown: Those hit by a Bull of Wrath must make a DC 22 Str check or fall.
    • Semisentient: They are sensible and gain a +6 bonus to Intimidate, Spot, Jump, and Listen.
    • Fast Healing II
    • Sentient (Int 10, 40 SP (Minotaur’s Wrath Martial Art (Str Based) +21 (Attack +4, AC +2, +5′ Reach, Combat Reflexes, Versatility (May do lethal damage, nonlethal damage, bludgeoning, slashing, or piercing damage at will), Mighty Blow, and Whirlwind Attack), Speak Language 2 (Giant, Infernal), Intimidate +16, Spot +16, Listen +14, Jump +17), Improved Bull Rush, Power Attack, Innate Enchantment (SL, CL1, Personal Haste (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated, 2000 GP), plus one use each (Unlimited-Use Command Word Activated x One Use) of the following none spells: Benign Transposition, Blades of Fire, Blood Wind, Close Wounds, Grease, Light Foot, Resurgence, Swift Invisibility, and True Strike).
    • Warding: They may hold an action to intervene and take an attack or damage meant for someone else.

Bulls of Wrath don’t actually have weapons – but being astral constructs and having the Versatility option covers inflicting various types of damage, so giving them the appearance of carrying axes is a mere special effect.

This version of Geryon is highly alert and mobile and an expert at fraud – but not especially good at physical combat, even with his handful of special tricks. For THAT he has his private squad of goons. Those are quite powerful when Geryon first becomes available even if they become less useful offensively as levels increase – but their Warding ability will continue to be handy even at very high levels.

Kagura, (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Insane. Those channeling Kagura suffer from severe claustrophobia whenever bound or tightly confined).

Otiaz is something of a mystery. The earliest mention I could locate was a Spanish priest who accompanied Pizarro in the early 16’th century. There are a couple of variant spellings, and it appears as a name in a few places, but it doesn’t seem to mean anything in any likely language – and neither does spelling it backwards, various variants, or most of it’s anagrams – although they do appear as (rare) names. Ergo…

Naraku, a being consisting of a horde of demons merged together around an evil human core, could split off fragments of himself – manifesting other demonic entities that embodied bits that he’d rather get rid off or thought might be more useful outside himself, maintaining control by holding their mystical hearts captive. Perhaps it is not all that surprising that his first creation embodied his capacity for self-reflection. For his second shed collection of soul-shards… Kagura carried the parts of his myriad component souls that yearned for freedom, to regain their own lives free of Naraku. As such, Kagura’s power was considerable, her aspect was the ever-roaming wind, and her determination to be free was an all-consuming fire. When Naraku at last tired of her defiance and attempts to escape, he slew her – but his own life continued, leaving her soul-fragments adrift upon the winds, free at last but still bound to the world by his own life. Now those same fragments can empower others, granting them many of the powers Kagura once held.

That works at least as well as most “Vestige” / Mystery origins, even if it is straight out of the “Inuyashu” Anime.

  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/may only be spent on the Dance of Winds Martial Art (Dex Based), the Vortex Style Martial Art (also Dex based), and Disable Device – and must be split evenly between them (6 CP). This gives each of those skills a score of (Cha Mod) x 4 + (Dex Mod), plus anything the base character has chosen to invest.
    • Dance of Winds Total: 01: +1 AC, 03: +2 AC, 05: Strike, 07: Weapon Kata/Wind Saber, 09: Blind Fight, 11: +3 AC, 13: Mighty Blow (target automatically tripped on a critical hit), 15: Mind Like Moon (DC 15 Reflex Check to avoid being Surprised or Flat-Footed at the beginning of combat), 17: +2 Synergy to Tumble, 19: +4 AC, 21: Dodge, 23: Healing Hand, 25: Inner Strength, 27) +1 to Attack, 29: Iron Skin, 31: Vanishing, 33: +2 to Attack, 35: +3 to Attack, 37: +4 to Attack, 39+: +2 Synergy to Stealth.
    • Vortex Style (Focused on Wind Saber, Defenses Specialized for Double Effect versus ranged attacks) Total: 01: +2 AC versus Ranged Attacks, 03: +4 AC versus Ranged Attacks, 05: +6 AC versus Ranged Attacks, 07: +8 AC versus Ranged Attacks, 09: Rapid Shot (Wind Saber), 11: Combat Reflexes, 13: +5′ Reach, 15: Instant Stand, 17: Strike, 19: +1 to Attack, 21: Inner Strength, 23: +2 to Attack, 25: +2 Synergy to Flight, 27: Ki Block, 29: +3 to Attack, 31: Wrath (Lightning), 33: +4 to Attack, 35: Light Foot, 37: Power +1 (Wind Saber damage 1d8+1d6), 39: Power +2 (Wind Saber Damage 2d8).
  • Innate Enchantment (9 CP).
    • Wind Saber. You may use the wind as a weapon to strike your enemies. As per Produce Flame, but does slashing or bludgeoning damage at your option (2000 GP).
    • Vortex Edge: Upgrades your Wind Saber to a base of 2d6 Damage and provides 10′ of reach which does not inhibit attacking adjacent characters (2000 GP).
    • Fingers of the Wind: You may make a Disable Device, Sleight of Hand, or Dirty Trick check, or perform a simple unrolled manipulation (open a door, etc) as a standard action at medium range (2000 GP).
    • Cloak of Mists: As per Concealing Amorpha: Gain 20% Concealment (2000 GP).
  • Mistress of the Winds: 2d6 (7) Mana with Reality Editing: Specialized and Corrupted, for Triple Effect, only for Reality Editing, only to produce Supernatural Effects equivalent to Spells (Minor Edits produce L1-L2 effects, Notable Edits produce L3-L4 effects, Major Edits produce L5-L6, and Grand Edits produce L7-L8 effects. Given the specialization for triple effect, these cost 1, 2, 3, and 4 Mana respectively. Such “spells” require their usual casting times and are cast at the user’s level. Users may only spend 1 Mana on an effect per 5 levels or part thereof that they possess, the user is limited to the list of effects given below (almost all wind, fog, or cloud effects) (12 CP).
    • Minor Edits (1 Mana, Levels 1+): Binding Winds, Cloudburst, Deep Breath, Fog Cloud, Gust of Wind, Summon Medium Air Elemental, Updraft, Whirling Blade, Wind Wall, Wings of Cover, and Breath of Frost (Ice Blast).
    • Notable Edits (2 Mana, Levels 6+): Arctic Haze, Air Walk, Boreal Wind, Capricious Zephyr, Contagious Cloud, Defenestrating Sphere, Downdraft, Eye of the Hurricane, Favorable Wind, Haboob, Stinking Cloud, Stolen Breath, Summon Large Air Elemental, and Feather Chariot (as per Phantom Steed).
    • Major Edits (3 Mana, Levels 11+): Airy Water, Control Winds, Cloudkill, Cyclonic Blast, Freedom of Movement (24 hour duration), Freezing Fog, Sandstorm, Solid Fog, Summon Huge Air Elemental, Wind Walk, and Breath of Life (As per Animate Object. If used on Corpses treat them as Skeletons for the duration).
    • Grandiose Edits (4 Mana, levels 16+): Cloud Chariot, Control Weather, Immediate Wall of Force, Mastery of the Sky, Summon Elder Air Elemental, and Whirlwind.
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to refill the Mistress of the Winds pool, only usable between encounters (8 CP).

Kagura, as probably befits an anime character, is pulling a couple of cheap tricks to be as powerful as possible – and is using Specialized and Corrupted reality editing (in itself a take-a-good-look-a-this-first flag for the GM) to become a fairly powerful, if very highly specialized, spellcaster along the way. Of course, like most anime characters… she only has enough Mana to pull off one or two major special tricks in each battle. Unlike a full spellcaster, most of the time she’s going to be relying on her basic attacks.

Running with Magical Girls

This particular offline question was pretty simple; basically “What are the basic elements of running a “Magical Girls” game like Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Shugo Chara, Daybreak Illusion, or Tokyo Mew Mew?”

“Magical Girls” shows are fairly popular – but when it comes to role-playing games you probably don’t want to go for the “cute Bewitched for kids” or for the “explore being grown up without actually having to be grown up” styles; the first doesn’t work well with groups – or with sensible players who put some thought into what they’re doing – and most groups don’t need to “explore being grown up”. An awful lot of players ARE grown up.

That mostly leaves the Magical Girl Warriors genre. A team of young and inexperienced heroes with various special powers against the forces of darkness? That’s pretty standard RPG fare anyway.

The basic thing about Magical Girls is that the shows are made for young women, and appealing to other demographics is a bonus. Maintaining a certain level of innocence is required, or your “magical girls” story will drift into another genre. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, if you started a magical girls game in the first place then presumably you wanted to run a magical girls game.

So you can’t break that innocence. Nothing too horrible is going to happen where the characters can see or find out about it, even by implication. You won’t have little kids dying of slow, painful, cancers while hooked up to a bunch of machines, or have the magical girls dealing with civil wars and national famines, or have lots of innocent bystanders bleeding out from horrible injuries. Any permanent on-screen casualties (the characters may temporarily die for dramatic effect all they please) will tend to be clean, fairly quick, dramatic, and far between even if there is loads of property damage.

In a RPG, where the players think about consequences, unless you isolate all battles in other dimensions, or deep space, or some such like Shao-lin Showdown (implicitly lowering tension, eliminating hostage-taking and similar tactics, and breaking away from the notion of “defending the area”), this means that all the commonly-used offensive powers are going to be weak enough to avoid too many awkward questions about where the misses go and why the battles haven’t killed hundreds of people.

Yes, you can throw in attacks that do not harm the innocent to avoid the “friendly fire” and “misses” problem, but such attacks are incredibly convenient tactically and the players will almost certainly start finding an excuse to zap everyone they meet, since it’s now a quick and easy way to identify the villains – who presumably won’t be using such attacks anyway, since it would mean that they couldn’t harm the heroes. This doesn’t really work.

That means that all the defensive powers are going to have to be weak so that the weak offensive stuff still works. You can get away with “battles for laughs” for a while (it works for Bugs Bunny), but you’ll soon lose any sense that there’s an actual threat if no one can actually be harmed.

It’s kind of hard to keep the players from knowing about what actual military-level firepower can do though – or from comparing it to what their characters powers do if you admit it’s existence. So serious firepower has to be kept out of things. There may be cops with pistols, but you are not going to see military snipers, assault rifles, and anti-tank weapons, much less air strikes and tactical nuclear weapons. Otherwise you’re headed for Fleet Girls or Strike Witches territory. Similarly, secret ID’s are in order to avoid having overly-serious adults getting involved and taking over the series or game.

In the shows, occasional magical girls possess vast cosmic powers of renewal, destruction, time control, or similar. Of course, these are mostly informed (rather than demonstrated) powers or only get used during the climactic scenes of particularly epic plots. Do NOT give powers like this to role-playing gamers. They will want to use them, or to threaten to use them, at every possible opportunity – usually destroying the game in short order.

A magical girl setting is fairly normal (often only one city) and the girls spend a lot of time on normal problems – both of which serve to keep them easily relatable to their target audience. No matter how grave the characters responsibilities they will not actually focus on them. In the face of planetary threats that want to destroy civilization, the characters will fuss over boys, agonize over schoolwork, try to get good grades, go to slumber parties, and gossip – rather than train, study tactics, and get some serious military equipment and advice. Do you remember Buffy The Vampire Slayer versus the Judge? Or blowing up Sunnydale High School to stop the Mayor-Demon? That’s not going to happen in your basic Magical Girls setting.

Yet the opponents need to be a fair match for the characters (or even more powerful, so the characters can be plucky heroes), or the show will descend into a farce. But if a group of reasonably powerful opponents takes the conflict seriously – laying ambushes, bringing in enough firepower and other resources, learning counters for known tactics, making sure that enemies that go down will not be getting back up, focusing their attacks, and exploiting obvious openings, against a group that does NOT match those tactics… the group that does will roll over the group that does not like a steamroller over cardboard cutouts.

So magical girls opponents have to be incompetent. If the girls are not going to focus, the villains can’t either. In fact, the bad guys are likely to be so incompetent at being bad guys that some of them will fall in love with some of the girls – and never mind that this is roughly equivalent to watching James Bond betray England because he was unable to resist the seductive wiles of a barely-adolescent girl scout with a box of thin mints. Friendship and love triumphs uber alles!

Making this part work is dependent on the players going along with it. Talk it over first. If half the characters take their new guardian-of-the-world responsibilities seriously while the other half go for the slice-of-life stuff the game will wind up splitting right down the middle – and probably won’t survive.

But if everyone is incompetent, and any plans are going to be a bit silly… how do they all even FIND each other?

You bring in the wild coincidences and plot contrivances. There may be an excuse for this – a mentor who keeps providing last minute directions (while doing nothing effective in the way of training or providing discipline), some weird force that draws the heroes and villains together, precognitive dreams, or some such – but it will never be properly explained, since then it could be properly exploited – and a large chunk of the audience (and virtually all gamers) would be really annoyed with the stupidity if it was NOT.

As for the ordinary people in the setting… The girls in the target audience normally have reasonably well-meaning guardians, and usually have fairly decent friends, and relatives (girls who don’t usually don’t get to spend a lot of time watching magical girls shows or buying the stuff advertised on them). So most of the magical girls will have those things too so as to keep them easy to relate to. Yet no competent, well-meaning, guardian would allow children to go and risk their necks squaring off with a bunch of villains that are quite dangerous to kids even if any SWAT team could handle them.

Yet if things get left to the SWAT team you have either no show (or at least not a magical girls show) or no game.

That means that those guardians have to be quite oblivious. Any social workers, police, teachers, or similar individuals have to be oblivious as well. No matter how paper-thin the disguises, flimsy the excuses, or imbecilic the diversions… adults will, at the very most, think that the magical girls might be up to something mildly naughty. (“But I can’t come and help fight Dremloch the Devourer! I’ve been grounded!”).

But it’s awfully jarring to have those same guardians offering sensible advice about normal life problems – like the target audience’s parents often will – while being utterly blind about everything else that’s going on. A Magical Girl show needs a mentor figure who can be an adult, and who knows what is going on, but who cannot reveal things to other adults or exert any real authority over the main characters.

To fill this role we have the cute critter companion – a well-meaning, adult, and reasonably sensible mentor who can readily be excused (for lack of hands, powers, and resources) from regularly taking a direct role in things, who has a fairly decent excuse for not bringing in other adults (there are no others/would be taken to a lab/would not be taken seriously/can’t communicate with those who lack magical powers/etcetera), and who lacks any method beyond “I told you so!” and nagging to make the magical girls listen. (The Magical Girls will also often have cute pets/annoying younger siblings who mostly get into trouble, but those aren’t usually mentors).

Speaking of relationships… Magical Girls are often princesses or nobles from some tragically lost realm to appeal to small-child fantasies (or are at least especially chosen). There’s usually a mysterious boyfriend who appears and disappears about and who has just enough power to help out a bit occasionally (although things will never go far enough to risk spoiling that innocence). They look sexier than girls their ages should – and often have regularly repeated transformation scenes with implied nudity – since that helps bring in a male audience, usually justified as being due to their marvelous health and their use of some trinket to transform themselves (and to allow for “trapped in their normal identity” plotlines). There’s usually a coming-of-age subtext, but that can only go so far before you, once again, leave the genre behind for adult superheroes (or for Hentai, but those games tend to be either very specialized or very short lived, and usually both).

That sort of thing goes on and on, but it’s distinctly secondary to the soap opera and the personal interactions.

So whatever you do… if you really want to run a Magical Girls game don’t get cynical. If you get grimmer and edgier, don’t expect the players to do anything but throw in a few minutes of moan-and-agonize characterization before switching to D&D/Warhammer 40K mode, optimizing their tactics, and massacring every opponent in sight.

It’s worth noting that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a twist on the genre – everyone in the setting is magical to some degree and pony society seems to treat fairly small kids as independent and responsible adults so there’s little need for secrecy – but a lot of the general conventions still apply.