Valdemar D20 – Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I usually say that…

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

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

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

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

So what do we know about Companions?

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

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

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

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

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Eclipse and Skill-Based Partial Casters II

And for today, it’s another offline question…

Is there a way (other than Stunts) to cast spells or otherwise empower magic with your normal skills?

Well, yes; of course. This IS Eclipse after all. Even discounting the Martial Arts Skill Magics that Kelelawar uses, you could buy:

  • 30d6 Mana with the Unskilled Magic Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Unskilled Magic, cannot spend more mana per day on unskilled magic in a given field then one point per rank in an associated skill (60 CP). That’s about 105 points of Mana, An approximation, but many characters have few skills and others are unlikely to be called on much. How often are you going to need your full supply of Knowledge/Geography spells?
  • Rite of Chi with +48 Bonus Uses, Specialized / only to restore the mana pool for unskilled magic (39 CP). Even with seriously below-average rolls that ought to do it. The total of 49D6 will pretty reliably beat the total of 30D6 – reliably enough so that there is little need to bother rolling.

Of course, unskilled magic eventually starts becoming ineffectual. You’d want some Augmented Bonus or Berserker (or both) to boost it, and perhaps an Immunity to wasting Mana with side effects, and so on. Worse, since this covers every skill… so eventually you’re going to start wondering what kind of magic “Profession/Lawyer” and “Craft/Carpentry” cover. Not all skills are really that well-suited for powering spellcasting.

Worst of all… this involves extra bookkeeping since your Mana pool is very unlikely to match your skill ranks exactly and you’ll need to keep track of both. This only approximates what is wanted.

As is fairly common when someone wants a new magic system, The best option here is to go with Immunities: Admittedly, these will be natural-law immunities, and so will require permission from the game master, but – as such things go I suspect that these are going to be relatively low powered compared to most natural-law immunities. Permission shouldn’t be a problem.

So first up…

Crafting Skills should probably be better at empowering items than at spellcasting – although you could do both. Why can’t you use Smithcrafting Magic to produce a “Heat Metal” effect? Still, the number of suitable spells for “Craft/Perfumer” is going to be fairly limited. Ergo, take…

  • Touch Of The Svartalfar: Immunity/The Normal Limits Of Craft Skills. Each Craft Skill now provides “points” equal to it’s base rank. These may be invested each day in personal magical devices suited to the skill in question. It takes 1 point to empower a Charm, 2 for a Talisman, and (2+ Value / 2000 GP) to empower a more powerful item – although item slots are not relevant, since these run on personal magic. (Very Common, Major, Variable: 5 CP to empower 1-point items. 10 CP for 1-3 point items, and 15 CP for up to 5-point items (6000 GP). After that… this starts becoming prohibitively expensive. It’s 30 CP for up to 7-point items, 45 CP for 9-point items, and 60 CP for up to 20-point items.

This is very useful at lower levels, where a handful of low-powered items can be a major power boost, but becomes less relevant at higher levels – although a handful of slot-free minor items can still be fairly handy. Whether or not that’s worth 15 CP and keeping some Craft skills up is up to you.

For most other skills we’re going to want actual spellcasting. To get that, take…

  • Occult Master: Immunity / The normal limits of 2-4 Skills (2 for low magic settings, 3 for moderate magic settings, and 4 for high magic settings – like most standard d20 games). Each affected skill now provides daily “points” equal to it’s rating. These “points” can be used for Unskilled Magic, but only for effects appropriate to the skill. The point cost can be halved, and the side effects eliminated, by using the points to set up prepared spells instead of using them spontaneously. Very Common, Major, Trivial (maximum of level one effects, 5 CP), Minor (maximum of level three effects, 10 CP), Major (maximum of level five effects, 15 CP), Great (maximum of level seven effects, 30 CP), Epic (maximum of level nine effects, 45 CP), and Legendary (maximum of level 20 effects, 60 CP). Of course, since this is still limited by the rules for Unskilled Magic (below), this means that most characters might as well stop at the 15-point level – and they’ll likely need to buy further boosts to fully exploit even that.

Unskilled Magic:

  • Whatever-it-is you’re trying to do will cost 2 Mana (“Points”) per level of the effect – half of which is wasted and a quarter of which goes into random side effects.
  • The Casting Level equals the user’s level or (Int/3 + the effect level), whichever is less.
  • The maximum level of effect which can be produced equals the user’s base Will save bonus or (Wis/3), whichever is less.
    Keeping the side effects down to displays and inconvenient effects (rather than dangerous ones) requires a Cha check at a DC of ([2x the Mana used] + 6). The side effects are always up to the Game Master

 

This Immunity is useful, and actually reasonably powerful – but after going for the most obvious set of skills (Knowledge/Arcane (Wizard Spells), Knowledge/Religion (Cleric Spells), and Knowledge/Nature (Druid Spells), you’re going to be trying to figure out what can be done with spells appropriate to Profession/Lawyer, Survival, and Perform/Woodwinds. I can think of plenty of useful things to do with all three of those – but few of them are going to be major contributions to any specific adventure and most are extremely situational. Worse, at lower levels… if you have +10 in Knowledge/Arcana, you’re going to run out of your spontaneous Wizardry after five levels of spells – and while a timely Fireball, a Magic Missile, and a Grease spell are all very useful, that’s not going to carry you through an adventure.

Just for fun, you can give these individual names:

    • The Lotus Of Jade for Knowledge Skills. Probably the first choice, since it provides classical, broad-themed, spellcasting.
    • Channeling The Dragon Lines for Physical Skills, such as Acrobatics, Escape Artist, Ride, and Martial Arts. This will let you pull off anime-style stunts like a cut-down Tome Of Battle character.
    • The Cunning Man for sneaky skills – Bluff, Disguise, Intimidate, and Stealth. If you want illusions, enchantments, and shapeshifting, this is for you.
    • The Secret Arts for skills like Diplomacy, Handle Animal, Heal, and Survival. With this you can fascinate and persuade, summon and control animals, heal, and create traps and camps.
    • Master Of The Secret Order for Profession skills.
    • Master Of Sleights for Disable Device, Linguistics, Sleight Of Hand, and Use Magic Device. Go ahead, destroy your enemies weapons, speak power words, teleport items about, and enhance and manipulate devices.
    • For Perform Skills…there is nothing at all wrong with simply using art-based magic. Still, you might want to consider taking either Mystic Artist (6 CP Each) or Performance-based Ritual Magic (6 CP) – perhaps committing a few rituals to memory with the remaining (3 CP).

To be an even halfway decent spellcaster, you’re going to want to take three or four versions of Occult Master – totaling 45 to 60 CP. You’ll also need to take…

  • The Immaculate Will/Immunity: Loss of Mana/”Points” to Side Effects when using unskilled magic (Very Common, Major, Variable Trivial (the first point, 5 CP), Minor (the first three points, 10 CP), Major (the first 5 points, 15 CP), Great (the first 7 points, 30 CP), Epic (the first 9 points, 45 CP), or Legendary (the first 20 points, 60 CP).

Once again, the first 15 CP worth of this is generally sufficient. Still, we’re now up to 75-90 CP.

Lets now throw in…

  • Tongue Of Magic/Augmented Bonus: Add (Att Mod, Choice of Cha Mod, Con Mod, or Dex Mod) to the calculated Minimum Caster Level and (Att Mod/2) to the Maximum Spell Level when using Unskilled Magic – both Corrupted for Increased Effect (adding an Attribute Modifier to things that don’t normally get one) / this will not increase the caster level above the user’s level and only increases the maximum spell level by half the relevant attribute modifier. Sadly, this will not let the user exceed the spell level limits of the purchased immunities that let him or her use this version of Unskilled Magic in the first place (6 CP).

Without this, even a high-intelligence character is going to peak out at around caster level eight or so. With this… they can keep up for a few levels longer, which is pretty reasonable for a cheap power.

After that, they’ll need…

  • Occult Focus/Berserker with Enduring: +6 to effective Caster Levels, +4 Charisma, -2 AC for (Con Mod + 3) rounds, activated as a free action (1 + Level/3) times daily (9 CP).
  • At really high levels they’ll need to add Odinpower and Odinmight for Berserker (increasing the total to +12 Caster Levels, +8 Charisma, and -2 AC for +6 CP). They’ll still be using lower-level magic, but at least it will be reasonably EFFECTIVE low-level magic.

Finally, of course, to make this build work you’re going to need to keep 9-12 (or even more) skills at or near maximum. That’s going to call for both permitted instances of Adept (12 CP), Fast Learner Specialized in Skills (6 CP), and Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Add a second Attribute Modifier to your Intelligence Modifier for Skill Purposes, 18 CP).

Which takes us up to… 126-141 CP. Plus any more skill boosters or Mystic Artist you decide to throw in.

That puts us firmly in the “Partial Caster” category – which, with a maximum of fifth level effects, fits nicely. The Skillmaster Caster will have quite a lot of magic to work with at high levels – but it will be divided into many small special-purpose (if freeform) pools, so they’ll have to be pretty clever about using it if they want to be effective at really high levels. Still, they’ll have a much easier time remaining relevant than most skill monkeys.

You could pursue things up to the “Full Caster” level with skill boosters, but at least those are dual-purpose; higher skill bases are generally useful for more than magic. As a better alternative… Take a Companion (Familiar) with a +4 ECL Template (18 CP): Returning (Corrupted / must be resummoned by master), Occult Master x 3 (45 CP), and The Immaculate Will (15 CP). Since a Familiar has your skills – if not all your bonuses – this will let it cast spells too, if at a much lower caster level. Getting to routinely cast two spells a round, even if they are lower level spells  and the second one is at a lower caster level, can be quite useful. It probably still isn’t a match for the ability to cast ninth level spells, but even at 160+ points its still notably cheaper than spending 280 CP buying the full Wizard spellcasting progression.

A Skillmaster Caster neatly breaks down the boundaries between Skills and Magic – which is entirely sensible in a world of magic. I think I’d welcome one in any one of my fantasy-based settings.

Gaming Harry Potters World IV – Demographics Of Wizarding Great Britain

Due to various interruptions, things are a bit behind – so I’m going to be back-posting and playing catchup for a while.

And for today it’s a question about a Harry Potter article (and II and III) – and why it assumed that the Wizarding Population was fairly small.

Eh, I think the Weasleys existence is at least a strong indication that this isn’t actually the case. The Weaselys have like half-a-dozen kids within less than ten years of each other, and it certainly isn’t treated like a ludicrous freak of nature for that to happen.

There’s also a more or less expected number of siblings and such in the Harry Potter books, which seems like isn’t something that would happen in that case.

Honestly, I get why you are making that claim, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.

-Jirachi386

Ah, the Weasleys! Proof positive that Wizards often have extremely large families! After all, there were seven Weasley children (or possibly more, given that books for kids probably wouldn’t mention any deaths in early childhood).

Actually, due to most terrible black art of all – mathematics – a careful look shows it to be the other way around.

  • We’re straight out told in the books that the Weasley tendency to have large numbers of children was considered quite abnormal. We may not like Malfoy, but no one in the books argues with his statement.
  • According to the Weasleys themselves: “We’re the biggest blood traitor family there is.”
  • According to Sirius Black: “The pure-blood families are all interrelated. If you’re only going to let your sons and daughters marry pure-bloods, your choice is very limited; there are hardly any of us left.”
  • Pottermore tells us, with emphasis, that there are a lot of Weasleys – while actually showing a fairly small family. Importantly, we’re told that, for the last couple of generations, the Weasley children have all been male. Arthur Weasley was one of three brothers, two of them were killed in the first wizarding war, leaving no descendants. So a family of two adults and seven children with no cousins… is one of the biggest wizarding families.
  • We’re also told that, while the current generation was technically pureblooded (all grandparents being magical), the Weasleys were proud of their relationship to interesting muggles. According to Ron Weasley “Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn’t married Muggles we’d’ve died out.”

So the Weasleys, with seven kids, are apparently on the outer end of the bell curve of wizarding family size.

How does that compare with Muggles from a similar cultural period, back before overcrowding, urbanization, and such (which don’t seem to be much of a problem for Wizards and Witches) started reducing the muggle birth rate?

  • According to the census records, the average American woman in 1800 had seven to eight children.
  • I used to live down the street from a farmer with eleven kids, and that family wasn’t particularly unusual.
  • One of my great-grandmothers had twenty-one children, most of which lived.
  • The greatest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69 – to the wife of Feodor Vassilyev (b. 1707-c.1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia. In 27 confinements she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. (The man then had 18 more children by his second wife. We know that 84 of the 87 lived).

Similarly, we have all those Pureblooded houses which are almost extinct. How does that happen? There should be endless collateral branches to inherit even if something happens to the direct line of descent. That’s why everyone with even a trace of Northern European ancestry can claim descent from Charlemagne – and why almost everyone in Eurasia can claim descent from Genghis Khan (and many, MANY, millions can claim both). Normal family trees expand – yet we are explicitly told that Wizarding family trees tend to vanish.

Even given the smaller sample size, which narrows the trailing edges of the bell curve, if seven kids is an exceptionally large family… then something is very seriously wrong with magical families ability to reproduce.

So what other evidence do we have on the size of the Wizarding population?

Lets look at Hogwarts.

Hogwarts was built to be a Wizarding school in 990, and has not been extensively rebuilt, or there would not be unknown pipes in the walls big enough for a large snake and bathroom facilities dating back to the founding that contain undiscovered secret passages (although some magical remodeling to get that modern look seems likely). There may have been magical expansion – but it is strongly implied that the magical population when the place was built was enough to call for a sizeable school. Since that school is still sufficient, the magical population cannot have expanded too much.

The muggle population of England has increased by a factor of thirty since 990 – and when the school was built there were enough muggle-born mages for Salizar Slythern to have considered them a problem. Thus, if there are not now very large – in fact, utterly dominant – numbers of muggle-born wizards, then the percentage of kids born to muggles who turn out to be wizards has decreased drastically over the last thousand years.

At the most basic, if wizards were successfully reproducing themselves, their population growth should be keeping pace with the muggle population growth. That would mean that – when Hogwarts was founded – there were only about a hundred magic-users in all Great Britain, and (since wizards are stated to live longer than muggles) only 1-2 magical kids per year. Hogwarts would have had about ten kids in attendance (not per class, in total across all seven years). That’s not enough to make four houses or to call for a huge castle is it?

Maybe a lot of modern wizarding kits were home-schooled, and therefore Hogwarts did not need to be expanded?

But the books tell us that “Attendance is now compulsory for every young witch and wizard. That was announced yesterday. It’s a change, because it was never obligatory before. Of course, nearly every witch and wizard in Britain has been educated at Hogwarts, but their parents had the right to teach them at home or send them abroad if they preferred.”. So J.K. Rowling flat-out tells us that home schooling was permitted, but was not a significant factor.

Hogwarts is telling us that the Wizarding population may have increased, but not all that much – nothing like the degree to which the muggle population has increased. That is reproductive failure. If pureblooded houses are dying out, that is reproductive failure. The Wizarding World is not producing enough kids to sustain itself (if it was, the muggle-born would be extras and the population would be rising sharply) and the muggle contribution is dropping.

Interestingly, there may be some on-the-job education, but this implies that magical doctors and such are considered ready to go into practice at seventeen or eighteen years old. Magical Great Britain has no colleges. Medieval standards again.

What about the rest of the country?

Great Britain’s magical community has…

  • One medical hospital – which also seems to serve as magical Great Britain’s psychiatric hospital, medical research center, and long-term care facility. Even if we take it that magical cures are often a lot better than mundane ones, we know that the First Wizarding War left a fair number of long-term patients in care. And yet there’s only one facility.
  • One prison / torture chamber / Dementor holding area. Perhaps most punishments are simply fines? But they were locking up a fair percentage of the Death Eaters – the army on the other side of a civil war.
  • One irregular medieval street of small shops, apparently mostly operated by individual magical craftsman – which seems to be the only magical shopping center in Great Britain. Given that what few companies are mentioned also seem to have their offices there it apparently serves as the business district as well. It has one major entrance – through a small classical tavern. It doesn’t even look like it’s been updated in centuries. Real estate there is apparently relatively cheap through; Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was able to open there for less than a thousand galleons – less than seven thousand dollars for a prime bit of real estate in the business district.
  • One absolutely vital supply, that every Wizard and Witch needs and thus is an absolutely vital national resource – wands – with no mention of their being more than one supplier, and that supplier being an elderly craftsman (presumably with a family that helps out although this is never stated) who interacts with his customers personally, who takes a good deal of time to make each sale, who’s shop is not particularly busy even during the start of school when young wizards and witches are coming in for their wands, and who seems to remember each customer and each wand he’s sold. The shop, incidentally, has apparently been in operation on the same spot (“Established 382 BC”) for more than two thousand years.
  • One Night Bus, which apparently serves the entire country and isn’t particularly crowded. Admittedly, adult wizards have a lot of other ways to travel – but still; ONE.
  • One extremely amateurish newspaper – which does little or no actual investigation, has no apparent professional ethics, has very poor editorial control, is manipulated by the Ministry of Magic, and which operates out of a single office in Diagon Alley. There is also a notable conspiracy-theory “paper” (The Quibbler) put out by a single nut case – and which is apparently the most widely read alternative newspaper in Wizarding Great Britain.
  • No banks. The Goblins have a “bank”, but you’ll note that it keeps it’s customers money in locked personal vaults. There’s no investing or centralized bookkeeping. It apparently charges fees for protecting your money rather than paying interest. There is no mention of loans, stocks, bonds, or any other modern financial implement. It’s a medieval money-changer and safety-deposit box renter writ large. The wizarding world does not have anything like a modern financial system – and it’s currency system seems to be run by the Goblins, not by Wizards and Witches. The Goblins are just letting the Wizarding World use their monetary system.
  • One small hamlet outside of Hogwarts which is specifically noted as being the only wizards-only settlement in Great Britain.
  • One legislative group. The Wizengamot is supposed to have about fifty members – and being a member is not a full-time job or Dumbledore couldn’t be Chief Warlock and still serve as Headmaster at Hogwarts. It apparently serves as the legislative, executive, and judicial (both civil and criminal) system for all magical Great Britain. It’s apparently the current incarnation of the medieval Wizards Council – so it’s likely mostly full of the heads of old wizarding families. Quite a lot of it’s members are supposed to be extremely elderly too (and are likely semi-retired from all but the most important sessions). So an effective body of somewhat less than fifty part-timers is handling everything.
  • When it comes to Sports, there are thirteen recognized Quidditch Teams (for a total of 91 players plus possible, but not noted, alternates in Magical Great Britain) – but there’s no indication of what it takes to qualify as a recognized team. After all, England (not Great Britain, just England) has more than 7000 recognized mens soccer teams of eleven plus alternates that compete each year in the formal system. That’s not counting womens teams (which compete separately) – and there are plenty of teams that aren’t in the leagues, adding up to well over a hundred thousand players. Ninety-one confirmed serious players of the worlds most popular sport… is not very many.
  • An unspecified number of Aurors, who seem to serve as law enforcement, court bailiffs, magical investigators, prison guards, and the national military. So how many might there be?
    • They could be fought effectively by a group of death eaters small enough to gather in a field.
    • They have only one division.
    • According to Minerva McGonagall, no Auror had been taken on by the Ministry of Magic for three years prior to 1995 – so we have a national police and military force that didn’t hire anyone for three years.
    • They work out of one floor of a single building, where everyone has their own cubicle.
      • For comparison, Muggle Great Britain has an active military force of more than 150,000 people, and about half that many reservists – not counting law enforcement, court duties, investigation, and prison guards. They hire tens of thousands of people every single year.
  • The Hogwarts Express runs between Kings Cross and Hogsmead and seems to imply a substantial society. After all, laying rails and building a locomotive and cars is not a small project – but Pottermore strongly implies that the Wizards stole the train (and possibly the station for it) from the muggles. Given the way the Night Bus travels, and the train only making six runs a year, it can probably arrange to use existing tracks – so you’d only need a spur line. It’s not that big a problem.

There really isn’t any way around it; if you accept the information from the original books there aren’t enough Wizards and Witches in Great Britain to make more than a very small town – and their society is still using facilities that – in many cases – have not been significantly expanded or updated in hundreds of years. Given that that population is fairly well spread out… If they didn’t use the Floo Network, Portkeys, Apparition, and other forms of magical fast travel they wouldn’t have a society at all.

Given the lack of new infrastructure, their population has – at best – remained mostly static for many centuries, while the muggle population has boomed. Since there were enough Muggleborn wizards around for Salizar Slythern to worry about them, and yet they do not now dominate… the percentage of magical children born to muggles must have dropped enormously. We are directly informed that the pureblooded houses are dying out. Half-bloods may be doing all right for the moment, but the decrease in overall contributions from the majority population will eventually catch up with them as well.

An ongoing reduction in frequency in the general population is the textbook definition of a subgroup that is headed for extinction.

Personally, I am not sure that Wizards and Witches aren’t mostly parasitic – giving even the “good guy” families a reason to remain hidden. Would you put it past the Malfoy’s in (say) the 1500’s to simply move into an estate, obliviate or eliminate the few muggle claimants, set up a muggle-keep-away ward, and just take over? And after that… there are no apparent taxes, the maintenance is handled by house-elf magic and their own charms, and the only major expenses are occasional new clothes (is there any reason why house elves or spells won’t fix those too?) and food (or could they or the house elves just steal that from local muggle shops and farmers?). After all… Wizards don’t seem to build or produce much save for kitchen gardens, handicrafts and the occasional slapped-together house.

As for getting money… are we really sure that they don’t just take it or charge knowing muggles for occasional magical services? “Psychic” and “Spellcasting” services are popular in the real world. I think they’d be even more popular if you sometimes got real (if non-obvious to maintain secrecy) results.

For an example…

Number 12 Grimmauld Place, was formerly a handsome Muggle townhouse built in London. At some point, an early member of the wizarding House of Black coveted the beautiful house and managed to “persuade” the original Muggle occupant to leave, and put the appropriate spells on it.

-JK Rowling on Twitter

Even with the nicer families, once they marry into a family with some money (easy), the statute of secrecy virtually requires them to erase the household from all muggle records and put up keep-away charms. It would explain why so magical facilities seem to be in old muggle buildings.

For that matter, the Ministry of Magic is known to the muggle prime minister and is tied to the muggle government. Are we really sure that most of their clerks and functionaries aren’t employees of the muggle government, paid to keep the wizards from causing trouble? It would certainly make a lot of their policies seem more sensible and explain where their budget comes from.

Overall there are a LOT of reasons presented in the books as to why the Wizarding World is fundamentally a very small place – and only one or two spots (the description of the construction of the world cup quidditch arena being the main one) that offer contradictory evidence. It being a literary work rather than something we can really observe… we are pretty much stuck with going with the preponderance of the evidence – and that is VERY heavily (or overwhelmingly) weighted towards there not being that many wizards.

And that is why that article assumes that the Wizarding population is pretty small. It doesn’t really address “why” – perhaps the Potterverse only has a limited amount of magic, so there will always be roughly the same number of wizards (and other magical creatures) in England no matter what. Perhaps muggleborn are less likely to get one of those “slots”, but when they do the potential wizarding kid never gets conceived or is stillborn. Maybe it’s just a “dying magic” universe, with a slowly-decreasing chance of magical beings reproducing and of creatures being spontaneously born magical. Who knows? All we’ve got to look at are the results.

Infusions Of Curses in Eclipse

And for today, it’s a question – along with a bonus answer from a regular visitor.

What would be the mechanical representation of taking the Energy Infusion ability (Eclipse, p. 61) where the “energy” in question was maledictions look like? I’m honestly not completely sure what that would represent from an in-character standpoint (other than seeming like a cool idea), but insofar as mechanics go, all I can think of is that it would turn penalties from curses like bestow curse into bonuses (though I’m not sure what type). But for more creative curses that don’t have flat penalties, I’m less certain. For that matter, while the opposite energy would probably be “blessings,” that’s also hard to find a mechanical representation for. The bless spell just grants a morale bonus, after all.

-Alzrius

That probably doesn’t make sense. The malediction spell template seems to basically create an intention and outsource the actual magic to a bunch of malicious spirits of spite and revenge, and then they work their magic based on that – so there is no ‘energy type’ involved. The closest one could get is something like Major Privilege / Spirits of Vengeance favor you, giving you the favor of curses. Curses are blunted or even possibly redirected when wielded against you, due to your status amongst them. Alternatively, you could just be talking about the ‘unholy’ bonus type, which is countered one to one by sacred bonuses.

-Jirachi386

That idea would be a bit of an oddity in baseline d20 wouldn’t it?

Jirachi386’s “Major Privilege” idea would certainly be interesting – although I think I’d throw in “Favors” with the spirits of malice to go with being Favored by the Spirits Of Vengeance. That way you could be a spiteful master of curses who cannot readily be cursed and who can call down curses against his or her enemies. A very interesting low-level villain design there! Curse the party to blackmail them – promising to use more favors to remove the curses once they accomplish your goals – or terrorize a village with your spiteful curses without necessarily possessing much other magical power. That way a low-level party could readily defeat you, but would then have to find a way to deal with the curses you called down upon them as you did it – and with no actual spellcasting involved, those curses would be fairly difficult to stop.

The infusion could just represent something like “being a malevolent entity empowered by cruelty and malice” or even being a curse-spirit of some sort (on the theory that you can’t curse a curse or a creature that’s a source of curses). That might be fun – give a non-corporeal creature Presence, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Bestow Curse) / only works when an attacker actually “draws blood” to represent a being which was more or less MADE of curses, and so basically “bleeds” them as it is damaged. This would be a rather weird variant on the classic “is at least partially made of energy X, and so is immune to damage from energy X” version, but I could see it working. That’s another monster that would be a serious menace to low-level types, since they’d have a hard time getting rid of even basic curses. Against higher-level types it would be a good softener; even the most well-prepared party is rarely equipped to remove a dozen curses in the time between defeating some minions and confronting their boss.

Actually getting benefits from being cursed is trickier, simply because curses tend to be cheap, powerful, and semi-permanent problems for player characters to deal with – and converting that combination to Buffs without some major limitations tends to wreck the game unless you make some excuses to restrict it to villains (which is, at least, fairly plausible this time around). If a curse just provides a sudden rush of energy, I’d use Inherent Spell (Specialized for Increased Effect / only triggers with an incoming curse effect) to get “Heal” and/or some other selection of boosting spells (although that may well never come up at all since players rarely use many curses). If it’s long-term… something like Innate Enchantment (effects depend on what curses have been flung at you recently) would probably work best. That way a Curse of Weakness would give you a mild (and paid for) boost to Strength rather than just getting someone to curse you with -6 (for you +6!) to each attribute and going on from there.

Blessings are a bit tricky for exactly the same reason. Legends of High Fantasy has a mechanism for them (they are of limited effectiveness and occupy a Charm or Talisman slot), which also turned up under Generational Blessings (in the do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans series) – and I suppose you could use the Talents system in The Practical Enchanter or Siddhisyoga to represent acquiring various blessings without disrupting the game – but perhaps the most accurate representation would just be “you only actually gain levels beyond (say) three when you receive a blessing from a higher power”. That means that non-heroic characters remain low-level and subject to mortal limitations, that Kings do indeed rule by divine right, and that Clerics, Druids, and Paladins are likely to have a major influence on the setting since they’ll gain levels much more readily than less well-connected magi, fighters, and rogues. If you’re boosted by curses, perhaps an innate version of Rite Of Isis (The Practical Enchanter) would work for a temporary power boost.

Now, if you want to elevate “Curses” (and presumably “Blessings” or “Destiny”) from “a name for certain long-lasting debuffs, crippling effects, or setting someone up as a target for malevolent beings” up to being a force of nature in their own right, that’s going to have notable effects. With Curses and Blessings (or perhaps Cooperation and Selfishness?) as opposing elemental forces – rather like positive and negative energy – “good” and “evil” no longer have a unique claim to having a natural elemental expression with positive and negative energy – and might well take second place to other philosophies. Perhaps the cooperative groups sharing blessings have their natural opposite in the selfish groups weilding curses to weaken their targets. The selfish ones will likely be weaker overall – explaining why the lands are dominated by cooperative groups – but can easily concentrate their power to overwhelm and raid isolated cooperative groups. Those nomadic tribesmen are indeed a curse upon the civilized lands!

This will also require reassigning a few spells to a new subschool, making cursed creatures and the use of curses much more common, establishing a mechanism for Blessings*, and possibly restricting positive and negative energy effects. You might, for example, have Undead be powered by Curses and substitute various forms of curses for most of their negative energy powers. Of course, the reward for that work will be a thoroughly unique campaign, full of unexpected rewards and challenges. It would probably be well worth it.

*As far as “Blessings” go, to refer back to an older article that discussed a variety of possible alternative “treasures” to reward adventurers with. Among other options it had…

Benisons: While ever-increasing heaps of treasure are awkward, blessings are very classic, are about as easily portable as it’s possible to get – and do NOT accumulate endlessly in a party. For example:

The monasteries and priests of Ridmarch will remember their rescuers in their prayers and ceremonies for centuries to come – and, since prayer, priests, and gods have direct and obvious powers in most fantasy worlds, benefits will accrue to those being prayed for. Perhaps they will be better protected from injury (increasing their armor ratings or gaining more “hit points”), they might gain the benefits of a low-level priestly spell effect as needed a few times per week, or they might gain a small bonus to virtually anything else. Secondarily, their souls cannot be possessed or imprisoned for long because the prayers of the faithful shall win their release.

Similar results might be obtained through the blessings of some local godling or spirit. Perhaps the spirit of a sacred grove will grant the gift of communicating with birds or some such – or the valor which empowers the Eagle of Ridmarch will come to the parties aid in some future grave emergency.

Of course, if such a Benison fails, it’s a sure sign that you have to go to the rescue again to get it back – the good old “your magic item has been stolen” plot without having to bother stealing an item and without frustrating the players; if something has gone wrong with a Benison, they know where to go – and what, in general, they have to do – to get it back (or perhaps even to get it back with further improvements).

Benisons can also scale with the characters development. After all, the more important you are in the world, the more attention its supernatural denizens are likely to give you – and you may well do the source of your Benison further favors, thus earning additional enhancements. Even failing that, characters may become better at focusing or channeling such gifts. Why shouldn’t practice help with supernatural blessings just as well as it helps with combat, stealth, casting spells, and other adventurous talents?

Thus a Benison may grow with a character, and continue to be of value throughout his or her career.

In general, it’s best to go with small enhancements as opposed to powers and more active aid for Benisons; a slow progression towards becoming a mighty hero is usually better than a rapid rush towards demigodhood – and a selection of “+1’s” and “+2’s” doesn’t clutter up a character sheet nearly as much as things like “gains the benefits of a first-level priestly spell with a caster level of 15 three times a week whenever the player decides that this benefit should be invoked”.

More esoteric benefits – such as the bit about “immunity to soul imprisonment” – may rarely come up, but the game master should make sure that they do at least once, and preferably in a very dramatic fashion.

Game masters who wish to keep careful track of how much “treasure” the characters have accumulated should just count Benisons as magic items. They fact that they can’t readily be stolen or cancelled is neatly balanced by the fact that you can’t pass them around, give them up, or trade them. (If you’re calculating values in d20, The Practical Enchanter is good for that).

And I hope that helps!

D20 – The Feather Pouch

How would you price a magic item that functioned like a supply pouch, but could only be used to make feather tokens?

-Alzrius

Well, looking at 3.5 and Pathfinders various Tokens, we have…

The Seafarers Tokens:

  • Anchor (50 GP). Ok, you have a sturdy anchor. Very handy to keep your ship off a reef or from going down a whirlpool, but most ships come with anchors – and if that sort of thing came up all that often no one would use ships anyway. Cheap enough that characters who do a lot of sailing can afford to keep one or two on hand for emergencies.
  • Fan. Makes or reduces winds at sea, 200 GP. Highly specialized, but handy when needed to get you through a storm or something. If you happen to be a dedicated sailor – a merchant or pirate perhaps – go ahead and make it unlimited uses (x40) thrice per day (x.6) for 4800 GP. That’s a bit expensive, but virtually always having a fair wind can be worth a LOT to a sailing ship.
  • Swan Boat. Just the thing for if you have to pick up King Arthur or get up to six characters, their horses, and a couple of hangers-on across some water or need a boat to escape a sinking ship. Cheap at 450 GP if you happen to need it – especially since a roughly equivalent craft is usually priced at about 10,000-12,000 GP and those aren’t self-powered. Go ahead and make it Unlimited Use (x40) once per day (x.2) = 3600 GP. Not as versatile as a Folding Boat, and only once per day instead of folding and unfolding as you wish, but half the price. Seems about right.

Situations where these will be useful come up reasonably often when the player characters are out at sea, so these Feather Tokens – or upgraded versions – may be a wise investment for characters in that situation.

Primary Tactical Tools:

  • Tree. The grand prizewinner amongst the current Feather Tokens. I fairly often see these used. A huge tree will block any reasonable corridor, bridge a chasm, provide safety from non-climbing threats, supply more than a thousand cubic feet of oak to work with, can be dropped on things, and – at a mere 100 GP – can provide impressive “proof of your power”. If the game master is generous, you may even get a nice crop of edible acorns at the right time of year. Go ahead. Buy a Pouch Of Reforestation (each time you reach into it up to once per round you may pull out an acorn that will grow into a mighty oak a few moments later) for a mere 4000 GP (40x the base cost). Call it 5000 GP if you want a wider choice of trees. You know you want to. Be Johnny Appleseed!

Just Interesting:

  • Bird (300 GP). OK, it only carries a message – but it has potentially unlimited range and duration and travels unerringly. Send it to “my fourteen-year-old (yet unborn) great-grandson”? Send a warning to whoever recovers the Dread Mask Of Doom? Promise service in return for a resurrection to “whoever finds my bones”? Last will and testament? Deliver the secret weakness of the Dread Dark Lord to the next hero to confront him? Time capsule? Send someone some Explosive Runes?That probably isn’t rules-as-intended, but it’s certainly potentially interesting. Get it once a day for 2400 GP and exchange letters with your wife/business partner/whoever every day. It would be a bit more expensive than Sending Stones and probably wouldn’t cross planes (unless perhaps there’s an open gate available) – but you can send messages to anyone instead of just to whoever has the other stone. If you send a LOT of messages, you might even want the 12,000 GP unlimited-use version. Bird tokens quite arguably see a lot less use than they probably should.

Lesser Tactical Tools:

  • Floating Feather. This provides one minute of flight for 450 GP. It’s slow flight, but a few of these can completely reverse a tactical situation at lower levels. Perhaps worthwhile in emergencies, but you are much better off spending 800 GP on an Amber Amulet Of Vermin (Giant Wasp), which can get you a minute of flight every day OR fight for you.
  • Sky Hook. Way cheaper than an immovable rod at 200 GP, but a lot less effective than a simple Rope Trick spell – which holds a lot more weight, offers a hiding place, and can rise up, rather than being limited to what you can reach. Sure, a basic one-shot Rope Trick talisman would cost 300 GP – but I’m pretty sure that most GM’s would agree that those limitations would cut the cost by more than a third. I’d peg it at 100 GP personally, considering that a one-shot Feather Fall Talisman (which is, for some reason, not available as a Feather Token) is only 50 GP.
  • Tar And Feathers. This is a bottled Glitterdust spell at 600 GP per use. Yes, that’s handy – but there are a lot of ways to get a one-shot second level spell and a standard one-shot spell talisman would only cost 300 GP. A Scroll is only 150, a Wand is 90 GP / Charge, and just CASTING the thing is basically free. It’s not exactly a rare spell. This really isn’t worth the cost.
  • Whip. It only lasts an hour and only does nonlethal damage, but it’s free attacks at a decent BAB. It can be quite handy tactically, especially if you set it up to try to “grapple” anyone coming at your spellcaster, but at 500 GP it’s sort of marginal. Basically this looks like Spiritual Weapon with an Extended Duration (10 minutes/level or one hour, L3) which would have a base cost of 750 GP for a one-shot item – but Spiritual Weapon bypasses Damage Reduction and Incorporeal creatures and offers a lot more variety, easily justifying the reduced cost. I’d get it in a wand or something personally.

These don’t see a lot of use, but every so often someone will pull one out. I can’t recall ever seeing anyone picking them as primary options though.

Useful Once In A Blue Moon:

  • Campsite, OK, it sets up a nice campsite – but even at best this is simply replacing a part of a survival check and most of the time it has no actual effects at all. Perhaps you want to bluff that you are settled in for a long stay or something? It’s certainly not worth 500 GP anyway. It’s probably not worth 50 GP. 10 GP would be more like it. Learn a bit of Hedge Wizardry or Witchcraft if you want this.
  • Catapult. It’s a basically ineffectual weapon that calls for an operating crew and a heap of special ammunition (which is NOT provided). It’s not even properly defined (Pathfinder has Light and Heavy catapults, but no “Standard” catapults) – and apparently no one has ever cared about that discrepancy enough to provide errata for this particular talisman. Secondarily, catapults are grossly overpriced, since they usually only take a day or two to throw together. Any decent archer build is far more effective even at rather low levels. Just skip this one. Sure, it’s only 400 GP, but you’re much better off getting another wand of Cure Light Wounds. You’re pretty well guaranteed to use THAT.
  • Lance. 150 GP to have a hold-out +1 lance that only lasts for one minute. Where are you riding a warhorse or other battle-trained mount to (in itself a huge lethal weapon) that you ALSO need a holdout weapon? And why isn’t it in your Haversack if you do need one? Now, if you summon your steed when you want it, you might want to get a once-per-day variant on this (1200 GP) so you can break out your valiant steed and mighty lance in the midst of any social event, tavern, or boarding action – but I find it hard to imagine a setting where this sort of situation comes up all THAT often.
  • Ram. It’s a big iron-covered log that takes a crew of ten to use and is far, FAR, less effective than a single character with an adamantine dagger. Which you basically pay 500 GP to rent for a day. I suppose you could use it to prop up a ceiling, or drop on someone, If you drop it from – say – five hundred feet up on a wooden ship it will probably go right through the bottom. On the other hand, you could just buy five Tree talismans instead. Or perhaps a once-per-day Tree Talisman for 800 GP.
  • Siege Tower. This is basically “instant fort” – but it only lasts an hour and costs 1000 GP (half as much as buying a real one). Of course… player characters are usually on the offensive, when they are besieged it usually means that they’re defending a town or something and the situation will either last a lot longer than an hour or call for defending a lot more people than will fit into a siege tower. In either case… they probably want wall spells (Wall of Wood in particular) and spells like Secure Shelter are in order. So, one-shot Wall Of Wood (L4), only to make a “Siege Tower” (x.5), only lasts for an hour (x.5) at Caster level 10 (which should be plenty) – which gives us 500 GP. So the price is a bit high from the “stored spell” viewpoint (Especially compared to a Scroll) – and who wants to tie up 1000 GP waiting for a situation that may well never come up?

And that’s it for the Feather Tokens, at least if you aren’t delving into third-party stuff – and even then they’re fairly rare and are generally very specialized.

Second Edition had a much wider variety of powerful feather tokens. To judge from the few that haven’t changed though, the pricing has dropped drastically. For some examples (listing similarly diminished prices):

  • Bird: Could drive off hostile avians (with no stated apparent upper limit) or serve as a transport vehicle equal to a colossal roc. Either way, good for one day (Probably about 600 GP in 3.5).
  • Bridge: Created a bridge of force (as per wall of force), up to seventy feet long. The bridge lasted for one day or until the user dismissed it (Probably about 100 GP in 3.5)
  • Key: Permitted passage through walls, gates, and doors, opening a passage like a Passwall spell, eating it’s way through gates like acid, unlocking, unspiking, unbarring, and unchaining doors, negating traps, wizard lock, and hold portal along the way. Glyphs of Warding and Symbols were not negated, but were safely revealed. This required one round and the opening was permanent until physically repaired (Probably about 400 GP in 3.5)
  • Spoon: Became a hearty plate of food that replenished itself until 4d4 medium-sized beings were fed. The food stayed warm and palatable, and could be covered and carried for long periods or distances without spoiling. The plate was edible, as well; a single bite of it neutralized all poison in the eater’s body, dissolved rot grubs harmlessly, and cured the rotting disease of a mummy (the only disease it affected) (Probably about 200 GP in 3.5).
  • Finger: When pointed at any visible location (in midair and aboard vehicles works fine) and commanded “There!” this token teleports the user and whatever he or she is wearing or carrying there, instantly and without error (Probably about 200 GP in 3.5).

Ah, for the good old days! Back when magic had to be found and when you could be sure that, if you got a Bird token, soon enough you would either desperately need to either cross the continent in an evening or would have to get by an endless swarm of flesh-devouring birds for your final assault on some evil wizards dark tower.

So to answer the initial question… The simplest way to make a Supply Pouch that only produces Feather Token effects is just to convert them to spells. A Supply Pouch that is limited to “selling” the following eighteen spells gets a x.4 multiplier, replacing the x.8 multiplier in the existing price computation – so effectively half price.

  • L1) Anchor Ship, Feather Fall, and Make Camp.
  • L2) Create Tree, Glitterdust, and Sky Hook.
  • L3) Enduring Spiritual Weapon, Favorable Wind, and Fly.
  • L4) Faithful Messenger Bird. Produce Catapult, and Produce Ram.
  • L5) Passwall, Summon Boat, and Summon Chariot.
  • L6) Heroes Feast, Siege Tower, and Wall Of Stone.

All, of course, are obtained at the usual (Spell Level x Caster Level x 10 GP) cost for purchasing spellcasting services drawing on the Feather (Supply) Pouches 750 GP allotment – so if you use any of the higher level effects you won’t have much left over.

  • Now, if you just want a supply pouch that only produces actual feather tokens… You’ll want the Epic Level Pouch at half price (as above, but only for purchasing feather tokens), but the “double base cost” modifier on buying magical items will still be in effect This will cover the cost of the most expensive Feather Token – the Siege Tower – but not by much. On the other hand, this version will allow you to build up large supplies of feather tokens over time and hand them out to the rest of the party. I thin it will be  bit expensive for what you get, but it certainly works.

Personally, you could also take:

  • Feather Mage: 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, plus Rite Of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost or to refuel the pool for such / only to create Feather Token effects (up to 400 GP: 2 Mana, up to 1000 GP: 4 Mana) (6 CP). This Feat – or one point Relic – will allow the user to pull out a half-a-dozen currently standard Feather Tokens effects a day. This is cheap – in part because, while I’m sure than anyone who takes it will constantly find ways to use it, there will rapidly come a point where a character will have better things to do than to mess about with Feather Magic.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse D20, Townsaver, and Urbs Vigilis

Long roads the Sword of Fury makes
Hard walls it builds around the soft
The fighter who Townsaver takes
Can bid farewell to home and croft

                                              -Saberhagen, the “Song Of Swords”.

Back in the early 1980’s Fred Saberhagen published the Books Of Swords They’re about a set of twelve powerful magical blades, unleashed into a rather low-magic and low-tech future-fantasy world by the (not terribly powerful) gods for a game. As such… they had quite specific individual powers and weaknesses, tended to move from wielder to wielder, and were very easily confused – for the most part being distinguished only by a symbol on the hilt. I’ve heard that part of that was because the original (fairly good) stories were also intended to provide the background for a computer game (that apparently never came to pass, alas), but I’ve never bothered trying to confirm that. This particular query was about how to build a sword like Townsaver – a sword that imbued it’s user with superhuman speed, strength, and endurance as long as he or she was defending “unarmed folk in a held place” – but which compelled it’s user to continue the fight as long as those folk were threatened and would not allow him or her to fall to anything short of an (undefined) “killing blow”, no matter how wounded. He or she might drop dead as soon as the fight was over though – especially since many of the swords seem to be quite draining to use.

Now in the books, the Swords were pretty much absolute unless turned against each other. Not even the gods were beyond their power (which did not make the gods happy when they found that out) although the “Emperor” could resist at least some of them (according to Saberhagen’s notes for other writers contributing stories set in his newly-opened universe, the Emperor was a manifestation of the universes Creator – the True God – and so was above all rules). Even worse, they had a tendency to control the user. If you were confronted with a situation, and decided to hit the “use sword” button… the sword would do what it did, and it didn’t matter if some of the targets were friends or allies, or if you tried to stop, or throw the thing away. D20, however, puts a great deal more stress on player agency and has a LOT more magic to boot. That makes a major difference.

Look at “Farslayer“. You picked it up, decided who you really hated, and threw it – and it stabbed whoever it was in the heart (or their focus item for Demons), no matter where they were or (presumably) what defenses they had (how this would stack up against d20 defenses is unknown). It hit with considerable force, and was a blade of very fine quality – but it didn’t seem to have much in the way of other enhancements. It didn’t do extra damage or give bonuses to your attacks beyond being really tough and sharp. Of course, in the books no one had a lot of defenses and the pesky thing was now stuck in your enemies corpse – wherever that was – all ready for someone in their entourage to pick up and use. Worse. you could be pretty vague about your target. “Whoever just used this thing to kill so-and-so” would work just fine.

But THIS IS SPARTA D20!

Well, lets see… The swords are supposed to be about a meter long, double-edged, and can be used with one hand. In d20 terms that’s a longsword, call it +2 for sheer quality, and say it hits with Strength 26 – far more than any normal human. But it automatically stabs the target in the heart. What does that do?

Well, it’s perfectly possible for someone to be stabbed in the heart with a knife, or sword, in the real world. It’s even survivable sometimes with modern medical care. In d20 all this means is that you rolled a critical hit and maximum damage (unless you presume that some parts of the body are somehow just “off limits” without a special power, which is kind of absurd). Farslayer is (at least in d20 terms) a Longsword. Most people throwing it seemed to use both hands, so I’ll presume it was used two-handed. That will make it… 16 (2d8 maximum) +24 (+12 effective Str Mod x2) +4 (+2 Enhancement Bonus x 2) = 44 damage.

That’s not bad – but it won’t make most experienced characters stumble, much less kill them. It certainly won’t stop anything with regeneration, or – for that matter – lacking a heart. It doesn’t even block Raise Dead. If I was making a d20 version I’d probably throw in some extra damage – at least enough to force a save versus massive damage – but this just isn’t that impressive an effect in d20 terms. Sure, it killed Hermes in the original books, but the rest of the books “gods” (other than the true God) died because some people started to doubt their divinity and they got less attention then they used to. Those were some pretty fragile “gods”.

So if you want a functional d20 sword that’s like Townsaver… let us create the relic Urbs Vigilis, the Sword of Guardians.

  • Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (2 CP), Multiple Blessing (Specialized for Increased Effect, affects up to (Charisma) targets, Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / Only works on unarmed folk whom the user is defending, only grants the Blessing ability, only to allow the recipients to transfer their actions to the wielder.

Here we have the swords greatest power. If you’re defending ten cowering children against the oncoming monsters… you will be getting up to eleven full actions every round to do it with.

  • Grant Of Aid with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to restore hit points, only while defending others (6 CP).

The blade can’t keep you standing forever – at least not in the face of the kind of attacks that d20 throws around – but it can keep you up for quite some time in a normal fight.

  • Inherent Spell with +8 Bonus Uses: Aspect Of The Beast (Boar) (The Practical Enchanter) coupled with Disguise Self (your appearance does not change despite the Aspect Of The Beast spell), Specialized and Corrupted / only works when you are defending unarmed folk who are contributing actions to you, automatically takes up the first bonus action when so activated. For ten minutes/user level the user gains +4 Natural Armor, the “Sword” is considered a Natural Weapon (1d8, 20/x2, cannot be disarmed or sundered, requires no proficiency), +10′ move, Str +4 and Con +6 (6 CP).

When defending unarmed folk the blade grants toughness, skill, speed, strength, and endurance. Unfortunately, this replaces your normal physical racial modifiers, so its most effective on races that don’t have any. You also cannot be disarmed – and cannot put the sword down, even if you should wish to surrender. This is not always an advantage.

  • Returning, Specialized and Corrupted / only works for the sword itself (which keeps turning up again), not the user (2 CP).

Urbs Vigilis has been won, lost, and wielded in a thousand battles over the centuries. No matter how thoroughly lost – or “destroyed” – it seems to be, it soon turns up again somewhere where the helpless and unarmed are threatened.

  • Imbuement with the Improved, Superior, and Focused modifiers, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the would-be user must learn of Urbs Vigilis’s name and history, must at least attempt to fulfill its purpose by defending the helpless and unarmed, and must perform at least one mighty deed in the defense of others to be able to use this power. So long as those conditions are fulfilled, however, the blade gains a bonus of +(Users Level / 2, rounded up). The user may select special weapon powers in place of some of those “pluses” if he or she desires, but such selections are fixed for each user.

Urbs Vigilis – like all relics – depends to some extent on its wielder, but is an extremely formidable weapon in the hands of a high-level user – and that power will be available as long as the user does protect unarmed folk when they turn up. Carrying it is usually well worth it.

  • The sword does carry a disadvantage however: it (fairly obviously) comes with an (-3 CP) Compulsion or Obligation to defend otherwise helpless folk.

That gives Urbs Vigilis a net cost of 25 CP – or 4 CP as a Relic. As usual for a 4 CP relic, it’s a fairly major device, capable – in its specialty – of having a pretty major impact (as well as shredding the action economy).

I suppose the sword could be exploited – take along a dozen small-animal companions and let them all donate their actions to you – but that’s why Blessing is a game-master-permission-only power. In this case… all you need to do is rule that they don’t qualify as “unarmed folk whom the user is defending” (if only because you’re intentionally taking them into danger). Overall… this is pretty definitely a “light-side” item, created to promote the spread of civilization and the protection of noncombatants. Any paladin should be proud to bear it.

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.