Skill Stunts And Epic Skill Stunts X – Survival

Survival is, arguably, the second oldest skill of all – predated only by Perception. After all, at the most basic level… Survival begins as little more than a tropism coupled with some ability to move around. An amoeba finds some digestible molecules and oozes towards the highest concentration of them – and presumably a source of food. A single-celled Euglena detects light and propels itself towards it, enhancing its photosynthesis (although it can also eat). In its way the Survival Skill predates multicellular life. Admittedly, it’s not a very sophisticated version of the skill (in game terms, it’s at a +0 bonus and probably an attribute penalty) – but it’s still a fair chance at doing the right thing before settling for random chance.

It’s also one of the broadest of all skills. It allows you to locate the resources you need to live in environments that would not normally support you, to understand, predict, and evade the dangers of such environments, and to build up resources from those environments. Secondarily, it covers navigation, tracking, raising children in a hostile world (“group survival”), building shelters, and exploiting the natural magic of the environment. For creatures of Intelligence Zero or One it also covers finding a mate, but more complex social behaviors take over in creatures of higher intelligence.

Finally, of course, it’s an archetype all by itself. A Knight, a Wizard, a Rogue, a Shaman, a Cleric… all have a complex array of skills and abilities – but what other skill pretty much defines an entire lifestyle and set of genres? Primitive tribes, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Burt Gummer, pretty much EVERY “survival horror” setting… all focused on THIS. It’s true that “I will live!” is a pretty basic drive – after all, it has to be or people would be extinct by now – but can you think of another skill that pretty much defines multiple genres?

  • Note that many benefits of this skill can be extended to companions, although each companion so aided increases the DC by +2.
  • In general, you can use Survival at a -10 penalty in place of Knowledge/Nature or Use Rope – but only for mundane purposes.
  • The format here is a bit different. Survival simply has too many applications to list them all separately. Ergo, they’re split into general categories.
  • Remember that these are mana-powered supernatural abilities, not simply feats of skill.

Sample Stunts for Survival:

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Harvesting: You may find and harvest common herbs and plants – taking appropriate precautions with those which are dangerous to handle. You may also identify toxic and dangerous plants and fungi.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may recognize animal dens, animal-created traps (ant lion pits, giant spider webs, trapdoor spider pits, etc), blatant natural hazards, wild magic zones, and cursed regions. In general, you get a free roll to spot such things before getting into them.
    • Pathfinding: You may select the more commonly used trails, leave readable trail signs to communicate basic information, and follow oddly marked trails (including the increasing traces of material that indicate routes to cave exits). You may avoid becoming lost on land.
    • Survival: You may obtain food, water, shelter, and basic personal supplies in cities without spending money. This is also the DC to find food and water in the wilderness, but finding shelter or clothing there is a bit trickier (+5 DC). You may also attempt to camouflage items and positions, inflicting a (Check Result / 2, rounded up) penalty on attempts to spot or otherwise locate them.
    • Talking The Talk: You may impress people with your skills. At DC 15 you may make a basic living as a survival lecturer or writer.
    • Tracking: You may follow unconcealed simple tracks under good conditions and can get a rough estimate of the age of the tracks and the number of individuals being tracked (See the system reference document for more details).
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Hazard Recognition: Basic weather prediction, flash flood risks, tidal bores, riptides, low oxygen levels, forest fires, explosive vapors or dusts, toxic fumes, quicksand, supernatural weather events, and similar items. Your check comes before the hazard takes effect and usually results in a chance to evade the hazard or a +2 on relevant checks and saves if that is not possible.
    • Improvise Gear: You can quickly devise protective clothing or gear up to an equivalent value of (5 + Check Result) GP, including swarm suits, basic armor, filter masks, vermin repellent, cold weather gear, and similar items.
    • Pathfinding: You may navigate in the wilderness or at sea without becoming lost. On land you may opt to conceal your trail and that of up to (Cha Mod +1, 1 Minimum) additional companions, penalizing attempts to track you. You may also leave more complicated trail markers to communicate facts about the trail.
    • Survival: You may remain warm or cool, or improvise a fairly secure camp, in the wilderness. You may also effectively remove or evade vermin such as leeches, army ants, and similar creatures and identify dangerous and/or toxic animals. You can also start fires under difficult conditions, build an effective cooking fire and keep it from spreading, construct basic shelters, and otherwise be a well-trained boy scout.
    • Tracking: You may recognize what planes or deities an item or place is linked to or determine your current location. If you happen to be a ghost or astral projection, you can determine both your spirits current location and that of your body.
    • Walking The Walk: As a man of the wilds, you need no longer worry about basic living expenses. Your casual activities as a trapper, gatherer, collector of herbs, and similar can be expected to provide for your needs wherever you may settle without placing further burdens on you.
  • DC 20:
    • Create Trap: You may spend half an hour to assemble a basic trap – swinging logs, spiked pits, punji sticks, snares, deadfalls, etc – from found materials. These only affect a single target or square however.
    • Harvesting: You may locate uncommon or highly dangerous plants and herbs (provided that they occur in the area) and correctly harvest them, as well as gather meat, hides, poisons, and other products from dead animals. You may also obtain honey or similar products without serious harm.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may roll to get a warning from the game master about upcoming natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, avalanches, and similar problems. Oddly, creatures of Int 2 or less can do this at DC 15 without a stunt.
    • Improvise Gear: You may pack efficiently, increasing your effective Strength score by 8 when calculating your carrying capacity. This does not stack with Muleback Cords.
    • Pathfinding: Swift Trails. Your overland travel rate increases by 50%. At DC 30 it doubles, at DC 40 it triples, at DC 50 it’s x4, at DC 60 it’s x5, at DC 75 it’s x10, and at DC 100 any given trip on the same land mass is completed after a brief travel montage. +2 DC per additional character taken along. You may also mark a trail so that it communicates some message or emotional impression to those who travel it.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Enhance Herb or Spirit Call (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may hold your breath for up to (Con Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Minutes or cause a bleeding wound to clot. You may ignore the effects of natural weather (similar to Endure Elements) for up to an hour (twenty-four hours at DC 25, for up to a week at DC 30). You may also construct log cabins and other intermediate structures.
  • DC 25:
    • Create Trap: When defending an area you may spend an hour to arrange (Int Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Basic Traps (as above). You need not, however, specify where they are until you want them to go off.
    • Improvise Gear: On The Woad Again. You may apply war paint, tattoos, or scars to yourself that grant a +3 Armor Bonus, increasing to +4 at DC 40, +5 at DC 60, and +6 at DC 100. Tattoos and scars can be enchanted further like any other armor. This will, however, cause most people to consider you a barbarian, savage, or primitive and gives away your ethnicity, culture of origin, and profession. If tattoos or scars are further enchanted opponents may make a Spellcraft check to determine the nature of those enchantments.
    • Pathfinding: You may find safe trails, reducing the chance of encountering a creature or natural hazard by 50%. At DC 40 this reduces the chance by 75% and at DC 75 by 90%. Cursed areas increase the DC by +10/+20/+30 for Minor/Notable/Major curses however.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Summon Fetch or Channel Nexus (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may hold your breath for up to (Con + 2, 5 Minimum) minutes, go into deep hibernation to survive being frozen solid, sleep for up to a month with no physical requirements, resist the need to sleep for a day, or go up to a week without food or water with no ill effects. If you die anyway, you may haunt your personal belongings and remains as a Spirit.
    • Tracking: You may identify creature types by logically insufficient traces, track without penalty while moving at full speed, and accurately determine the number of creatures being tracked and how fast they were traveling.
  • DC 30:
    • Hazard Recognition: You may determine what type of plants and creatures are likely to be present in an area and how large a population it might support. You may also predict what damage a natural disaster or storm will do, such as where lightning is going to strike or what areas will be swallowed up by crevasses or flooded.
    • Pathfinding: Swift Sailing. Your seafaring travel rate increases by 50%. At DC 40 it doubles, at DC 50 it triples, at DC 60 it’s x4, at DC 75 it’s x5, and at DC 100 any given trip on the same body of water is completed after a brief travel montage. This also applies to travel by vehicles designed for air or space travel.
    • Planar Adaption: You may draw on the natural energies of a plane to adapt yourself for comfortable survival under the planes base conditions for (Con Mod +1, 1 Minimum) days. Sadly, applying this to additional creatures increases the DC by +10 per additional creature instead of +2.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Spirit Of Place or Tap Conjunction (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may obtain food, water, and shelter from the elements while traveling at full speed, as well as gaining (Wis Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) chances to harvest herbs or other materials along the way. Your campsites are protected by the equivalent of the Hide Campsite spell.
    • Tracking: You may trace a magical link such as a scrying sensor, determining it’s place of origin and the magical signature of the creature that created it. You may also determine if an area is linked to a land-ruler, is someone or somethings magical domain, or is otherwise claimed by some supernatural force.
  • DC 35:
    • Harvesting: You may harvest rare resources of the land, such as dyes, exotic fruits, surface and placer deposits of gems and precious metals, fine furs, and similar items. While finding a buyer may be additional work, you may expect to make (Check Result) silver pieces with a few hours of work.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may immediately determine the threat level and general attack routine of any creature you can get a look at. If you are operating from an audiovisual recording the DC increases to 40, a picture or detailed description increases the DC to 50, and working from rumors and general information increases the DC to 75.
    • Improvise Gear: You may improvise a dose of any alchemical Balm, Medicine, Tonic. Herb, or Plant worth up to 50 GP or up to a total of (Check Result + 5) GP worth of such materials. These are, however, of no use to anyone else and will only remain potent for twenty-four hours. Given a day in the wilds you will be equipped with a spear, staff, and club, in two days you will also have some javelins and an atlatl if you want one, and in three you will also have a longbow and arrows – all crude, but functional.
    • Pathfinding: Traceless Passage. You leave no traces of your passage, making conventional tracking impossible without supernatural aid.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Warlock Pact or Focus The Land (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may ignore environmental penalties to movement, including those for being underwater, for steep slopes, for difficult terrain or overgrown, and similar. You may also attempt to panic the local wildlife in a radius of (Charisma x 10) feet, although a Will save applies. You may roll Survival instead of a Fortitude Save against poison or disease.
  • DC 40:
    • City Founder: You may select a good site to found a city – choosing a defensible location with access to water, better than average resources, on a likely trade route, or whatever. The spot you pick will prove to have two Foundations. At DC 60 it will prove to have three, at DC 75 it will have four, and at DC 100 it will prove to have five or more.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may subtly position up to (Cha Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) targets so that they will be exposed to the effects of some ongoing disturbance, such as being caught up in a riot or stampede or being struck by lightning.
    • Pathfinding: You may find a trail leading to another plane, although there are likely to be three encounters along the way. You may also determine the direction to a given destination, whether or not you have ever been there.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Great Oathbinding or Celestial Rune (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may construct a Sturdy Tree Fort or equivalent as a campsite. In an emergency you can add a +4 Alchemical Bonus to one or more of your Strength, Constitution, or Dexterity for 3d6 rounds, but this causes you 2d6 damage per attribute so enhanced after it wears off. You may remove or expel parasites through various unpleasant home remedies.
    • Tracking: You may Track creatures through teleportation, plane shifts, and gates. You may also track vehicles and those using extraordinary means to conceal their tracks.
  • DC 50:
    • Create Trap: Given an hour to prepare a location you may arrange (Int Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Major Traps – piles of rolling logs or small avalanches, deep pits with spikes or wild animals, and similar items – each of them capable of affecting a modest area. You need not, however, specify where they are until you want them to do off.
    • Child Raising: You are considered to have the Leadership (Eclipse) ability, but only to raise the level of your and your friends children. This is independent of any other Leadership abilities that you may have.
    • Harvesting: You may spend a day to locate or create a personal Charm (as per The Practical Enchanter) and may use up to seven Charms even if the setting does not normally support them. At DC 75 you may similarly locate or create personal Talismans (also as per The Practical Enchanter) and use up to three of them even if the setting does not normally support them.
    • Pathfinding: Mass Guidance. For the next twenty-four hours you may extend the benefits of your Survival skills to up to (Charisma x 10) individuals without penalty.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Forest Pact or Distillation (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You can render yourself immune to a specific toxin, to the heat and fumes of traveling through a volcanic landscape, or even to drowning. This does require a minute of preparation, but lasts a full day once invoked.
  • DC 60:
    • Hazard Recognition: You may evaluate an area to gain a detailed evaluation of the plants and creatures there, their general population, and the lands basic resources.
    • Pathfinding: You may find a trail leading between settings and worlds at intergalactic ranges that can be traversed in days to weeks. Such trails are often, however, difficult, dangerous, and present major environmental hazards.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Spirit Of The Beast or Circle Of Power (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: You may survive in areas without breathable atmospheres, including space, find food and water on barren asteroids, and construct necessary survival systems, such as airlocks and air-tight shelters. You may automatically succeed on all weather-related saves for twenty-four hours.
    • Weather Witching: You may predict weather and – as long as it isn’t completely absurd – have it come to pass over the next few days.
    • Tracking: You may extract unnerving amounts of information while tracking, determining things like a starship engines type and fuel efficiency, the weight and likely general contents of a wagon, exactly what happened during a fight, and similar items, verging on postcognition.
  • DC 75:
    • Colony Founder: You may show a settlement how to survive in a normally impossible area, such as on an asteroid, in the depths of the ocean, on the surface of Venus, floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter, or similar.
    • Harvesting: You may harvest small tokens in which magic has become temporarily trapped. You may hold tokens containing a maximum of 12 total levels of spells at any one time, may refresh your collection once per day, and may only stabilize tokens containing spells of level two or less enough to collect. One half of the spell levels harvested in any one day are determined by the one using this ability, the other half are determined by the game master. Such spells are released as if they were use-activated at an effective caster level equal to the user’s level. At DC 100 the limit on the effects increases to level three.
    • Hazard Recognition: You may take advantage of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, tidal wave, tornado, forest fire, or major storm, that you “saw coming”. While the worst effects are relatively localized – covering a small town at the maximum – this can still bring down walls and ceilings, damage castles and towers, wash away squads of soldiers, cause avalanches, and otherwise do a great deal of damage. The disaster will arrive 1d3 rounds after you decide to “predict it”.
    • Pathfinding: You may find a trail leading between game systems. Anyone following it will be automatically “translated” into the new system upon arrival. The time required is unknown, since travelers on such journeys invariably travel at the speed of plot. You may also find trails across water, allowing you to Water Walk.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Spirit Quest or Gates Of Myriddin (Paths Of Power).
    • Survival: Personal Evolution. You may spend a day to acquire (Con) character points worth of physical, survival-related, enhancements, maintaining them until you change them again. You might thus purchase Immunity to Aging, or Water-Breathing, or increased Strength, or any of many, MANY, other abilities.
  • DC 100:
    • Create Trap: Given an hour to prepare a location you may arrange (Int Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Grandiose Traps – pits dropping victims into magma or dangerous underground labyrinths, gargantuan falling rocks, massive gas explosions, and similar events. Each can affect up to a 30′ radius. You need not specify where they are until you want them to do off.
    • Pathfinding: You may find a trail leading across both time and space. You may also find trails through the air, allowing you to Wind Walk or walk on clouds.
    • Primitive Magic: You may exploit the natural magic of the world, employing either Greater Pact or Planar Invocation (Paths Of Power).
    • Second Breath: Once per week you gain the benefits of a Revivify Spell immediately followed by the benefits of a Heal spell when the player feels that it is necessary. Both have an effective caster level equal to the user’s level.
    • Survival: You may survive and function in any consistent environment, including the hearts of stars, on the surface of neutron stars, and in similar impossible environments – although this may require some instant evolution. This takes a little time, so it can be treated as Returning with Rewrite (Eclipse). Your campsites cannot be located by anything incapable of dimensional travel.
    • Worldfounder: You may establish a colony in a normally impossible area, such as on an asteroid, in the depths of the ocean, on the surface of Venus, floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter, or similar and provide it with up to four Foundations.

Epic Skill Stunts:

  • Beastspeech (Spell Level 8, DC 42): This is a perpetual effect, but is otherwise equivalent to Speak With Animals.
  • Caravan (Spell Level 9. DC 46): You may extend the benefits of your survival skill to groups ten times as large as usual for the next twenty-four hours. The Level 15 Grand Caravan variant covers a group fifty times the usual size.
  • The Sensuous Lion (Spell Level 10, DC 50): For the next week you live a life of luxury, with many (if possibly primitive) comforts, plenty to eat and drink, expert services, and compliant sexual partners. You and up to a dozen others you opt to include will be completely refreshed and healed when the spell expires.
  • Life Leech (Spell Level 11, DC 54): You may target up to (Level) targets within medium range with a ranged touch attack. Each target “hit” suffers 12d6 damage. Such damage is applied to any wounds you currently suffer from as healing, once you have no wounds they provide temporary hit points up to a limit of 120 temporary hit points. The healing is permanent, but any remaining temporary hit points vanish after twenty-four hours.
  • Grand Hunt (Level 12, DC 58): You may lead a group of up to (Cha Mod x 100) people in a three-day hunter-gatherer outing to automatically acquire enough food and supplies to last them for 3d6 months.
  • Hardship Surviving Spirit (Level 13, DC 62): As per Universal Energy Protection (Mass) (The Practical Enchanter), but with a duration of one hour/level and Universal Energy Resistance (also from The Practical Enchanter) 30 – which applies before the limited protective function is depleted.
  • Invictus (Level 14, DC 66): When you or a companion dies, you may automatically cast this spell (if you have any slots left) to send them to an afterlife of your choice – including a new incarnation as a level-appropriate creature.
  • Evolutionary Adaption (Level 15, DC 70): A target group (up to the size of a small city) of a species will swiftly adapt to a radically altered or new environment. For example, a herd of horses being overwhelmed by the sea might spontaneously evolve into sea creatures.
  • Find The Lost World (Level 16, DC 74): You may locate (or call into existence) a hidden realm, ancient plateau, cavern complex, pocket dimension, or similar location. It’s general description, and where entry can be found, is up to you, but the details are up to the game master. Also known as “summon adventure”.
  • Set Hearthfire (Level 17, DC 78): You may ignite a blazing pillar of flame, suitable for providing heat, light, power, smelting services, hot water, cooking fires, and similar services for an entire city. It will burn for one hundred years. If you choose to sacrifice the slot for one year, it will burn for a thousand years. If you sacrifice the slot permanently, the flame will burn eternally. The residents can sacrifice spells and valuables to the flame occasionally to keep it going as well.
  • Dynastic Founder (Level 18, DC 82): All of your descendants for three generations will inherit a +2 ECL Template of your choice. The effect will start to fade thereafter unless they use magic to choose matches who will maintain the bloodline, but occasional throwbacks will occur for many centuries to come.
  • Gathering (Research Level 19, DC 86): You may gather natural resources from extreme range in refined and processed form. You may collect rare woods, extract metals from ore or veins, pull gems or crystals from the earth, pull perfume from flowers, quarry useful stone, or extract other resources. Sadly, this only works on unrefined and unclaimed or loosely claimed resources; a wild jungle that is loosely claimed by an absentee landlord is fair game; a cultivated or mined area is not. In general, this will get you up to 20,000 GP worth of raw materials. After all, if you are tossing around epic stunts like this and are still scrambling for gold pieces, something is very, very, wrong.
  • Eternal Freedom (Level 20, DC 90): You (only) enjoy perpetual Freedom Of Movement.
  • Planetary Adaption (Level 21, DC 94): The biosphere of a target world can adapt to a radical change in it’s environment. If a nearby supernova has turned the place radioactive, the creatures there can adapt to it. Or to a thinning atmosphere, or rising temperatures, or a sudden overlap with the negative energy plane, or a plague of wraiths, or whatever.

Survival is pretty fundamental – and in a world of magic involves quite a lot of magic in its own right. As such… it’s Stunts are quite powerful and flexible. If you drop a true master of survival in the wilds naked… you can expect him or her to soon live in a well-fortified redoubt, equipped with primitive but effective weapons, with stockpiles of food and water, and defended by an array of deadly traps and harvested magic – if he or she did not decide to simply go home. Given a little more time there will soon be a thriving colony.

So don’t upset the survivalists, OK? You don’t want Burt on your tail.

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Mystic Links and Sympathetic Magic, Part I

Today it’s a question about Mystic Links in fantasy games. This particular article has been on the back burner for some time since it just seemed DETERMINED to wander all over the place – but it has been long enough that I think that I will just let it wander and see if it runs across anything interesting.

A number of spells in Eclipse (and Paths of Power, and Practical Enchanter, etc.) rely on mystic link effects, whether links sustained purely by a spell, or by utilizing a link between the target and something with its own link to them (e.g. a piece of their body, a blood relative, their (true) name, etc.).

What sort of spell would be able to defend against these sorts of links? Presumably it wouldn’t be that difficult to set up some sort of temporary shielding between the caster and some kind of outside link. but a permanent severance between the target and something intrinsically linked to them seems like it’d be more difficult (severing the link between the target and a lock of their hair is one thing, but between them and their kin, or even their name, is something else altogether).

Since the 10’th-level spell Cleanse the Soul seems like the ultimate version of such a severance, is it safe to presume that all such magic in this regard would be sub-epic level?

-Alzrius

The ideas are ancient, although they were only really stated formally in the late 1800’s when formal statements were becoming the rule rather than the exception.

  • Contagion: Things that were once in contact remain connected after separation. The basic strength of that link depends on how direct and important that contact was. Contagion is the basis of Sympathetic Magic – channeling power over that link to affect the original thing or drawing power from that thing to use yourself.
  • Sympathy: Effects resemble Causes. Thus sprinkling water on the ground will make it more likely to rain. The better the model or imitation of the desired result, the greater the effect of your magical ritual.
  • Correspondence. Properties are linked to appearances and things that happen to one corresponding item will be reflected in the others. Coals are red, and so things that are colored red have fiery properties. Thus the Doctrine Of Signatures tells you plants that look like parts of the body are good for treating disorders of that part of the body. (These ideas have poisoned a lot of people and done a lot of other damage over the years).

You can combine these. If you have a link (Contagion), and you embed it in something that more closely resembles the target (Sympathy), then you have much more power over said target. Thus a Voodoo Doll, made to look like the target, is a better link than the nail clippings or hairs incorporated into it. Sticking it with a pin will cause the target to experience a similar attack (Correspondence). Similarly, a picture is linked to the original thing, if only through the creators intent – and the better the picture, the better the link.

Now, the idea of Contagion is valid enough, at least in Quantum Mechanics. The problem there is that the linked – or Entangled – properties cannot transmit anything. Nothing known to physics can travel over those links. Fortunately for us, we’re talking about magic, which presumably can both create and travel over normally undetectable and unusable links.

Class-0 Links:

Even a quick sketch of something is a link to it – but such a sketch will be far more strongly linked to the tree the paper came from, and the artist, and the factory that made the pen, and the rest of the ink, then to the creature so sketched. Similarly, an item that the target has handled casually a few times is a link too, but certainly not much of one. A truly great mage using powerful magic to upgrade links on top of whatever he or she actually wants to do might manage something using a mere sketch or a book someone once read or some such – but no lesser mage will.

  • Class-0 Links are fairly useless. A skilled psychic or diviner can use them to tell if something actually exists (as in “I think she’s still alive…” or “I think there might be something to it…”), but that’s about it. You can detect that Class-0 links exist, but they simply aren’t strong enough to transmit anything over or determine a direction from unless they’re enhanced. Thus this is the sort of thing you see in TV shows when the skeptical-but-desperate-cop takes a photo of a missing person to a psychic (who will then, of course, want better links to work with).

For a standard d20 example… The Scry spell includes Will save modifiers for Knowledge Of The Target (None +10, Secondhand +5, Having Met +0, and Know Well -5) as well as Connection – having a Picture (-2), having a Possession or Garment (-4), and having a Body Part (-10). And while “picture” is undefined, I, at least, assume that it means a recognizable picture – not a stick figure or quick sketch.

  • Blocking the use of Class-0 links requires a first level effect, and is generally good for a full day. In addition, any attempt to create new Class-0 links – perhaps by making a new sketch – while the target is so protected will fail automatically.
  • Breaking Class-0 links is actually fairly hard. Unless you’re extremely careful, whatever you use to do it is going to leave stronger traces behind. Ceremonial Magic can do it by substituting new links for yours, Ritual Magic can perform a cleansing ritual at DC 10 given a half an hour or so, and various second-level effects can do the same.
  • Amplifying a Class-0 Link is also difficult, simply because they’re hard to pick out of the morass of other Class-0 links. The Scry spell does it – but even as a fourth level spell using such a link greatly increases the chance of failure – and it can only boost such a link enough to gather sensory impressions. A spell of fifth level or above can transmit a Prestidigitation level effect over a Class-0 link, but that’s the upper limit – and who wants to bother with that?

Class-1 Links:

A recent. high-quality. photograph or painting, a detailed description, or a psychological profile, is still a relatively low-quality link – but unlike sketches and items that someone has handled casually, they’re somewhat usable, although you’ll still need a pretty good mage to get very far. Unfortunately, Class-1 links degrade when used, dropping to Class-0 after 1d3 uses.

Here we have the origin of the idea that photographs can steal your soul. After all, if you die, and your soul becomes unbound from your body and should move on. But if it still linked to a picture… you soul may be captured, and at the mercy of whoever has the picture. The ka statues of ancient Egypt supposedly used the same effect to keep their owners souls safely anchored to the world. On a more modern level… throwing darts at the picture of the hated boss or cutting someone you don’t like any more out of photographs are still common behaviors. In fact, most people are aware enough of the thought process behind them to find them a bit disturbing.

Of course, even today, people are regularly burned in effigy – a magical ritual meant to focus the energy of their hatred and anger on the individual so attacked and to do him or her harm.

  • Class-1 Links can be used to determine the Targets general status and (very) genera) location (such as “cold and hungry, in the northern wilderness”) with relative ease.
  • Blocking the use of Class-1 links requires a cantrip to block incoming effects for a minute (although it’s use is an immediate action), a first level effect provides for an hour or so of safety, and a second level effect a full day. An appropriate Charm (The Practical Enchanter) can block links of Class 1 and below as well, as can appropriate ceremonies and rituals. As usual, any attempt to create new Class-0 links while the Target is so protected will fail automatically.
  • Breaking a known Class-1 link requires a level one effect targeting the specific link in question. Alternatively, a fifth level effect can be used to blast any or all existing Class-1 links – breaking them and (in the case of items) slightly scorching or even burning them – a magical “scorched earth” policy. It’s worth nothing that the police find it most disconcerting to have their files reduced to ash, and more magically aware organizations usually preemptively disrupt such links, preferring information retention over messing about with sympathetic magic.
  • Amplifying a Class-1 Link is relatively straightforward; an effect of level 4+/6+/8+ can transmit a Prestidigitation Level/Zero Level/First Level effect over such a link, but that’s the upper limit.

Children, being fragile, weak, extremely vulnerable, and precious to their parents are preferred targets for vengeful sympathetic mages who lack the power to do much to adults. Throughout history it has thus been common to give children protective Charms or to teach them to make magically-protective gestures when they feel threatened by “the evil eye” or similar malicious magics.

Class-2 Links:

A personal use-name, a signature, a personal coat of arms, bodily wastes, and such? Slightly better. At least the link to the target is direct. Thus the notion that “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken” (since that can allow the spirit to extend its presence into the material plane) and the fact that the use of a name is enough to alert people with the right skills (such as “Ears Of The Wind”).

In medieval demonology magical glyphs and diagrams were, in fact, the personal symbols of gods and other mighty spirits. While their link with the spirit in question isn’t actually very strong, those beings are so powerful that even a bit of their might gives those symbols enough power to be useful. Thus the tradition that holy symbols can ward off evil spirits as shown in every horror movie.

In ancient Egypt, pharaohs had magicians carve the names and images of their enemies – mostly the kings of other lands – into their thresholds that they might trample them beneath their feet every day and that they might never cross their borders. So did they attempt to destroy their enemies. Later on, curses and names would be carved into slabs of lead and buried, so that – as the tablet slowly corroded away – so would the health and sanity of the victim linked to it. (Trying this sort of thing against a leader in your own country was generally treated as high treason).

While there’s no way to confirm it, the many cave paintings that show successful hunts may have been an attempt to control the animals depicted, thus bringing prosperity to painter’s tribe.

  • Class-2 Links (other than bodily wastes anyway, which are only good for 1d4 uses) can usually transmit a steady trickle of power from a sufficiently powerful source pretty much indefinitely because the links of personal symbols, coats of arms, and use-names are constantly renewed each time the target uses them. Thus class-2 links are commonly used for subtle influences and slowly cumulative curses.
  • Blocking the use of Class-2 links requires a first level effect to block a single incoming effect (although it’s use is an immediate action), a second level effect for an hour or so of safety, or a third level effect for a full day. An appropriate Talisman (The Practical Enchanter) can block links of Class-2 and below as well, as can appropriate ceremonies and rituals. As usual, any attempt to create new Class 0-2 links while the Target is so protected will fail automatically.
  • Breaking a known Class-2 link requires a level one effect targeting the specific link in question or a fifth level spell to temporarily disrupt them all – but this does nothing about whatever power has already passed over the link. Worse, for most such links, this is a strictly temporary measure; as long as the Target continues to use the same use-name, coat of arms, or personal symbol, the link will soon re-establish itself. Thus most important figures make regular use of protective spells or talismans to prevent indirect attacks. Providing such protection may well be a regular source of income for courtly and mercenary mages.
  • Amplifying a Class-2 Link is relatively straightforward; an effect of level 3+/5+/7+/9+ can transmit a Prestidigitation Level/Zero Level/First Level/Second Level effect over such a link, but that’s the upper limit.

Class-3 Links:

The glasses your target wore for years? Something they personally treasured? A piece of well-worn clothing, perhaps still bearing some sweat stains and a few dried skin cells? A bit of bone or flesh from a past member of a flock or herd? Better, but still not very good. It’s associated with them – but is also strongly associated with the people who made it or who sewed the buttons back on and mended it. Once again… the link is drowning in noise. Still, many a hopeful youngster has sought a love charm crafted from such components, and often enough the placebo effect has given them enough extra confidence to make a successful approach.

Homeopathic “Medicine” – the belief that if you dilute a compound to the point that none of is present it will become more potent – comes in here as well, with the belief that contagion and the ever-increasing self-similarity of pure water multiplies the power. Of course, if THAT worked… why isn’t everyone permanently drunk? Lots of booze has been spilled over the years, and diluted again and again. Wouldn’t that make IT more potent too?

  • Class-3 Links are usually good for 1d4+1 uses – and will allow targets to be strongly influenced. Attempts to force people to make irrational decisions, serious love charms, briefly animating a corpse, long-range communications, and similar effects are all possible with Class-3 Links.
  • Blocking the use of Class-3 links is difficult. The effects that block class-2 effects will still work, but they only degrade the link to Class-1 – so a protective Talisman will not stop sympathetic magic using a Class-3 link entirely – but Class-3 links are considerably harder to obtain than lower order links; sensible precautions will usually allow prudent Targets to avoid untoward effects. A fourth level effect will, however, suffice to block the effects of Class-3 links for a full day. As usual, any attempt to create new Class 0-3 links while the Target is so protected will fail automatically.
  • Breaking a known Class-3 link requires a level two effect targeting the specific link in question or a sixth level spell to break up to (Caster Level) such links – so if someone happens to have managed to steal your entire wardrobe or something a single casting may not be sufficient.
  • Amplifying a Class-3 Link is relatively straightforward; an effect of level 2+/4+/6+/8+ can transmit a Prestidigitation Level/Zero Level/First Level/Second Level effect over such a link, but that’s the upper limit.

Next time around on this topic it will be links of levels 4-7 and general information on using Sympathetic Magic in the game.

d20 – Tomes Of Distant Lore and Remote Tominals

And for today, it’s another question…

How would you build a magic book that can be used to read any information stored in a linked library? I got the idea from an episode of Angel where the titular character is looking up legal references from the library of the inter-planar evil triad of Wolf, Ram, and Hart (in the main plane of the show, they are the law firm Wolfram and Hart).And how would that change if the book could also access magical writings like scrolls and spellbooks?

-Chrislanak

Well, there are a number of ways.

At the most basic, the Eclipse effect you want is Mystic Link/the library in question (3 CP) with Communications (Specialized for Increased Effect (works on an inanimate target) / only one way; you can “read” what is in the library but not add to it (3 CP). Accessing Scrolls that happen to be in the library requires Power Link (3 CP) – a total of 9 CP or one-and-a-half “feats”. If you just buy it that way, you don’t need a book. If you Corrupt it so that you need an actual book with some minor special qualities that is hard to replace to use this power you’re back down to 6 CP, or one Feat.

Book Of Shadows Of (Library).

These tomes, so named because they “shadow” the contents of some distant library, are invariably bound with exotic materials, chased with black gold or deeply tarnished silver inlaid in curious symbols, and surprisingly heavy for their size. Depending on the nature of the library they are linked to, they may have an aura about them that anyone can feel.

  • A Book Of Shadows is basically the package above in Relic form, granting the user access to whatever is in the library it is linked to, scrolls and spell books included. If you buy it as a Relic, you divide by six – giving this a cost of 1 CP.
  • Of course, as a relic, I’d probably also add Returning, Specialized / only for the Relic, not the user (3 CP) so as to make the thing pretty much indestructible. That raises the total base cost to 12 CP and the cost as a relic to 2 CP.
  • If you wish to make sure that you always get your relic back again you’ll want to have a personal link to the thing – Mystic Link with Summons Link, both Specialized and Corrupted / Only to get your stuff back again (not to locate or draw upon it), may take a fair amount of time and effort to do so (2 CP, +1 CP per additional item so linked).

Admittedly, that’s doubling the effective cost of your Relic, but if you’re in a game where your stuff keeps getting blown up or something… turning (say) your prized magical item into a very minor relic with “Returning” so that it can’t get destroyed and slapping a link on it, may be worth a feat or two.

  • Depending on what library it’s linked to, paying two, or even four, character points to have access to it whenever you need to know something is probably well worth it.

The Abyssal Revelations, Necronomicon, Cthäat Aquadingen, Zhou Texts, Et Al.

  • Now, if your relic is linked to some mighty alien library of the Cthulhu Mythos or something… then we can Corrupt the thing for Reduced Cost / each user finds different things in it, obtaining access to their own personal list of terrible, sanity-blasting, occult secrets, spells, and dread rituals that man was never meant to know. That reduces the total cost of our indestructible book of madness to a base of 8 CP – or 1 CP as a relic. You can thus have your own, personal, copy of some dread elder tome filled with mind-destroying secrets for a mere 1 CP, and the dread power locked within its pages will mean that the thing will always show up again somewhere even if you lose it (that’s probably not actually a good thing). Add the linking effect above and you will always get the thing back too – whether the actual character likes it or not.

Next easiest is the Sapient Tome. I’d start off with a…

Scholar’s Tome:

This handy item takes the form of a book that can be “fed” other books and scrolls. It is only a move action (that does not provoke AOO) to open it to the contents of any given book or scroll that it’s “eaten”. Sadly, it is limited to 120 pounds of books and scrolls at any given time (although used scrolls are “digested” and no longer count against the weight limit). Dispel Magic will render it impossible to access the stored materials for a time and if the book is destroyed everything it’s “eaten” will go with it. .

  • Buy this as a Handy Haversack, can only be used to store books and scrolls (x.6), will not give up books after they’re inserted, but used scrolls can be discarded/”eaten” (x.8) = 960 GP.

I would make sure to put a Fortifying Stone on it (+5 Hardness, +5 Break DC, +20 HP, 1000 GP), but that can be done at any time. Adding Ungent of Timelessness (+20 GP) will add a +1 Resistance Bonus to all it’s saving throws. Since good quality durable books are 25 GP and so are Backpacks, making them with Bulette Hide (Hardness 12, 30 HP/Inch, so 8 HP at a quarter-inch thickness) will raise the base cost by 225 GP. A Hardening spell (Level Six, say Caster Level 16, for +8 Hardness) will cost 960 GP, but will also affect “an item” of up to 160 cubic feet. So all you need do is stick your stuff together so it’s “one item” (after all, a suit of armor with many different pieces is “one item”), and that expense is negligible. Call it 20 GP.

That gives our Tome a net cost of 2225 GP, Hardness 25, 28 HP, and a +1 on it’s (almost never needed) Saves. That really ought to be good enough for most adventures.

Grand Scholar’s Tome:

The quickest and easiest way to get the Remote Access function is to use Ensoulment (The Practical Enchanter) on a Scholar’s Tome.

  • A Rank 3 Spirit (+2500 GP) has one free Feat to use (allowing reading what is in the library) and a Rank 6 Spirit (6000 GP) has two (allowing you to use scrolls that are in the library) – and that will give your tome the capabilities you want. It may even have enough skill points to be a good librarian and will be able to do research in the library for you on it’s own while you do other things.
  • If you use a Rank 9 Spirit +12,000 GP) so as to get a third feat and give it Device Use (Scrolls), it will be able to use scrolls from the library on it’s own. Of course, it will also have an Ego high enough to be pretty independent.

The Akhasic Library:

Now, doing this in baseline d20 or Pathfinder is a little trickier. What you want is to first enchant the library.

  • Give it Unlimited Use-Activated use of Mending (only to repair books, x.4, 400 GP) and Prestidigitation (only to snuff out small fires, clean and tidy, and look after the library, x.6, 600 GP). The game master may or may not let you apply “immobile” modifier to half the cost again – but it’s only 1000 GP to start with. Saving 500 GP isn’t really that big an issue, so your game master will probably go for that in either 3.5 or Pathfinder. After all, who cares?
  • Now give it Intelligence (3.5 1000 GP, Pathfinder 500 GP). Our library is now a “creature”, even if a fairly minimal one, at a net cost of either 1500 or 1000 GP.
  • Now give your remote-access tome(inal) Unlimited-Use Use-Activated L3 Scrying / Only to Scry on the specified creature – library and it’s contents (x.2. After all, going from “anyone anywhere” to “one specific target” is about as limited as it gets), Only to read books in the library, not to see what is going on there (x.8) = 4800 GP.

We may be stretching the point to let this read what’s in the library, but there are plenty of other items that stretch their base spells a bit.

  • Still, if there’s an objection, you can always give your book its own Intelligence (500 GP), Darkvision (500 GP), and “Speech” (Display Page, 500 GP). That will let it “read” in the target library and show you the results even if the books you want to read are closed and shelved. That comes to 7300 GP for the Tome and 1000 GP for the Library, but this version can search the target library for particular pieces of information while you’re busy with other things and take care of the books for you.

This doesn’t include the “read scrolls in the library” function, but there’s really no good way to do that in baseline 3.5/Pathfinder that I can think of offhand. You could, however, just enchant the thing with Unlimited-Use Spell-Completion Effects, each usable 1/Day at a cost of (Spell Level x Caster Level x 100 GP), which would be a much better deal in the long run.

The Willful Tomes:

For a hybrid version – using Eclipse only as a source of Feats – we need some way to give an intelligent item feats. Unfortunately, outside of very expensive feat-granting spells, the only way to get an item feats is to get it some hit dice – which is quite awkward. About the only way to do it within the system is to turn it into a Construct Creature – and neither 3.5 nor Pathfinder include any generally accepted method of designing or pricing Constructs. The Practical Enchanter DOES, but includes a lot of qualities that aren’t really needed here.

Ergo, about the only thing we can do this refluff and tweak existing constructs – and it looks to me like the most suitable ones are the

Journeyman’s Eldritch Libram:

  • Soulbound Doll (Three Hit Dice, 2 Feats, 4300 GP):
  • Remove: AC (as per carried item), HP 16, all Saves +1, Speed and Melee Abilities, Dex and Str.
  • Refluff: looks like a book. Can display text and images on it’s pages instead of speaking.
  • Spell-Like Abilities: Four Cantrips 3/Day Each, Two Level One Spells 1/Day Each, One Second Level Spell 1/Day.
  • Feats: Use these to set up your library link.
  • Special: The game master might let you throw in a first level spell or two usable 2/Day in place of the stuff we’re removing, but you can’t count on it.

Using a Soulbound Doll as a “book” is probably the cheapest semi-standard option – and, while it’s magical powers aren’t really very impressive, they can certainly be handy.

The Grand Grimoire:

  • Guardian Doll (6 HD Version, 8100 GP Base, +2L1 Spells 3/Day (as per Intelligent Items) = 10,500 GP (11,500 GP with Fortifying Stone).
  • Remove: Cold Subtype and Fire Vulnerability, AC as per carried item, Immune Cold, Speed 30, Melee, and Dolls Dagger (Extra Cold Damage and Paralysis).
  • Refluff: looks like a book. Can display text and images on it’s pages instead of speaking.
  • Feats: Three. One will cover the basic library link, a second would allow the use of scrolls in the library if taken, otherwise select something.
  • New Stats (Mostly from HD and Stats Change); Initiative +0, HP 33, all Saves +2 Base, Will +3, +6 BAB with Rays, 18 Skill Points,
  • Spell-Like Abilities: Caster Level Six. One Cantrip at Will, Four at 3/Day Each, Four First Level Spells at 3/Day Each, 2 Second Level Spells at 1/Day Each.
  • Special: The 17 Dex should become a 17 Int, which has no great effect other than getting more skill points (total of 30). You may be able to talk your game master into allowing an upgrade on the Ray Of Frost (Perhaps to Magic Missile?) to make up for the loss of the “Doll’s Dagger” ability, but I wouldn’t count on it. On the other hand, a Fortifying Stone should provide DR 10/Adamantine and +20 Hit Points for +1000 GP. This is a bit arguable, but the thing isn’t animate, so it should work.

Using a Guardian Doll as a “book” is a fairly good option. Admittedly, it’s a bit pricey – but given that what we’re really looking for is the remote library access, and that it can cast its spells on it’s own to help you out, I’d still count it as a very good deal. Go ahead. Hang a little healing belt on the thing while you’re at it so it can heal you too.

The Scroll Of Blood

  • Finally, we have what is in some ways the most appropriate construct of all – the Guardian Scroll. At a cost of a mere 5000 GP they come with five hit dice and three feats straight off the rack – so all you need to do is spend one or two of those feats on access to your library and another on Innate Enchantment (a way of displaying things and some other useful tricks) and there you are.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse And the Sha’ir

And for today it’s another question…

How would you build a sha’ir (from the Al-Qadim setting) with the Eclipse rules? The class had a 3rd Edition conversion (in Dragon magazine, reprinted in the Dragon Compendium), but that version made some small-but-significant changes to how the class functioned.

-Alzrius

Ah, sha’ir spellcasting! Any spell you want, at any time, with no books or memorization! All you have to do is send your minor Genie Familiar – your “Gen” – out to fetch them!

It has been a long time since anyone asked about sha’ir – and I must admit that that is for fairly good reason. As written in second edition…

  • They can only have one spell ready at a time.
  • They lose that spell it in thirty minutes if they don’t cast it (not long enough to scribe it, so they can’t be a source of scrolls or spell formula).
  • They can only ask for “Common Spells” (Level one or two and normally available in the setting) or spells which they’ve seen used. (How did you decide what spells a new sha’ir might have witnessed before starting play? Wasn’t it at least POSSIBLE that you’d seen a magic show, or witnessed a duel, or seen their great-uncle the retired adventurer use a few spells, or something? There never was an answer for that).
  • They need to supply the spell components for their spells, which can seriously hinder the use of some of them.
  • They will often find that they can’t get spells at all, since their gens don’t like to be disturbed at night, and take vacations, and so on.
  • They don’t always get the spells they want, since their gens don’t always succeed at finding them. The base chance of success is [50% + (5 x shair Level) – (10 x Spell Level)]%. For special modifiers we have: +10% for Common Spells, -30% for Divine Spells (plus a 10% chance per level of the spell of suffering minor divine retribution when you cast it), -30% for spells that weren’t on the list for the setting, and a cumulative -10% for each prior failure looking for a particular spell in a day. And even at best, the chance is capped at 90%.
  • It takes (1d6 + Spell Level (+1d10 on a “00″)) minutes (arcane spells of Level/2 rounded up or less that are normally available in the setting), tens of minutes (arcane spells of higher level that are still normally available in the setting), or hours (divine spells or arcane spells that are not normally available in the setting), to have a gen fetch a spell.
  • If you lose your gen, you can’t do any spellcasting until you get a new one – and each new gen is less loyal and slower (+1 time increment) about getting spells than the one before.

Sure, your first level sha’ir may be able to get a fifth level arcane or second level clerical spell that he or she has seen used, but the chance to get it is only 5% – and trying requires (1d6+5) x 10 minutes for the arcane spell and (1d6+2) HOURS for the clerical spell. Worse, with the failure penalty, they’d only get one try per day. If it was a foreign or clerical spell… they’d need to be at least level nine to get that 5% chance.

A ninth level sha’ir looking for Wall Of Stone? 1d6+5 Minutes, 45% chance of success – and a 22% chance that they would not be able to get it today at all. Of course, if they were lucky they might get it six or seven times – albeit at 1d6+5 minutes each time.

So what were the writers thinking?

This actually gave a sha’ir a lot more spells per day than a standard magic-user. It took a magic-user (or cleric) fifteen minutes per level of the spell to memorize one spell. If you spent four hours memorizing spells each day, your daily magical budget was sixteen spell levels – perhaps a fourth level spell, a third level spell, three second level spells, and three first level spells. If you cast more than that you were draining reserves that might take days out of action for you to rebuild – which was why a wand or even a few scrolls were such good treasures. Had you gotten a hold of a Wand Of Frost (100 charges, Ice/Sleet Storm or Wall Of Ice for 1 Charge, 6d6 Cone of Cold (treating 1’s as 2’s) for 2 Charges, rechargable)? It might well become your magic-users go-to weapon for most of his or her adventuring career – just about as vital as the paladin’s holy sword (should he or she be so lucky!).

The ideal situation for a sha’ir was 1) Party scouts out area, 2) Party waits until the sha’ir has managed to get a hold of a spell that will be really useful (or vital!) to whatever plan they come up with, 3) Party moves in, sha’ir casts his or her spell, and immediately sends his gen out after another spell – probably something low level – that he or she thinks will be useful. 4) If the sha’ir is lucky, he or she may get another low-level spell to use during the initial fighting. If not, it will most likely be ready for the next problem if the party keeps moving. Otherwise… the sha’ir will have to rely on scrolls and magic items, just like the standard magic-user (who will probably have used a fair chunk of their sixteen level daily spell budget already).

Did the surviving orcs set a fire for cover, fall back, barricade the corridor, and turtle up? That gave the sha’ir plenty of time to get a hold of another spell.

The trouble was, that the way the game was actually played often greatly favored the standard magic user, who knew just what he or she had available and had it available RIGHT NOW. It was very common to just treat the “maximum number of spells prepared” chart as “spells per day” (which it was never meant to be), and that meant that spells were thrown around in every fight instead of being saved for special situations. Similarly, it was easy to ignore the limits on how many spells a magic-user could learn, to ignore how easy it was to disrupt spells (and how long they took to cast), to skip past much of the difficulty of acquiring spells, to simply kick in the door instead of carefully scouting and planning, and to press the attack rather than risking giving the enemy time to prepare (even if that left you with no time to prepare yourself). After all… no one BUT the sha’ir really needed time to prepare once the adventure was underway.

Of course, when the party was stuck, and needed a specific high-powered effect to proceed… they could sit back for a while and let the sha’ir try to solve their problem. They needed to teleport to another continent? A first level sha’ir could try to do that if (and it was a pretty big IF) he or she had ever seen that spell in action – but it would take an average of twenty days to actually do it. Adventurers usually wanted to get things done faster than that, so that sort of thing was never a particularly popular option in actual play.

In a lot of ways the sha’ir was the first “per encounter” spellcaster – albeit with a side-order of ritualist. Unfortunately, in a game of resource management, that made them far too weak (one or maybe two spells) when it was time to blow resources in a tough situation, often useless in sudden emergencies, and far too powerful during downtime. After all, a high-level sha’ir could – in theory – throw a LOT of spells. At level twenty they had a 90% shot at sixth level spells in (1d6+6) minutes (call it an average of ten), and so might well be able to throw an average of fifty-four sixth level spells in a day (ten eight hour days worth of spell preparation for a standard magic user!) – even if they WOULD have to change what they were asking for fairly regularly.

That gave them plenty of out-of-combat use of spells like

  • L1) Comprehend Languages, Mending, Mount, and Read Magic.
  • L2) Continual Light, Locate Object, Rope Trick, and Whispering Wind.
  • L3) Clairvoyance, Clauraudience, Explosive Runes, Find Water, Invisibility 10′ Radius (which lasted until you attacked), Item (currently “shrink item”), Non-Detection, Phantom Steed, and Sepia Snake Sigil.
  • L4) Detect Scrying, Enchanted Weapon, Hallucinatory Terrain, Magic Mirror, Remove Curse, Wizard Eye, Fire Trap, and Dig.
  • L5) Animate Dead, Dream, Fabricate, False Vision, Sending, Teleport, Stone Shape, and Airy Water.
  • L6) Contingency, Enchant An Item, Geas, Guards and Wards, Legend Lore, Permanent Illusion, Move Earth, Stone To Flesh, Part Water, Transmute, Control Weather, and Invisible Stalker.
  • L7) Mass Invisibility, Sequester, Teleport Without Error, and Vision.
  • L8) Antipathy-Sympathy, Clone, Permanency, Polymorph Any Object, Symbol, and Glasteel.

Sadly, since they did have to keep swapping what they were asking for regularly, what they had at any given moment would be more or less random – and so they didn’t actually get to cast those spells nearly that often. And if that twentieth level sha’ir asked for a ninth level spell… there was only a 60% chance of getting it and it took at least (1d6+9) minutes to even try.

Then third edition turned a lot of “the way it’s usually played” items into hard rules. Now the “maximum number of spells prepared” chart was indeed spells per day, it only took an hour to prepare all of them, spell formula were easily purchased, concentration checks often let you cast a spell even if you were interrupted, and turn-based combat meant that spells were cast much more quickly – so opponents no longer got many chances to interrupt (and thus a mage no longer had to be carefully defended by other characters to cast any major spells), most spell components were assumed to be available in your spell component pouch, and you were no longer limited in the number of spells you could learn.

And now the sha’ir was blatantly inferior to a normal wizard in everything but out-of-combat utility – which wasn’t a big thing in most games. Out-of-combat utility spells tended to be taken along in wands and scrolls just in case you needed them.

Fourth Edition could have revived the concept, but while Fourth Edition embraced the “per encounter” system, it wasn’t big on scouting, delays, or wildly flexible abilities that could seriously disrupt those encounters. Fifth Edition… well, it could still shift course, but it doesn’t seem to be headed towards the sha’ir’s “can try for anything” style at the moment.

So there are several ways to look at this. We can either copy what the Sha’ir actually did or we can give them an ability set that works like they were probably intended to work as updated for 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder.

For the “what they actually did version” we’ll want…

The Sha’ir (96 CP if bought gradually or can be taken as a +3 ECL Template for “Born” Sha’ir).

  • Skill Specialties in Knowledge/Arcana, Spellcraft, and Knowledge/The Planes, Corrupted / all the same: “Genies and their Works” (2 CP).
  • Power Words, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effect: User can only store one spell at a time although it may be of up to level nine, user must “cast” it normally (complete with Arcane Spell Failure) and must provide any components for it, only to store spells transferred from the user’s Companion, spells are always cast at the user’s level (6 CP).
  • Major Favors (Geniekind) with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP). Among many other possible favors, sha’ir can ask the desert Janni for guidance and hospitality, ask the greater spirits to provide transportation to and from the Elemental Planes (they normally throw in about a months protection from the local planar effects as a bonus), or even ask for an audience with a great lord of Geniekind. Genies do tend to want return favors later on of course and won’t grant wishes without a compensating service, even as a favor.
  • Immunity / Elemental Attacks (Very Common, Severe, Minor, 10 CP). Provides 12 points of resistance or – if resistance is not relevant – +4 to either AC or the relevant save as needed to protect against a particular elemental effect. This will allow the user to survive on the elemental planes for some time. (Note that their gen familiar increases this to Major Resistance (30 points of Resistance or a +6 bonus) against the element their familiar represents).
  • Major Privilege (6 CP): Geniekin. Genies consider sha’ir to be relatives, treating them fairly and with some goodwill. Moreover, sha’ir can use items made for Genies (a form of “Device Use”, but basically free since no such items normally exist). Finally, a sha’ir can recruit a Genie (Janni, Djinni, Efreeti, Marid, or Shaitan) as an ally provided that it’s ECL is no more than two higher than his or hers. Such an ally will want at least a half share of treasure, counts as a party member for experience point computations, will not grant wishes without proper payment (25,000 GP), and has it’s own motives. While it is there to help the sha’ir, it will not do suicidal things or fulfill unreasonable requests. If it’s more powerful than the party, it will tend to regard itself as being a babysitter at best. Furthermore, Genies aren’t very sociable with mortals. Asking a Genie to run a minor errand in town may lead to all sorts of problems. Only one Genie will accompany a Sha’ir at any given time; they aren’t very sociable with each other either.
    • Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that an enemy Genie will refrain from fighting – but it will probably offer to recruit the Sha’ir before the fight starts.
  • Genie Summoning:
    • Inherent Spell / Dismiss Genie with +4 Bonus Uses (L3, requiring user level 5, as Dismissal, but Genies Only. A Dismissed Genie cannot return for a year and a day) (12 CP).
      • The original sha’ir could use “Genie Traps”, but there were long term penalties for trapping Genies (even if you didn’t demand wishes). To avoid that mess I’m giving them an option to call Genies to help out, but not to grant wishes. Similarly, a Genie Prison has become “Banished for a year”, which is close enough in most games.
    • Summon Genie I: L4, requiring user level 7, as per Summon Monster, but 1 Janni or 1d3 Mephits. (3* CP).
    • Summon Genie II: L5, requiring user level 9, as per Summon Monster, but 1 Djinni or 1d3 Janni or 1d4+1 Mephits. Note that summoned Genies – regardless of type – cannot grant wishes. (3* CP)
    • Summon Genie III: L6, requiring user level 11, as per Summon Monster but 1 Efreeti or Shaitan or 1d3 Djinni or 1d4+1 Janni. Note that summoned Genies – regardless of type – cannot grant wishes. (3* CP)
    • Summon Genie IV: L7, requiring user level 13, as per Summon Monster but 1 Marid, 1d3 Efreeti or Shatan, or 1d4+1 Djinni. Note that summoned Genies –  regardless of type – cannot grant wishes. (6* CP).
      • *All the Genie Summoning spells are Specialized; once one is used, that particular spell cannot be used again for seven days. In addition, using them requires a Genie Seal – an palm-sized disc of precious metal set with small gems and inscribed with intricate elemental and magical sigils. It has a minimum value of 100 GP x the Highest Level of spell it can be used as a focus for – thus a minimum of 300 GP for Dismiss Genie up to 700 GP for Summon Genie IV. Summoned Genies will, however, remain for an extra round if the item is worth 2000+ GP or enchanted (it counts as an Amulet, and so uses the throat slot).
  • Basic Magical Lore: +1 Level of Wizard Spellcasting with no Base Caster Level, Specialized and Corrupted / only to let them understand the basics and use magical items (4 CP)
  • Empowerment, Corrupted for Increased Effect (user may add charges as well as substituting his or her power for them) / only works with Wands and Staves (6 CP).
    • Empowerment Pool: 4d6 (14) Mana, Specialized / only for use with Empowerment (2 Mana = 1 Charge) (9 CP).
    • Rite of Chi with +3 Bonus Uses, Corrupted for Increased Effect (automatically gets 14 points) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / only works overnight, only to refill the Empowerment Pool (5 CP).
      • Most sha’ir should be able to get a hold of a wand or two fairly quickly. After all, given a week they can charge up a mostly-depleted one – a very valuable service.
  • Mephit Companion (Familiar) with the +2 ECL Sha’ir Gen Template, Specialized / Demands occasional quests on behalf of geniekind under penalty of no spells, is difficult or impossible to contact while it is resting (8-10 hours per day), must be paid 10 GP/Level/Month, insists on being treated as an honored ally. If mistreated, a sha’ir gen takes two to three times longer to get spells, may take off for a month, or may demand a fee of up to 1000 GP/Level to return to work (9 CP).

Classical Sha’ir Gen Template:

  • Spellforging:
    • Immunity / the normal limitations of Ritual Magic. Spellforging Rituals are quite quick, immune to most external modifiers, and require little or nothing in the way of components (Common, Major, Epic, 27 CP). Note that, as a natural-law immunity, this can be expected to have a pretty major impact on the game.
    • Immunity / Interaction With Reality (Very Common, Severe, Great, Specialized / Only works while the gen is conducting it’s rituals or resting, 18 CP). Only very high-level effects, such as Wish, can interfere with a gen’s “search for a spell”. Gens normally find spells, rest, and take time off, on the elemental planes – with no defined mechanism for finding them and at no risk. This covers that.
    • Ritual Magic, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to duplicate spell effects, the spell effects produced are always transient and unstable; they cannot be stored for more than half an hour, cannot be used to make items, and cannot be inscribed into spell books. Components have no effect on the ritual check, only produces effects duplicating spells which must be either released or stored immediately, failed rituals have no consequences (6 CP).
      • Check: 1d20 + Level versus DC ( 10 + 2 x Spell Level, +6 for Exotic or Clerical Spells, +2 per unsuccessful try in a day). Spellcraft lets you recognize all standard spells – so Familiarity with any given spell is pretty much a non-issue.
      • Requires: (1d6+Spell Level) Minutes (for Arcane Spells of up to half your level, Tens of Minutes for Arcane Spells of higher level than that, and Hours for Divine Spells.
        • Given the existence of Ur-Priests, and the Magic domain, and dual-progression casters, and so on… I’m dropping the idea of divine retribution for daring to duplicate a divine spell effect. There’s no longer any firm division anyway.
  • Power Words, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effect: User can only store one spell at a time although it may be of up to level nine, only to store the results of it’s own rituals, only to transfer them to a companion (master) with a similar power (6 CP).
  • Immunity/having to give up it’s own hit points to be a Familiar (Uncommon, Severe, Major, 6 CP). Just add it’s hit points as a familiar to its own hit points.
  • Speaks the Genietongue (whatever that may be in a given setting) 1 CP.

Originally a Sha’ir could expend money, time, and other resources using rituals to upgrade his or her Gen. To do this in Eclipse, simply invest a few more points in your Companion to improve it. Innate Enchantment is always good, but there are lots of other ways.

I’m not actually sure if this template – or sinking enough levels into the project to avoid taking it as a template – is worthwhile. It could be extremely useful in some games, and utterly useless in other games, all depending on playstyle – and I’ve got no way of knowing what that will be.

For a modern Sha’ir?

Well, if we’re going to think about an updated version we’re going to have to think about what role the sha’ir was intended to fill – and it looks to me like the intent of the sha’ir was as a patch to the magic-user.

  • If a magic-user lost his or her spell books, they might well be semi-permanently crippled. Ergo, sha’ir had no spell books. If a gen was lost, it slowed things up slightly, but was hardly crippling. On the plot level… you could block access to a gen, or simply decree that they were on vacation, and so had an easy way to take away the mages powers temporarily – unlike removing their spell books.
  • Magic-Users were often frustrated at being unable to obtain a favorite spell. If they rolled badly, they could NEVER add a particular spell to their spellbooks unless they somehow managed to raise their intelligence, which (in early editions) was a rare, game-master-only, thing. No more of that!
  •  Magic-Users had a bad tendency to “Go Nova!” and burn through many days worth of spells at once – and then the players griped about not having anything to do save toss daggers. Ergo, a shair only got one or two spells per situation but never ran out – and automatically encouraged scouting and planning to boot.
  • Magic Users had a strong tendency to ignore much of the spell list. They learned and prepared only the “best” and most versatile spells. A sha’ir, however, would often find that their first few choices for a given situation were unavailable – and so would find themselves sorting through the spell list for the perfect spell for a given situation.
  • Magic-Users were pretty much never found undertaking weird quests or doing strange stuff. No matter how flavorful it might be Why should they? The rules didn’t call for it. But sha’ir… sha’ir got little tasks from the Genies all the time and sometimes got major quests from them. Their magic required some character interaction and occasional prices.
    • Secondarily, as a party patch… if the Cleric was down a normal magic-user couldn’t do a thing about it. A Ssa’ir could try to fill the gap – albeit very poorly and at a heavy price.

The trouble with all that is that most of those problems no longer exist. For a modernized sha’ir you want them to have more spells in (much faster) combat but a lot less out of combat, be able to recognize any spell with Spellcraft, but not know about them to ask for them, to have wide but unreliable access to spells, but not to keep halting the game while sorting out what they get. This is pretty awkward since those are kind of self-contradictory.

The 3.5 / Pathfinder Sha’ir:

  • Sha’ir channel all kinds of spells. Thus they need an unrestricted Base Caster Level, at 6 CP/Level, for a total of 120 CP.
  • Favors (Geniekind), Specialized for Increased Effect (Effects become available next round and may be “held” for up to three minutes) / Can only be used to obtain spell-like effects which may include metamagic but which the user must supply the caster level and components for. Minor Favors suffice for levels spells of level three or less, Major Favors for spells of Level six or less, and Enormous Favors for spells of level nine or less. Unfortunately, Genies are elemental beings; they may have trouble providing high level priestly magic and with whatever other spells the GM feels are inappropriate to their powers (IE: Whatever effects he or she does not wish to deal with – usually the most “broken” spells). Unfortunately, since these are spell-like effects rather than spells, they cannot be used with the standard crafting feats in the creation of magical items or be transcribed into spell books (although they can be used to recharge Pathfinder-style Staves). Save DC’s are based on either Intelligence or Charisma, at the option of the sha’ir, although the choice is permanent once made.
    • Three Minor Favors, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / once per “encounter” (6 CP).
    • Three Major Favors, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / once per “encounter” (12 CP).
    • Three Enormous Favors, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / once per “encounter” (18 CP).
      • As “per encounter” abilities these provide our Sha’irs primary magical firepower – at least one big, and potentially two lesser, spells per major scene.
    • Three Minor Favors, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / once per hour maximum (6 CP).
    • Three Major Favors, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / once per hour maximum (12 CP).
    • Three Enormous Favors, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / once per hour maximum (18 CP).
      • As “Daily” powers these favors can be used out of combat, or – in the case of a “boss fight” or emergency – tapped into within a fight for extra magic. Perhaps fortunately, however, a Sha’ir cannot expend all of his or her resources during any single battle. This also prevents our sha’ir from endlessly casting spells like “Shrink Item” during downtime. 
  • Immunity / Having to repay favors at full “value” (Very Common, Minor, Epic, 36 CP). Genies don’t really value spell effects all THAT much. After all, they are beings of magic explicitly capable of granting mortal desires. When operating from their own planes, channeling through enough elemental power to grant some sha’irs request for a “fireball” doesn’t count for much. This does not mean that they won’t want occasional services, payments, or favors – but that’s on occasional thing, despite the fact that a sha’ir will be calling on them pretty much every day.
  • Immunity / Elemental Attacks (10 CP): As above.
  • Major Privilege / Geniekin (6 CP): As above.
  • Genie Summoning (27 CP): As above.
  • Mystic Companion (CR 3 Mephit) with a +2 ECL Template (+1 ECL to buying down it’s CR for purposes of being a companion, +32 CP), Specialized / is difficult or impossible to contact while it is resting (8-10 hours per day), must be paid 10 GP/Level/Month, insists on being treated as an honored ally. If mistreated it may take off for a month or demand a present to return to work) (6 CP).
  • Basic Magical Lore (4 CP): As above.
  • Empowerment, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only works with Wands and Staves (4 CP).
    • This version of the sha’ir cannot recharge wands and staves outside of the usual methods for Pathfinder staves, but can still preserve their charges to some degree.
  • Empowerment Pool: 4d6 (14) Mana, Specialized / only for use with Empowerment (2 Mana = 1 Charge) (9 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +3 Bonus Uses, Corrupted for Increased Effect (automatically gets 14 points) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / only works overnight, only to refill the Empowerment Pool (5 CP).
  • Speaks Genietongue (1 CP).

That comes to a total of 300 GP – 15 CP per level through level twenty. Of course, the package includes a fair number of things that wizards buy separately.

Modern Sha’ir Gen Template:

  • Shapeshift with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized / essentially cosmetic, no game-statistic modifications (6 CP). Gen commonly take on the form of androgynous children, good-looking young men or women, or small (winged) animals, but this makes no real difference in their abilities. (Looking like Barbara Eden is optional).
  • Speaks the Genietongue (whatever that may be in a given setting) 1 CP.
  • Gains +1 SP in Knowledge / Mortals (1 CP). Gen don’t understand mortals very well, but they do have a few clues.
  • Innate Enchantment (Belt Of Many Pockets, 11,000 GP), Specialized and Corrupted / can only hold the gen itself and its personal items (4 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment: Six Unlimited-Use Spell-Completion Cantrips at Caster Level One (3000 GP), Force Shield (2000 GP) (6 CP).
  • Blessing, Specialized for Increased Effect (Cantrips are cast at the users Base Caster Level) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to let its master use some of its Innate Enchantments (the Belt Of Many Pockets and it’s Spell-Completion Cantrips) and Spell-Like Abilities while it’s in it’s in the “pocket” (4 CP).
  • Two Bonus Feats (12 CP).

A gen can “turn to smoke” and tuck itself safely away in one of its masters pockets, a bottle, or some similar sanctuary its master carries. While it is there, its master may employ it’s Cantrips and even it’s Spell-Like Abilities. It’s important to note that this Gen is not a Familiar – it’s a mystic companion, similar to a Paladin’s celestial mount. If you want it to have some of a familiars abilities, it will have to purchase them with its bonus points from being a companion.

So:

The Sha’ir: 20d6 Hit Dice (Fast Learner, Specialized in Hit Dice, 6 CP), +24 Saves (Good Will Saves, 72 CP), +10 BAB (60 CP), Sha’ir Magic (300 CP), Proficient with All Simple Weapons (3 CP), +46 Skill Points and Adept I and II (58 CP) = 499 CP out of 504 CP, so there’s enough left over for a bonus feat – possibly Ritual Magic if you want to maintain the “can occasionally pull off major wonders” aspect of things. “Create Artifact” might be better if you want to make yourself an older-edition style wand or two though.

If you wish, you can add something like “Duties”, and add an additional 40 CP worth of abilities – perhaps some bonus feats or the Ranger or Paladin spellcasting chart (perhaps focusing on Illusions or some such) to take advantage of those unrestricted base caster levels and to have some magic independent of Geniekind.

Now, in general, I recommend a buy-as-you-go approach – but this is also a good point to illustrate breaking up your new “class” into a level progression by simply slapping it’s abilities into a table so that it looks reasonable. That’s a bit sloppy – if you sat down and calculated the prices some levels would be overpriced and some would be underpriced – but it’s not like the base classes aren’t that way anyway and the game still functions just fine.

 

Char Level / BCL BAB Saves Daily Favors  Special Abilities
For Ref Wi Mi Ma En
1 0 +0 +2 1 0 0 Encounter Favor (Mi), Basic Lore, Gen Familiar, Bonus Feat.
2 1 +0 +3 1 0 0 Elemental Immunity (Trivial)
3 1 +1 +3 1 0 0 Genietongue, Empowerment 1/Day
4 2 +1 +4 1 0 0 Geniekin
5 2 +1 +4 2 0 0 Dismiss Genie 1/Day, Empowerment
2/Day
6 3 +2 +5 2 1 0 Summon Genie I 1/Week
7 3 +2 +5 2 1 0 Encounter Favor (Ma),
8 4 +2 +6 2 1 0 Elemental Immunity (Minor),
Empowerment 3/Day
9 4 +3 +6 3 1 0 Summon Genie II 1/Week
10 5 +3 +7 3 1 0 Dismiss Genie 2/Day
11 5 +3 +7 3 1 0 Empowerment 4/Day
12 6 +4 +8 3 2 0 Summon Genie III 1/Week
13 6 +4 +8 3 2 1 Encounter Favor (En)
14 7 +4 +9 3 2 1 Dismiss Genie 3/Day
15 7 +5 +9 3 2 1 Summon Genie IV 1/Week
16 8 +5 +10 3 2 2 Empowerment 5/Day
17 8 +5 +10 3 3 2 Dismiss Genie 4/Day
18 9 +6 +11 3 3 2 Empowerment 6/Day
19 9 +6 +11 3 3 3 Dismiss Genie 5/Day
20 10 +6 +12 3 3 3 Empowerment 7/Day

And there we have the sha’ir. They’re actually substantially more powerful than a wizard for the first few levels, during which even one modest per-encounter spell plus the abilities bestowed by their Mephit’s will easily outshine a wizard’s few spells – but the power balance will shift back the other way at higher levels, After all, a 12’th level sha’ir will get two spells per encounter (one of levels 1-3 and one of levels 4-6) and has five extra spells per day to draw on (three of levels 1-3 and two of levels 4-6) out of combat or in emergencies. Say four encounters? that’s 13 spells. Admittedly, they will probably be well-chosen spells fitted to the exact situation – but it’s still only 13 spells in a day. They are close to being unmatched in flexibility however,

Adventures in Familiars II – Master And Commander

And today, it’s another question – although this one took a while.

Looking at the rules for Companion bonuses (Eclipse, p. 189), I’m given to wonder if there are other sorts of companion bonds that could be formed rather than familiars/psi-crystals, mystical mounts, or animal companions. If so, presumably those would have different benefits (and penalties, if the bond were broken such as by the companion being killed) than those listed for each of those different types of companions, before taking any purchases of upgraded Companion abilities into account.

What other sorts of bonds could there be, and what abilities would they have?

Alzrius

Well, Eclipse already address taking pretty much any kind of creature with a Challenge Rating as a Companion. with the basic distinctions lying in the strength of the bond and the power of the creature(s) being bonded. To take a look at that:

Familiars are strongly and tightly bound to their owners, in large part because they are weak enough to be pretty thoroughly dominated by their master’s mind – which is why they automatically share their masters skills, can deliver touch spells, and have a mental link with their master. That’s why turning a sapient creature into a Familiar without its full, informed, consent is so unethical – and remains dubious even with consent; it’s slavery and mind-alteration. That tight bond is also why losing a Familiar is so traumatic and damaging.

Familiars get a specified series of bonuses as their master goes up in level, but you can Corrupt or Specialize the Companion ability to modify it. In Eclipse terms the various Pathfinder Familiar Archetypes are all simply “Specialized or Corrupted for Increased Effect; remove abilities A, B, and C and replace them with abilities X, Y, and Z”. Do you think that your hummingbird should invest the points that would normally go into it’s (non-existent) Natural Armor Bonus in bonuses to it’s movement skills and ability to dodge instead? Does your raven have Mystic Artist (quoting classical literature) instead of Alertness? Will your cat eventually learn Power Words instead of Spell Resistance? Is it actually an imaginary friend with Returning instead of Improved Fortune (Evasion) so that it comes back in the morning if slain or dispelled? Go ahead and shift a few points around.

Mystic Mounts and Companion Creatures are less tightly bound to their liege/employer/boss, whether that’s due to simply using a weaker link or because they are simply too strong to have so much of their bosses mind imprinted on them – which is why they maintain their own personalities and motives, even though they still draw power from the character. Thus creatures that are currently too powerful in their own right to get anything extra from a character cannot serve as Companions, which is why more powerful characters can take higher powered creatures as companions but enhance them less than they would a weaker companion. Their bonuses can be modified just as a Familiars can – Specializing or Corrupting the Companion ability to reassign their basic bonuses (Improved Fortune (Evasion), +(level /2 rounded down) to their Natural Armor and Warcraft, + (level/5 rounded down) to their Str or Con). Maybe your creature gets bonuses to Dex instead of strength or something. That’s relatively rare though; most companions find bonuses to Str, Con, Armor, BAB, and Evasion pretty convenient.

Animal Companions get weak links. These still provide some power, but only strongly influence the creature, rather than subordinating it – although once again, the benefits depend on the extent of the power difference between the creature and its patron. Nonsapient creatures do not understand what is going on with a weak link, but such weak minds are fairly readily influenced – turning them into Animal Companions. Personally, I generally don’t allow easy modifications to the Animal Companion bonuses. Since most of the power sent to an animal is channeled by their basic instincts and every animal wants to be strong, healthy, tough, and fast, that’s where most of the power goes. (A good bit probably goes into reproductive enhancements as well, but that has no game impact).

Sapient creatures, however, may be influenced by such weak links, and sometimes draw power from them – but remain very much independent and individual creatures, which is why they’re classified as Followers, and are obtained via the “Leadership” ability instead of “Companion” – and why they go up in level as their liege does but always lag somewhat behind him or her.

Thus, for example, pre-existing Intelligent Items can become Followers – but having established (and generally well-protected and somewhat pre-programmed) minds cannot become Familiars. Items that you create CAN, however, become Familiars since you can imprint your mind on them when you’re making them.

To buy intelligent item followers, take Leadership with the Exotic and Constructs modifiers, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Constructs only, Corrupted for Increased Effect (Only 50% of the cost of item followers counts against your Wealth By Level) / only one Cohort may exceed one-third the users level (6 CP). Since they are Followers, multiple intelligent items will get along reasonably well. Note that, in Eclipse, followers normally get NPC wealth by level, and will continue to do so without their boss having to worry about it. If their boss or the party in general wants to give them something extra, that’s up to them. Construct Followers get their choice of actual equipment (which works for golems and things) or built-in slotless equipment (equivalent to Siddhisyoga), which is less trouble but effectively halves their allotment since everything costs twice as much as usual.

Finally, of course, if there’s no link at all… then you have employees, beasts, slaves, contacts, and other creatures that you exchange services with, buy with money, or draft into service with raw power, diplomacy, or charisma. Such associates may “cost” a few character points spent on social abilities or some gold – but they aren’t really bound to the character and so get nothing extra from him or her. They are what they are, and associating with a powerful character does not inherently change them.

3.5 and Pathfinder have quite a selection of “Familiar” feats – Betrayal of the Spirit Linked, Celestial Familiar, Construct Familiar, Darkness Familiar, Dragon Familiar, Enspell Familiar, Evolved Familiar, Extra Familiar, Familiar Spell, Familiarity, Improved Familiar, Improved Psicrystal, Improved Spell Sharing, Item Familiar, Obtain Familiar, Planar Familiar, Shadowform Familiar, Shadow Familiar, Share Healing, Stitched Flesh Familiar, Token Familiar, Undead familiar, and Unfettered Familiar. There are some similar feats for improving Mystic Mounts, Mystic Companions, and/or Animal Companions (Improved Mount, Celestial Mount, Dragon Cohort, Dragon Steed, Fast Rider, Heroic Companion, Improved Fiendish Servant, Talenta Dinosaur Bond, Exalted Companion, Natural Bond, Monstrous, Mounted Fury, Nightmare Steed, Totem Companion, Vermin Companion, Etc) as well.

To look at these…

  • More powerful Companion creatures can be obtained / used by simply going up in level or by buying the Template upgrade and using some one or more “Template Levels” to cover a creature with a higher base challenge rating; there’s no feat requirement in Eclipse. Similarly, mystic mounts and companion creatures get a pool of character points to buy freeform benefits with anyway – and buying your creature a template can modify and enhance it in innumerable ways. This covers Celestial, Construct, Darkness, Evolved, Improved, Planar, Shadowform, Shadow, Stitched Flesh, Token, and Undead Familiars / Psicrystals – as well as improving your familiar with Betrayal Of The Spirit LInked, Enspell Familiar, Familiar Spell, Familiarity, Improved Spell Sharing, Share Healing, and Unfettered Familiar as well as pretty much all the stuff for mounts and animal companions.
  • Obtain Familiar and Extra Familiar simply call for purchasing the Companion ability again.

That leaves…

  • The Spell Sovereign (Dragon 357) who can take Living Spells as Mystic Companions and effectively Awaken them. Of course, in Eclipse, this isn’t especially abnormal, even if it IS an unusual choice. Living Spells are just another type of creature after all. A few other classes also offer odd choices of Familiars, but nothing really out of the ordinary in Eclipse. Why shouldn’t you take a Swarm if you wish? It’s treated as a creature isn’t it?
  • Pathfinder’s Summoners employ Edolions – basically relatively minor variations on psychic constructs (as per The Practical Enchanter). They can be built as Companions, obtained by Leadership, bought as permanent spell effects, generated by Witchcraft, or created in a wide variety of other ways. Admittedly, Pathfinder uses “Mutation Points” instead of menu choices, but the basic structure and malleable nature of the result is quite recognizable.
  • Dragon Familiars from the Draconomicon. These require an extra feat on top of the ability to have a Familiar in the first place and get a greatly reduced set of the Familiar bonuses and a lot more independence than most Familiars. To do that in Eclipse you just take one as a Mystical Mount / Companion Creature – which will provide enough bonus points for the creature to buy the relevant Familiar bonuses (Alertness, Share Spells, Empathic Link, Deliver Touch Spells, Spell Resistance and Scry On Familiar) if you (and it) want them. Or you could spend the feat that would have gone to buy “Dragon Familiar” on a template upgrade for your draconic friend to make him or her the envy of other young dragons. “Returning” is always a good choice (hint, hint!).

In Eclipse, of course, you can take Children as Familiars, create Frankenstein’s Monster, have lots of annoying Dragon Cats, have Ancestral Spirits hanging about, have Robots or Warbeasts, a Shamanic Fetch, Lifling, or Shadow Guardian Familiar, or a Religious Advisor, or Minidrakes, bond with a lovecraftian entity from beyond space and time, or any of lots of other things – such as converting your Companion into a Vehicle.

There are a few possibilities that haven’t been addressed though. What happens if you bond with an object, group of objects, or a place? After all, classically there was the “Item Familiar” – a semiofficial optional variant from Unearthed Arcana.

Item Familiars could give your character a lot of extra power – but the character had to invest his or her own power (over and above the feat used to get an Item Familiar) in the item to get it. And if the item was destroyed or even taken away for very long the character lost everything they had invested in it permanently.

That’s not necessarily terrible. The Relic system in Eclipse works the same way unless you add in some upgrades, but a basic Relic rules are set up for a maximum investment of four character points (less than one feat). Losing four CP for a while is not a big thing, just as being unable to use one of your feats for a while isn’t particularly crippling. After all, even without buying any upgrades / “insurance policies”, if your relic gets destroyed it may be really annoying – but you can get another one to replace it if you search long enough. They are just another form of treasure after all.

But according to the Item Familiar rules “If you ever lose the chosen item (have it removed from your possession for a continuous period of more than one day per level) or if the item is destroyed, you automatically lose 200 XP per level as well as all benefits derived from possessing the linked item (plus any resources you put into the item). If you recover the item, you regain these XP. You may replace a lost or destroyed item familiar after you have advanced one level, as if you were gaining an item familiar for the first time.”

And, of course, the more resources you’ve invested in the item, the more power you get back. So to optimize your item, you need to invest heavily. So if your item is never destroyed or taken you get loads of free power. If it is destroyed or taken at some point your character is permanently crippled to the point of unplayability. Either way it’s no fun and potentially game-wrecking.

  • If you want to let someone take an “Item Familiar” as a variant on “Companion” you can – but I really do not recommend it. Instead I’d recommend Create Relic (Specialized and Corrupted / only to make a particular relic or four-point set thereof) (2 CP) and Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only provides four floating CP for creating the specific relic or set of relics above (4 CP). With that… you’ve basically spent a feat on having a few nifty toys. If something happens to them you may have to do without for a bit, but once you have a week or two of downtime you can recreate them.

An Imbued Staff (Dragon 338), on the other hand, was fairly useless. Sure, it turned into a +3 /+1 special ability staff eventually, could deliver touch spells, and could be easily repaired and summoned – but if your high-level Wizard was relying on poking things with a stick, or kept mislaying his staff, something was wrong. Even worse, it couldn’t do anything on it’s own, which pretty much eliminated the point in having a companion in the first place. It went too far the other way.

Still, that brings up the topic of “how much magical gear should a Feat (or the equivalent) be able to get you?”

I’d say “quite a bit”, given that a couple of Crafting Feats will halve the cost of much of your gear AND allow you to make gear for other party members at prices that will save them money and still make a profit for you. It’s not really that hard to effectively double or triple your usual “Wealth By Level” as a magical crafter.

That does take time and carry the risk of losing some of it of course. I think what we want here is something similar to the “Imbuement” ability, which days that “here is a signature item, if something happens to it I will shortly get it back”- less profit, but less risk. Ergo, lets build that with the existing mechanics. I’ll call it…

Soul-Forged Item: This “feat” allows the user to shape a portion of his or her soul into a powerful, personal, magical item or linked set of items, Sadly, this item or set of items must be

  • Access to Dreambinding, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (200 GP multiplier, the item created is considered a part of the user; he or she can release touch spells through it, will always know where it is, may percieve its current location as if he or she was there, the item uses his or her saves, and – if sapient – is always cooperative). (3 CP) / only creates a single item with an effective 66.667 GP multiplier, specific item or set of items; functions may be added as the user’s skill increased, but may not be altered once added, skill cannot be increased beyond (Level +3 +Cha Mod) save through Skill Emphasis and Skill Focus.
  • Fast Learner, Specialized for Reduced Cost, Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Skills, only for Dreambinding, skill can be further augmented by Skill Emphasis and Skill Focus, but not by other means, increased effect is to always keep the Dreambinding skill it’s associated with maxed out (3 CP). The user’s effective score will thus normally be (Level +3 + Cha Mod). The GP value for various effective levels is: 1: 67 GP, 2: 267 GP, 3: 600 GP, 4: 1067 GP, 5: 1667 GP, 6: 2400 GP, 7: 3267 GP, 8: 4267 GP, 9: 5400 GP, 10: 6667 GP, 11: 8067 GP, 12: 9600 GP, 13: 11,266 GP, 14: 13,067 GP, 15: 15,000 GP, 16: 17,067 GP, 17: 19,267 GP, 18: 21,600 GP, 19: 24,067 GP, 20: 26,667 GP, 21: 29,400 GP, 22: 32,267 GP, 23: 35,267 GP, 24: 38,400 GP, 25: 41,667 GP, 26: 45,067 GP, 27: 48,600 GP, 28: 52,267 GP, 29: 56,067 GP, and 30: 60,000 GP.

Sample Soul-Forged Item – A Wizards Staff:

Dreambinding Total:

  • 1) Lantern Staff (Two Handed Metal Hafted Weapon, can shed light as a Hooded Lantern, 9 Lb, Hardness 10, HP 30, 15 GP)
  • 2) Add Folded Metal (+4 Hardness, 14 Total, +200 GP) (215 GP Total).
  • 3) Add Masterwork (+1 to Attacks, +300 GP) and Resilient (+5 HP, 35 Total, 100 GP) (615 GP Total).
  • 4) Add a Wayfinder Fineal (+500 GP, Light on Command, acts as a Compass, -100 GP, cannot yet hold an Ioun Stone (1015 GP Total).
  • 5) The Wayfinder can now hold an Ioun Stone if one is available (1115 GP Total).
  • 6) Add a Cracked Orange Prism Ioun Stone (Pathfinder: +1 Cantrip Known/3.5: +4 Cantrip Slots, either way grants a random power while in a Wayfinder, 1000 GP) (2115 GP Total).
  • 7) Add first level Pearl Of Power effect (100 GP) (3115 GP Total).
  • 8) Staff is now considered a +0 magic weapon (1000 GP, 4115 GP Total).
  • 9) Staff is now a +1 Weapon (+1000 GP, Hardness 16, HP 45) (5115 GP Total).
  • 10) No Improvement.
  • 11) Staff now functions as a Staff Of Entwined Serpents, although it only fires one Magic Missile (-100 GP to 8065 GP Total).
  • 12) Staff now fires Two Magic Missiles (+100 GP) (8165 GP Total)
  • 13) Add a second first level Pearl Of Power effect (1000 GP) (9165 GP Total).
  • 14) No Improvement.
  • 15) Staff gains a +1 Weapon Ability (+6000 GP) (15,165 GP Total). This is technically slightly over the available amount, but I’m not worrying about 165 GP given that several other steps have been under the allowable total.
  • 16) Add a third first level Pearl Of Power effect (1000 GP) (16,165 GP Total).
  • 17) Add the function of a Lesser +1 Spell Level Metamagical Rod (3000 GP) (19,165 GP Total). (Or 6 uses of Minor Merciful since it’s only 1500 GP)
  • 18) No Improvement.
  • 19) Upgrade base material to Adamant (+2700 GP, now Hardness 26, HP 55) (21,865 GP Total).
  • 20) Upgrade a Pearl Of Power incidence with Sapience (500 GP), Int, Wis, and Cha 10 (no cost), Telepathy (1000 GP), 120′ Senses (1000 GP), Darkvision (500 GP), and Magic Missile 3/Day (1200 GP) (26,065 GP Total).
  • 21) No Improvement.
  • 22) Add Called: you can summon your staff to you from anywhere in the same dimension as a standard action (2000 GP) (28,065 GP Total). “Called” is normally only for Armor, but – given that the staff is technically a part of you, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to apply it here.
  • 23) The Sapient Pearl can cast Greater Magic Weapon on the Staff Only (x.7 = 4200 GP) once per day (raising it’s enhancement bonus to +4 for 17 hours) (30,265 GP). In effect, the staff becomes a +4 weapon.
  • 24) The Sapient Pearl can cast Mending at will (1000 GP) and gets the equivalent of a Healing Belt (750 GP) (32,015 GP Total).
  • 25) The Sapient Pearl can cast Silent Image 3/Day (1200 GP) (33,215 GP Total).
  • 26) Staff gains an additional +1 Weapon Ability (+10,000 GP) (43,215 GP Total).
  • 27) The Sapient Pearl can cast Grease and Unseen Servant 3/Day Each (2 x 1200 GP) (45,415 GP Total).
  • 28) The Sapient Pearl can cast Nerveskitter and Protection From Evil 3/Day Each and Magic Missile six times (3 x 1200 GP) (49,015 GP Total).
  • 29) The Sapient Pearl can cast Web 1/Day (2400 GP) and Glitterdust 1/Day (2400 GP) (53,815 GP Total).
  • 30) The Sapient Pearl can cast Dispel Magic 1/Day (6000 GP) (59,815 GP Total). (While that’s thematic, it won’t work too often at this point. If you really want to be Gandalf, use Phantom Steed instead).

After all, if it doesn’t take up an item slot… you can stack it onto something else – if necessary by gluing it there.

Sample Soul-Forged Item – The Sword Of The New Dawn:

Dreambinding Total:

  • 1) Greatsword (Hardness 10, HP 10, 50 GP).
  • 2) Add Folded Metal (+4 Hardness, 14 Total, +200 GP) (250 GP Total).
  • 3) Add Masterwork (+1 Enhancement Bonus to Attacks, +300 GP) (550 GP Total).
  • 4) Add Illuminating (May shed Bright Light in a 20′ radius and shadowy illumination in a 40′ radius, 500 GP) (1050 GP Total).
  • 5) Add two Wand Chambers (200 GP) (1250 GP Total). These may or may not be much use to you, but – at worst – you can put some Eternal Wands in them.
  • 6) No Improvement.
  • 7) Weapon becomes +1 (Hardness 16, 20 HP, 2000 GP) (3250 GP Total).
  • 8) Add Dwarvencraft (+2 Hardness (18 Total), +10 HP (30 Total), +2 on saves, +600 GP) (3850 GP Total).
  • 9) Hollow Pommel acts as an Ehlonna’s Seed Pouch (1400 GP) (5250 GP Total).
  • 10) Seed Pouch becomes Sapient (500 GP), Int, Wis, Cha 10 (No Cost), Healing Belt Functions (750 GP) (6500 GP Total).
  • 11) SP can cast Nerveskitter 3/Day (1200 GP) (7700 GP Total).
  • 12) No Improvement.
  • 13) Weapon becomes Adamantine (Hardness 28, HP 33, +2700 GP) (10,400 GP Total).
  • 14) SP becomes Telepathic with the bearer (+1000 GP) (11,400 GP Total).
  • 15) SP can cast Resist Energy 1/Day (2400 GP) (13,800 GP Total).
  • 16) No Improvement.
  • 17) SP can cast Greater Magic Weapon on the Sword Only (x.7 = 4200 GP) once per day (raising it’s enhancement bonus to +5 for 20 hours) (18,000 GP Total).
  • 18) No Improvement.
  • 19) Weapon gains a +1 Weapon Ability (+6000 GP) (24,000 GP Total).
  • 20) SP can cast Protection From Evil and Liberating Command 3/Day Each (2400 GP) (26,400 GP Total).
  • 21) SP can cast Personal Haste 3/Day (1200 GP) (27,600 GP Total).
  • 22) SP can cast Frostbite 3/Day (1200 GP) (28,800 GP Total).
  • 23) SP can cast Light Foot 3/Day (1200 GP) (30,000 GP Total).
  • 24) SP can cast Lead Blades 3/Day (1200 GP) (31,200 GP Total).
  • 25) Weapon gains a additional +1 Weapon Ability (+10,000 GP) (41,200 GP Total).
  • 26) Functions as per a Rod Of Bodily Restoration (3100 GP) (44,300 GP Total).
  • 27) No Improvement.
  • 28) Functions as per an Orb Of Mental Renewal (3100 GP) (47,400 GP Total).
  • 29) SP can cast Scorching Ray 1/Day (2400 GP) (49,800 GP Total).
  • 30) Grants the True Believer Feat (10,000 GP) (59,800 GP Total).

Both of those are pretty optimized – and are exploiting the Pathfinder rule that “intelligent items use the base caster level of the item without having to pay for it” rule quite unmercifully – but neither of them should be particularly game-wrecking, especially in Eclipse. A handful of low level spells, even being cast at high caster levels, won’t make that big a difference in higher level play.

Alternatively, you could add enhancements to an existing item – perhaps, in your hands, whatever magical longsword you are using will soon pick up intelligence and some secondary abilities. That could follow the same general pattern as the Dawnsword, you’d just be substituting other bits for the weapon abilities.

Still, that covers our “intelligent item familiars” niche.

Taking nonmagical, inert, things as “companions” (presumably in downtime backstory) may transform them into animated objects or conventional creatures – but that just puts them into the appropriate “Companion” category and offers an explanation for where they came from. Actually taking an entirely non-magical inert item as a “Companion” is allowable – but it doesn’t cost anything because it doesn’t actually DO anything. Your “pet rock” remains a rock, just as your favorite fern, or tree, or other inert item, remains whatever it is.

You can bond with an area too. If you draw on it’s power while you’re there, or set up special facilities, or some such, you can just use the Sanctum ability or the Castle Hieronymus setup.

Alternatively, if it’s a relatively small (and mostly un-empowered before you got to it) area you can exercise some control over the place. Purchase this as…

  • Mystic Link with Communications and Power Link, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / links you to a specific, relatively small, location, does not interact with any further mystic links you may buy rather than stacking as Mystic Link upgrades usually do (6 CP) plus Leadership with Exotic Followers, Specialized and Corrupted / only one follower (a Ward Major at one-third your level), follower never accompanies you anywhere (obviously) (3 CP).

With this package you can draw on the powers of a Ward Major and direct it’s influence over the area it controls – although this does leave you obligated to regularly return to and defend that area. Still, if you want a dark forest where the mist rises at your command, there is always a pack of wolves ready to attack your enemies, and you know everything that happens… this is a way to buy it.

Large and powerful domains tend to have their own existing consciousness – a Realm Spirit (Eclipse, 169). And no, you generally cannot have one as a Companion, or even as a Follower. Realm Spirits are invariably up in the epic levels, so you’d need to be up around level sixty or so to qualify. If you’re bonded with a Realm Spirit… then YOU’RE the companion, and you’ve been let out to play for a while.

  • To buy this, buy a Contact (with Occult x 2) / a Realm Spirit (3 CP), Mystic Link with the Communications and Power modifiers (9 CP), and Major Favors (The Realm Spirit, 6 CP)., all Specialized and Corrupted / the user is the mouthpiece, envoy, and troubleshooter for a semi-divine entity with little or no comprehension of creatures that don’t exist on a geologic scale and timescale. Certainly, you can ask the Realm Spirit of the Emerald Forest to swallow up an army tht happens to be marching through the area – but you will also be responsible for explaining to the king that the forest doesn’t want him building a castle in it. The link is not under the user’s control, and the user cannot prevent the Realm Spirit from exercising it’s powers on him or her if it so desires (not that there is usually a lot that can be done about a Realm Spirit anyway).

And I think that about covers the possibilities. There are still things like Forces out there – but having a special bond with (say) “Gravity” probably simply makes you a telekinetic specialist or some such. It’s not even remotely going to fit under “Companion”.

Eclipse And Nobilis – Aspect and Destiny

In Nobilis, Aspect says that you are Physically and Mentally better than human.

Your will is inexhaustible, your mundane skills and traits are all effectively professional, your attributes inhuman! You complete tasks with incredible speed, at just the right time or in the nick of time! You can balance on a thread, fight fifty men at once, and survive terrible hazards and weapons that should kill any normal person in an instant. Even if you should be injured, your wounds heal swiftly and without scars or long term damage!

Well, yes. You are a midlevel or higher d20 character.

Even WITHOUT using Heroic Scaling (which I recommend for a Nobilis game)… you may want a few special bonuses, but a total of +3 in any skill makes you a professional. A +5 makes you an expert. Einstein did really tough original research in his field. That’s DC 30. So… +2 (Modern Library / Masterwork Tool) +3 (Skill Focus) +20 (Take 20)… means he needed another +5. +3 if we allow him a +2 Assistance Bonus for consulting with other scientists. You can have that at level one. Easily.

The world record long jump is 29 feet. That’s DC 29. Again, you can easily beat that at level one. Spend your bonus feat on Innate Enchantment (Personal Haste (2000 GP), Jump (1400 GP), and Light Foot (1400 GP) and that alone gives you at least +36. Throw in Masterwork Running Shoes (+2), a decent attribute bonus (+3), and your base level one skill (+4) and you can easily “Take 10″ and jump 55 feet – close to double the world record. YOUR record would be 65 feet, even if you don’t throw in any of the other readily-available bonuses.

So yeah. By d20 standards this isn’t going to be all that tricky. If Heroic Scaling is in play it’s actually pretty trivial.

Aspect (36 CP):

So to buy an “Aspect” Attribute in Eclipse?

  • That’s 4d6 Mana (you rolled a 17? Congratulations! You have an “Aspect Attribute” of 17), with Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, all Specialized and Corrupted/only for use Reality Editing, only to produce effects calling for raising the user’s normal abilities to superhuman levels, Rite of Chi only recharges this specific mana pool and only between sessions or when the game master opts to award a die (12 CP).

Or, if we already have Rite of Chi we can just generalize it and buy bonus uses / only to recharge this particular pool instead. That would save a few points in a build with several of Nobilis’s super-attributes.

If you want to pull off those level-9 Nobilis Miracles… you’re basically just saying “I can do this amazing thing” and giving it a long duration. Again, in d20 terms… it’s not that impressive.

To be just generally superior (even beyond the superhuman baseline of d20), buy

Nobilis Demigodling (12 CP): Innate Enchantment (11,100 GP value, 12 CP):

  • Inhuman Speed: Personal Haste (2000 GP): +30′ Move, +1 Attack when making a full attack sequence.
  • Immortal Vigor I (1400 GP): +12 + 2 x Con Mod HP.
  • Inspiring Word (1400 GP): +1 morale bonus on saving throws, attack rolls, checks,
    and weapon damage.
  • Wrath Of Heaven/The Infernal (1400 GP) +1 Sacred (Infernal) bonus to Attacks and Damage.
  • Skill Mastery (1400 GP): +2 Competence Bonus to all Skill and Attribute Checks.
  • Fortune’s Favor I (1400 GP): +2 “Luck” bonus to all Skill and Attribute Checks.
  • Resist: (700 GP): +1 Resistance Bonus on all Saving Throws.
  • Divine Health (1400 GP): Fast Healing I (for 18 Rounds) 2/Day, Relieve Illness 1/Day, Relieve Poison 1/Day, and Lesser Restoration 1/Day. From the Hedge Wizardry list on this site and The Practical Enchanter).

This package provides +2 to Saves, +2 to Attack Checks, +5 to Skill and Attribute checks, +2 to Damage, +30′ to all Movement Modes, +(12 _ 2 x Con Mod) hit points, +1 Attack when making a full attack, 36 points worth of Rapid Healing per day, and helps out with poisons, diseases, and attribute damage – quite enough to make you significantly superhuman even without Miracles or Heroic Scaling.

Oh, you want to be able to resist injuries over and above being inhumanly durable? Buy…

Heroic Durability (12 CP).

  • Damage Reduction 3/-, Specialized in Physical Damage for Double Effect (6/-) (6 CP). That will let you bounce small-caliber bullets, arrows, and similar annoyances unless they’re backed by more-than-human power.
  • Damage Reduction 3/-, Specialized in Energy Damage for Double Effect (6/-) (6 CP). That will let you dip your hand in molten metal, stand around in a burning building to have a chat, handle considerable electrical shocks, and even helps with spells, force bolts, and “divine” or “infernal” damage. It’s all energy.

And that’s about it for Aspect in d20. Clocking in at a total of 36 CP for pretty much everything you get for Aspect-5 isn’t especially expensive, but that’s because you get most of what Aspect covers in Nobilis simply by being an adventurer in a d20 world to begin with.

A few Nobilis Aspect Miracle examples – such as “taking out your gun and shooting down a star” – may still be beyond you, but that’s mostly setting-dependent. If the stars are lamps hanging from the celestial dome, or chips of sparkling crystal in the roof of the world-cavern, sure; you can shoot one down. If they’re holes in the cosmic dome revealing the light of eternity beyond, you might be able to shoot a new one or plug an old one, but you can’t “shoot down” a hole. If they’re the welcoming lights of the cities of the dead, lit by the ancestors to lead the spirits of their descendants to their eternal homes once their time in the physical world is done… well, even if you shoot well enough to extinguish a light somehow, they’ll just fix it. And if they’re gargantuan masses of fusing hydrogen light years away… Well, the path of least resistance is to just divert the light that’s going to reach the earth for a few years, since you’ll probably be pretty heavily out-miracled by the locals who like their sun right where it is, thank you very much.

Destiny (30 CP):

Destiny grows in victory, in loss, and in discovery. Your adventures, your tales, and your lessons learned can change the world.

The trouble with the Change The World part is that, in d20, the world is a lot bigger than it is in Nobilis. Do you want to bring the World Ash into being, to shape a reality where the tenets of Nobilis hold sway?

Then you want Dominion – and then some items from the Path of the Pharaoh – Manipulation, Sphere of Influences, and Godfire. All Specialized / they only function within the reality you are creating. That’s (12 CP). Now take Creation (6 CP) – and create the World of Nobilis as your Divine Realm. It won’t do you a lot of good, but with the permission of the Game Master you could be the creator god of the Nobilis universe at level ZERO.

And as you collect Godfire within that world of your dreams, you may set rules and laws for it. In general, the creator of a realm gets to:

  • Determine whether or not people can be injured there and, if they can be, whether or not they can “die”. For example, in dream- and cartoon- realms it’s often impossible to be truly injured. In hell-dimensions you may not be able to “die”, or even lose consciousness, no matter how badly hurt you are. In many “afterlives” you can “die”, but will simply wake up again at an appropriate location – whether that’s beneath the great tree of life, in Odin’s great hall, or in bed. Secondary effects in this category include enhancing or negating healing, aging, and similar effects.
  • Determine the general nature of the realm – it’s layout and description, whether the local timerate is fast or slow in comparison to the Creators original plane, and the realm limitations on technology, magic, psychic powers, and other special abilities.
  • Grant ability packages worth up to 24 CP within the realm. These can be set up on a general basis (such as in the Dragonworlds, where everyone gets 24 CP off the cost of buying draconic powers if they choose to do so), be handed out to individuals, or a mixture of the two.
  • Define any stable dimensional access points, such as links to other realms. The creator can also define whether the realm is easy to reach, can be reached normally, or is difficult to reach otherwise, as well as how difficult it is to open gates or create overlays within it.
  • Buy Sanctum abilities, and have them apply to the entire realm.
  • Selectively suppress or enhance particular powers within the realm as long as he or she has access to at least one point of Godfire. Unfortunately, this is limited to (Cha Mod) modifications at any one time. In general, the realm-creator can suppress particular types of powers (reducing their effects by 3 levels) or enhance them (increasing their effect by one level, either making effects easier to use or adding metamagic), but is not him- or her-self subject to this suppression. The available modifications tend to default to suppressing the efforts of other deities: An intruding deity must expend one point of Godfire per point of suppression to invoke Godfire against the will of the dimension-creator, but that will suffice to overcome such resistance for hours or days.

Quite a lot of these sorts of rules apply to the little pocket-realms created by high-order spells and psychic powers too. Extradimensonal Spaces can be very versatile, although a lot of the most common basic modifiers are found in The Practical Enchanter under the Spacewarp Spell Template on page 72.

But most people want to change the world they currently occupy, not dream one up to suit themselves. Just as importantly, Nobilis doesn’t usually allow true godhood as Eclipse defines it. You can do many of the same things, true – but they’re mighty projects of destiny, not “activate a power” and the scale is a lot smaller. Even affecting the “billions of worlds” of the entire tree is a drop in the bucket compared the the estimated hundred billion solar systems in the Milky Way Galaxy – and you can multiply that by the estimated two hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe. And even that gargantuan number doesn’t even register on eh scale of the theoretically infinite number of Hubble Volumes beyond the observable universe. True Godhood in Eclipse has a lot of perks.

Well, you can do that. The powers you want are:

  • Action Hero / Crafting if you want to create some mighty work, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / spending Action Points requires a great deal of inter-player discussion and planning. (6 CP).
  • Action Hero / Invention if you want to discover or develop new things for all to use. Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / spending Action Points requires a great deal of inter-player discussion and planning. (6 CP).
  • Action Hero / Influence if you wish to restructure the relationships between the great powers of the world – or to raise up new powers and cast down old ones (6 CP).
  • Returning with Rewrite (12 CP). Nobilis characters are very difficult to get rid of permanently. They also get to occasionally shuffle some of their abilities around. Ergo, they have Returning with Rewrite. You may kill them, but you have to break their connection with their Estate to make them stay dead – and they get to tweak their abilities occasionally between adventures.

Dominion works if you wish to use the power of your Domain (Estate) to influence large-scale events. It too is a bargain at only (6 CP) – but will inevitably involve you in the maintenance and defense of your Domain (Estate). In theory you could also use advanced Dominion abilities – such as Divine Attribute, Sanctify, Endowment, and Greater Endowment – to alter the world on a wide scale, but for that you need to be a True God, and Nobles generally are not. Ergo, I’m going to be leaving even basic Dominion to go under Persona and Domain, where it fits in better.

Of course, all of that is a lot more direct than Destiny in Nobilis, where destiny is required to be ambiguous, subtle, and slow. That’s because – in d20 – the world has large-scale rules. You don’t necessarily need the cooperation of the game master, or to go with the plot or theme. If you figure out a way to take out the campaigns ultimate enemy in the first session… then so be it! The Game Master will just have to come up with something else.

Now, as for Personal Destiny – improving your personal powers and traits – d20 has a basic mechanism for that built right in. It’s called “Gaining Levels”, and it is – once again – much more definite than in Nobilis, in part because a d20 game can readily function with a new game master, or (for quite some time) with no game master at all.

Hexcrafting Part III – The Elemental Powers Deck

And for today, it’s a complete Elemental Hexcraft Deck – although it is, of course, suitable for various other purposes. This particular deck is divided into five suits – Flames, Water, Air, Earth, and Wood, each in sequence from primal origin to final end, and each noting what kind of hexes it can be used to produce.

Suit Of Flames:

1. The Sun. Pure, terrible, and radiant, the sun drives back the darkness, destroying what conceals itself within that darkness. Light, truth, and purification all lie within the purview of the Sun, as well as searing light and the destruction of the undead.

2. The Inferno. The greatest of earthly fires, the inferno rages and destroys. Rains or walls of flame, the summoning of fire elementals, and destructive blasts all lie within the purview of the Inferno – as does parting flames and controlling such forces.

3. The Fireball. Catalysis of change lies within the Fireball, the power to cause fires to flare up as mighty blasts, to haste or slow the fires which burn within living beings, and to perform subtle feats of alchemy.

4. Energy. Fire harnessed yields energy, the power to drive great engines and clanking steam powered automatons, to hurl mighty projectiles, and to send vehicles hurtling across the world and skies. Guns, rockets, engines and mechanical wonders lie within the purview of Energy.

5. The Forge. Where craft meets magic, the Forge fabricates and enhances. All forms of repairs, fabrications, and refinements, and the enhancement of weapons, tools, and armor, lie within the domain of the Forge.

6. The Secret Fire. Fire can lie imprisoned within many things, whether bound into coal and oil by the forces of nature or by the hands of craftsmen. The Secret Fire can call forth that bound fire or bind fire away, to be released at will.

7. The Unity Of Fire. To recognize the balance of fire within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from fire and cold, merging with fire, Fire Shield, and many similar protections can be found within the Unity Of Fire.

8. The Dance Of Flames. Within the heart of the flames lies both grace and vision, speed and fascination. Those peering within the flame may react with swift prevision, gain glimpses across time and space, and ensorcell others with the beauty of a dancing flame.

9. Smoke. Whether a pleasantly scented wisp or a choking miasma, Smoke fills the winds with darkness. It’s domain includes the simplest of illusions, blocking sight, having various ill effects on those within it, and even generating toxic clouds of carbon monoxide.

10. Desolation. The burning away of social relationships lies at the heart of Desolation, it’s purview includes the traps and barriers of no-mans-land, hatred and betrayal, and the destruction of hope and the blasted landscapes which inevitably follow.

11. Ashes. All fires must must burn out at last, leaving little of worth behind, but clearing the way for new things. Whether to extinguish other flames, to call forth a burning wind of searing sparks and embers, to simply disintegrate something, to drain energy and strength, or to undo destruction – perhaps reconstructing a burned tome – Ashes will serve.

12. Darkness. When the last flame glimmers out, and the light perishes, Darkness will yet remain. Spells of concealment, and of the unnatural forces which bring the animation of undeath to life properly long since passed are concealed within the Darkness.

Suite Of Water

1. Abysm. In the secret depths, in the darkness between the fire and the ice, does life begin. Aberrations, Slimes, Immense Pressure, and Deep Mysteries all lie within the province of Abysm.

2. Leviathan. The great beasts of the sea echo the deep history of the world and contain the wrath of the waters. Great monsters, ancient tales, great upheavals, and the birth of new things and places fall within the purview of the Leviathan.

3. Whirlpool. What came from the deep will one day be reclaimed by the deep, a fraught passage that might lead to anywhere but which offers a traveler little control and the risk of being stranded.

4. Current. The inexorable flow of space, time, and destiny sweeps all the cosmos with it, drawing everything towards an unknown destination. Such forces are the purview of the Currents of time, as is the induction of eddies, imposing destinies, and hastening or slowing the flow of time.

5. Tide. The inevitable waxing and waning of the Tide moves within all life. Youth and Age, Growth and Decay, and the enhancement and reduction of Attributes all fall within the purview of the Tides ebb and flow.

6. Ship. Whether drifting flotsam or vessel of cunning craft, the seas touch lands and places across time, space, and reality, cosmos drifting like bubbles within the depths. Travels between lands and places, importing rare marvels, and struggles against the forces of nature are within the province of the Ship.

7. The Unity Of Water. To recognize the balance of water within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from corrosives and toxins, merging with water, auras that corrode or drown, and many similar protections can be found within The Unity Of Water.

8. Venom. The malignance of water seethes in hidden places, emerging to strike secretly from within. It’s malice ranges from simple incapacitation or intoxication to horrific slow dooms. All the intoxicants, drugs, and poisons of the natural world are within the domain of Venom.

9. Reagent combines craft with the myriad secrets of water, the extraction and distillation of what lies within. The realms of alchemy and chemistry, purification and sublimation are all within the Reagent’s compass.

10. Blood. As without, so within, Blood surges with it’s own current and tide, flowing with life and vitality. The transfer of vital force, the sealing and healing of wounds, bringing temporary life to the inanimate, disease and the recovery therefrom are all within the scope of Blood.

11. Erosion. Water is the great leveler, taking all things, grain by gain, back into itself to be reborn – or, if their time is truly past, to sleep forever into silted darkness. The corrosive power of time, of decay, of quagmire, of disaster, and of dissolution lurks hidden within the depths of Erosion.

12. Fimbulwinter. When stillness at last claims the restless waves, and the boundless lines of the future freeze into the crystalline oneness of the past, there shall be no more to come. Ice, endings, preservation, and the purity of the arctic wastes writ large remain when the river of life comes at last to its end.

Suit Of Air

1. The Nebula. A sparkling of motes gathered from a celestial wind, an ethereal foundation for what is to come. Radiation and Magnetism, as well as the vacuum of space can be drawn from the nigh-endless depths of the nursery of stars.

2. Gyre. The vortex draws all around it to itself, whirling about it’s core. From the spiraling infall of gas to form new stars to the smallest dust devil, the pattern of the Gyre appears again and again. While things like sunspots are out of reach in most settings, whirling shields, blades, bullets, tornados and the self-organizing lives of Air Elementals usually are not.

3. Wind. From the streaming particles of the solar winds to the ceaseless hypersonic gales of jovian worlds, force and motion are the domain of Wind.

4. The Thunderbolt. Where wind contends with wind, atoms themselves are torn asunder and the Thunderbolt is born. Both prismatic radiance and the discharging force of lightning are within the purview of the onrushing storm.

5. Sublimation. From the finest mists of the exosphere between the stars to the mesospheric chill, it is the nature of air to carry energy away. Spells of cold, of extinguishment, and of draining and negating forces and other magics lie within the purview of Sublimation.

6. Thunder. Between the Lightning and the Thunder is a promise waiting to be fulfilled. The vibration of wind recoiling. The forces of Sound and Vibration fall within the scope of Thunder, albeit only in their cruder forms.

7. The Unity Of Air. To recognize the balance of Air within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from lightning and sound, merging with the winds, auras that deflect missiles or hurl others away, and many similar protections can be found within The Unity Of Air.

8. The Harmony Of Voices. Thunder and Craft give birth to Language and Communication, the foundation of Sapience. Empathy and Music, Words and Phantasms, Translation and Encryption all fall within the compass of the Harmony Of Voices.

9. Dream Of Wings. Wind harnessed by Life grants the freedom of the sky, carries missiles and missives, and sends thought between worlds. This also grants Dream Of Wings some level of control over dream-magic, no matter how ethereal that application.

10. Cloud. The stagnation of Air becomes drifting pools, a vaporous Sargasso of turbulent particles and aerosols. Within the compass of the Cloud lies mists, gases, blowing dusts, and an assortment of corrosives and toxins.

11. Silence. When Air at last passes into stillness, naught remains save the occasional tremor of deep structures yielding at last to ancient pressures. Within Silence lies the perception of deep time, stillness, the easy detection of even the faintest traces and disturbances, and the suppression of sound and motion. Stillness remains where Silence reigns.

12. Void. Last as it was first, the last traces of Air a scattering of particles drifting into the eternal void. Vacuum, where even Air is not, the dispersal of matter at fundamental levels, and the expansion of space all fall within the Void.

Suit Of Earth

1. The Mountain. In nigh invincible solidity the Mountain is the fundamental embodiment of Earth and Stone, whether as an iron fist of hurtling doom, a bulwark of defense, or an unremarked host of lesser entities. Its grasp is gravitation, its strength the slow thrust of plate tectonics, and its endurance near eternal. The summoning and manipulation of stone and earth, and of the gravitation that binds it, lies within the Mountain.

2. Earthblood. Flowing from the world’s heart comes heat and magic, upwellings of flowing stone, fields of magnetic force, and forces stranger still. The magic of the Earthblood is slow but strong, spells of vulcanism, magnetism, ley lines, and drawing up or dissipating magical energies all pulse with ancient energies of Earthblood.

3. Cavern. Concealment, shelter, and a place of daunting stony beauty, those places where Earth withholds its base aspect are still filled with its deep strengths. There may forces birthed in darkness be given form. Extra-dimensional spaces, passage through otherwise impenetrable obstacles, and the forces of Shadow are concealed within the Cavern.

4. Crystal. Stability and order given form, the lattice of timeless Crystal can hold both energy and information. Stasis, storing both raw power and the complex structures of spells, disciplines, and information, and the channeling of those forces lie within the sparkling depths of Crystal.

5. Earthquake. Where stability bows at last to accumulated tension the foundations of the world crumble and prior certainties give way. While the aspects of the Earthquake include the shaking of the earth and destruction of architecture, ancient magics and planar traits, the very foundations of reality, also tremble and fall before the Earthquake.

6. Endurance. That which is of the Earth, or is touched by its energies, survives. If you wish the life of a burned-out forest to reawaken, for a gate to withstand all that can be hurled against it, to withstand the rigors of a lengthy battle, or for a frail child to recover from some terrible disease, the Endurance holds the answers you seek.

7. The Unity Of Earth. To recognize the balance of earth within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from weapons and force, merging with earth and stone, armored skin, and many similar protections can be found within The Unity Of Earth.

8. The Fortress. Where Craft touches upon Stone, the Fortress rises, fastness, refuge, and home. Spells of hospitality, of construction and siege, of imbuing locations with defenses and wards, all lie within the purview of the Fortress.

9. The Golem. While the Earth is slow to wake, it is implacable once aroused. While simple elementals are within the domain of the Golem, so are deadfalls, avalanches, the pools of dust or “quicksand” which swallow up their victims, and simple pits. When the Golem stirs the earth itself to battle, where shall one find refuge?

10. The Delve. The fruits of the Earth are many, and are the foundation of wealth. Metals and Jewels, the hidden lore of the long-buried past, and the Hammer in the Forge, all begin in the depths of the Earth. Spells of Crafting, of Finding, of Paths, of Metal, and of Wealth, all lie hidden within the depths of the Delve.

11. Armor. When Earth guards Flesh, Armor is. From the crudest stony shell to the complex electronics of a giant mecha, Armor has defended life across the ages. Spells that grant, enhance, or otherwise augment that protection fall within its scope.

12. Dust. When even Earth begins to fail and structure falls away, all that remains is drifting dust. Spells of sealing and release, of disintegration and recalling the traces of the past lie within the last traces of Dust.

Suit Of Wood:

1. Yggdrasil. All forests, one forest. All trees, one tree. Before the rise of the beasts, a forest was. In the World Tree are the paths between worlds where life spread across the cosmos. If you seek the paths between worlds, or the serenity and bounty of the primordial forests, seek within the branches of Yggdrasil.

2. Nidhogg. They slumber, yet remain. Whether amidst the roots of the Yggdrasil or in the City of Rlyeh, the Great Beasts that set the Patterns of Life await the breaking of ancient bonds. Effects such as “Summon Nature’s Ally”, “Dragonstrike”, and more lie within the domain of Nidhogg.

3. Audhumla. Life grows, spreads, encroaches. Whether it is the vines that pull apart stone, the sargasso which entraps, or the roots that devour, the tide of life knows few limits. In Audhumla does life devour itself and find renewal. Spells of growth, of entanglement, of reincarnation, and of bringing burgeoning life to the barren wastes are within the scope of Audhumla.

4. YmirGaia. Each spark of life, a candle against the void saying “I AM”. In a myriad such sparks, a great light. What life encompasses, it draws upon. Communicating with Realm-Spirits, drawing upon the magical resources of the land, and seeking the consensus of life lies within the realm of YmirGaia.

5. Alfheim. Where sparks gather, Fey are born. Disembodied Nature and Totem Spirits, or more grounded Dryads, Fauns, and Boggarts, all share in the wild magic of nature. Yet, while the wild magic can never be entirely tamed, it can yet be channeled. To call upon Alfheim is always a tricky bargain – something must always be given in return – but many and wide-ranging are the powers of the fey.

6. The Troll. The rampaging power of the beasts lies at the heart of the Troll, the force that strips away forests, digs networks of tunnels, dams rivers, and gathers resources. If it lies within the power of muscle, paw, and claw, it is within the realm of the Troll.

7. The Unity Of Wood. To recognize the balance of wood within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from positive/negative energy and curses, merging with plants, auras that bludgeon or entangle, and many similar protections can be found within The Unity Of Wood.

8. The Thousand Excellent Herbs. Remedies and toxins, foodstuffs and banes, all can be found in a handful of cunningly-selected plants. With sufficient power, all such things are available within the realm of the Thousand Excellent Herbs.

9. The Cottage (often The Den). A snug, secure, place of safety with family about you. The Cottage brings shelter and calm, a place of healing and rest. Spells of the Cottage bring rest and sleep, renewal and healing, and contact with those bonded to you, whether living or dead.

10. The Harvest. Abundance and festival, a buffer against famine, is the gift of the Harvest. Spells of creating food and intoxicants, drawing upon the strengths and energies of others, storing things away for later, and celebration, are all within the compass of the Harvest.

11. The Workshop. The work of hands and cunning brings transformation, the creation of new wonders from natures harvest. Spells of fabrication, construction, and enhancement of tools and machines fall within the purview of the Workshop.

12. The Fungal Kingdom. As life draws to its close, the last flowering is of creeping decay in the darkness, as death at last holds illimitable dominion over all. Spells involving fungi, spores, the toxins of molds and decay, and restoring an unnatural life to fallen flesh, lie within the realm of the Fungal Kingdom.

While this is definitely a “broad” deck, offering a wide variety of magical effects, it’s worth noting that it certainly doesn’t (and shouldn’t) cover everything. No individual Hexcrafter should be omnipotent. On the other hand, it’s certainly fair enough to rule that any fire card in this deck will probably do to warm your feet or light your pipe if someone was to waste a Hex on such a trivial matter.

Now, if you limited this deck to the manipulation of the actual, physical, “elements” it would definitely be a “narrow” deck – and probably one with a great deal of redundancy since a lot of the cards would have some serious overlap when interpreted that way. That might be an easy way to start off though, spending more points to turn it into a “broad” deck later on.