Channeling Mysterious Spirits – The Discordant Powers and the Seven Deadly Sins Part II – Pride/Cruelty, Sloth, Deception, Envy/Treachery, and Chance.

And for today (and Halloween) it’s the second half of the Seven Deadly Sins and Discordant Powers – a set of spirits/forces which can be channeled by Bokors / Binders and Equestarian Dragons. As usual, these spirits / forces build on the basic Bokor package.

If you haven’t looked at Part I (Gluttony, Lust, Greed, and Wrath) it’s over HERE.

Pride / Cruelty:

Pride and Cruelty are two faces of a single thing – placing oneself above others and believing that that self-appointed placement gives you the right to use, abuse, and torment those “beneath you”, displaying your “superiority” for your own amusement. Classically, Pride was often considered the fundamental sin, the gateway through which corruption entered the soul. It was the updated version of Hubris – taking credit for the gifts that god had given, as Satan had tried to do at the beginning. And given how little of life was under human control at the time… there was some truth to that. One might more or less rightfully take credit for working hard with what you had, but birth rank, inheritance, health, strength, dexterity, and many other factors depended a great deal on your heritage and circumstance.

D20 kind of limits the possibilities here. The d20 system doesn’t really acknowledge “pain” (or hunger, or thirst, or much of any other bodily need), damage, injury, and illness are totally abstract, and attitude problems are pretty common for adventurers even when they aren’t simply murder hobos (homeless wanderers with little personality or motivation other than greed who kill everything and everyone who gets in their way and then loot the corpses). That really takes a lot of the point out of classical cruelty. Egotism? These characters battle dragons and rule nations. Gluttony already covered dark arts and “perfection” (using Luck to “take 20”). Actual personal godhood is a bit much for a spirit to bestow. Something could be done with Augmented Bonus – perhaps using Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for increased Effect (only for Augmented Bonus, 6 floating CP, five or six times) to justify incredible pride by simply getting a bunch of statistical bonuses, but that’s boring. Innate Enchantment could stack up a whole slew of minor enhancements, but that’s both boring and involves massive checking for stacking issues each and every time.

No, in this case we’ll lean towards Hubris – setting yourself above the very gods.

  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (each mana spent counts as three) / only for Reality Editing, blatantly calls on unholy and blasphemous forces (12 CP). There are few things more arrogant than to simply bend reality to your will.
    • Note that those channeling Pride usually like to pretend that they’re using their personal power, rather than just bending reality. It’s cheaper too; bringing that sixty-ton stone idol to life as an oversided Stone Golem and sending it out to crush your foes is a Grandiose (4 Mana) Edit, picking it up and hurling it down the steps is pretty Major (3 Mana) Edit – but making a mighty effort and toppling it down the temple steps in an avalanche of rubble that sweeps away your foes? That’s actually somewhat plausible, and so counts as a mere Notable (2 Mana) Edit. Go ahead, when the very gods have stacked the deck against you… demonstrate that the will of the gods themselves is no match for your defiance!
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore Mana for Reality Editing, user must demonstrate his or her superiority, be a sneering bastard, or indulge in a cruel and vicious act to activate it (8 CP).
  • Dark Words: Innate Enchantment, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command Word Activated). Doom, Wrack (like Doom, but the target becomes Sickened, Fortitude Negates), Thorn (like Doom, but target takes 1 Damage per Round and a -2 penalty on attack rolls, skill checks, and ability checks as magical needles agonizingly stab into his or her joints, Reflex Negates). Total: 5400 GP (6 CP).
    • Yes, this lets someone channeling Pride be an obnoxious bastard for free all the time. What did you expect?
  • Opportunist: The channeler may use the powers of Pride once per round as a free action (6 CP).
  • Privilege: The channeler is always treated as at least minor nobility, everywhere that he or she may go (3 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Someone channeling Pride can never admit to being in the wrong or apologize. He or she will, at most, offer justifications (no matter how insane) for his or her actions.

Sloth:

Sloth goes beyond simple laziness. It is a lack of interest, it is despair, and it is what we would now classify as clinical depression – the belief that all that awaits you in life is misery and that nothing is worth attempting. It is a lack of feeling and empathy, it is the refusal of joy and grace. It is turning away from life and the divine to embrace the void.

Unfortunately, unlike most of the other Deadly Sins or Discordant Powers… The standard notion of Sloth does anything BUT drive you to action. That’s spectacularly uninteresting in terms of the game. On the other hand, the desire to embrace the void is something that I can work with.

To a channeler of Sloth… reality is pain. All of life and consciousness is but the drawn-out scream of the universe uselessly protesting it’s inevitable slide down the entropic slope into the endless, futile, void. That Void is the only true surcease, the only true panacea. To help others pass into the void is the only true kindness.

  • Channeling: 1 + (3 x Cha Mod) uses, Specialized / only for Conversion (9 CP).
  • Conversion to a set of four sixth level spells (9 CP):
    • Entropic Caress (as per Bestow Greater Curse).
    • Entropic Cone (Short Range Cone effect, otherwise as per Bestow Curse).
    • Inevitable Night: As per Call The Void, but affects up to (Level) creatures of the user’s choice who are within short range of the user each round.
    • Welcoming Void (as per Disintegrate).
  • Access to an Occult Skill (Dream-Binding, 3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus, Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating first level skill points, Specialized for Increased Effect / the skill points go exclusively into Dream-Binding (6 CP).
  • This gives the channeler an effective Dream-Binding Skill Bonus of (Cha Mod x 9) – in effect allowing him to pull three items, each with an effective value of up to (Cha Mod x Cha Mod x 900 GP) back from the edge of the void to use during each summoning. Sadly, only permanent items are eligible.
  • “It really doesn’t matter” Damage Reduction 8, Specialized and Corrupted / Physical Damage Only, can be negated by hitting the user with “good hope” or similar morale-boosting effects (8 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Those channeling Sloth simply do not care. They receive no save against effects that produce morale penalties.

Sloth… is sort of a casual, generic, impersonal evil. It isn’t that it CARES, it’s just vaguely of the opinion that both you and the universe would be better off if you were ground down into a fine powder and annihilated – and if there’s nothing more interesting (not that ANYTHING is very interesting) going on it might as well take care of that. Someone channeling Sloth will kill a small child just as casually as you might straighten up a crooked picture and for much the same reason; it’s untidy, it’s vaguely annoying, and it’s very little trouble to fix that situation.

Deception:

Deception is – to no one’s surprise – one of the most subtle sins or “Discordant Powers”, and creeps in everywhere – from the stealthy tendrils of falsehood that slip in when one exasperatedly fails to correct some minor misapprehension to the grand deceptions that send myriads off to die. Perhaps worse… the bitter venom of falsity can spread itself, reaching out across time and space through the veins and arteries of news, rumor, and gossip to infect, to fester, and to corrupt persons far beyond the original deceivers reach. There is a REASON why so many dark and malevolent powers have borne the title of “Lord of Lies”.

The Serpents Tongue:

  • Augmented Bonus, Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating first level skill points, Specialized for Reduced Cost / the skill points go exclusively into Bluff (3 CP).
  • Mystic Artist, Specialized for Increased Effect (Double skill level for acquiring abilities) / the user can only purchase Manipulation abilities, and Corrupted for Modified Effect (Greater Summoning is replaced by Deceive Reality – a version of Bestow Greater Curse with Medium Range and Puppet Master is replaced by LieSmith – the ability to spread rumors, slanders, and baseless accusations which will rapidly spread through the target population, gaining a great deal of credence as they go) / only usable for malevolent purposes (6 CP).
  • +4 Bonus Uses of Mystic Artist, above (6 CP).

With this combination you gain you gain Fascinate and Hold Audience at (Cha Mod +1), Suggestion, Emotional Auras, and Freedom at (+2), Mass Suggestion at (+3), Deceive Reality at (+4), Alter Attitudes at (+5), and Liesmith at (+6 or more).

Gluttony grants personal power. Lust grants powerful agents. Greed grants items, or the equivalent. Wrath destroys everything nearby. Pride twists the world to demonstrate personal superiority. Sloth brings the final silence. But Deception… Deception shatters the bonds of faith, of friendship, and of alliance. It breaks down the trust which is the foundation of society. The other Sins and Discordant Powers may inflict horrors on those in the immediate vicinity and taint areas – but only Deception will leave a trail of cities in chaos, countries at war, and once-friends and allies at each others throats – and the Serpents Tongue, the terrible power of subtly twisted words lies at the core of that power. You do not need powerful magic, or combat prowess, or great authority, or an army, to destroy.

  • Witchcraft III (6 CP):
  • The Adamant Will, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to resist or present false results to mind-reading, detection, and “truth” effects at no cost. There is no simple and reliable way to determine if the user is lying or twisting the truth.
  • Shadowweave, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / May spend two power to create a Major Image effect.
  • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: Only to imbue papers and related items with an aura of authenticity and authority. The user may spend one power to gain a +20 bonus on a Forgery check and a second to reduce the time required to a single action.
  • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: You may spend two power to create a Glibness effect.
  • Master of the Sabbat: Corrupted for Increased Effect (Can lay curses without the Elfshot ability), Specialized for Reduced Cost / Only works for laying curses, user must gather at least seven foul and suspicious ingredients (things like graveyard mold, toxic fungi, the tongue of a hanged man, blood from a virgin child, whatever) and brew them together to create the curse and apply the mixture to the target to complete it. All in all, you can generate a level 3 Curse for 12 Power, level 4 curses for 24, level 5 for 48, 6 for 96, 7 for 192, 8 for 384, and 9 for 768 (and so on if even greater curses are allowed). Fortunately, you do have up to 28 days to provide the required Power total (4 CP). Equivalents of the various “Curse Terrain” Pathfinder spells are favorites.
  • False Flesh: Apparition, Corrupted for Increased Effect, Specialized for Reduced Cost: the user must design a single, specific, psychic construct, specify its general appearance, and can only summon it around himself or herself, but it automatically has the Class-C “Enveloping” ability (3 CP).
  • Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive (and thus limited by wealth and lifestyle) and take some time to attune for use (6 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge: How to create foci for Black Magic Charms and Talismans (1 CP). Charms and Talismans – including those of black magic – are discussed in The Practical Enchanter.
  • Disadvantage: Deceivers cannot help but spread misinformation, gossip, misery, and deceptions, slowly twisting any realm they visit towards darkness.

Envy and Treachery

Envy… is not so much wanting something for yourself. It is the little whispering voice that says “Why should they have what I do not?”. It is a jealous desire to deprive others of happiness in an attempt to fill your own misery and emptiness. When active it directs it’s greatest malice at those about you – your family, friends, and neighbors whom you can easily reach – and becomes Treachery. The desire to betray and to thus share your misery.

Treachery is perhaps the most feared of the Sins and Discordant Powers. Wrath? Greed? Lust? For all the evil that such powers can unleash, they are but natural, necessary, things expressed without Temperance. But to betray… to betray is always personal. To betray you must first gain trust – and then shatter that precious gift. No simple failure of control will easily lead to the outer darkness; but to truly embody Treachery… you must cast out the light from your heart.

Surprisingly enough though… Treachery is one of the least interesting sins. It takes real talent to Deceive well, skill, wealth, and fame or power to make the most of Lust, a willingness to abuse yourself and wealth to make the most of Gluttony, and so on… but for Treachery all you need to do is go behind the backs of people who (foolishly) trusted you and attempt to screw them over. Half your coworkers in any office job are usually doing THAT.

Even worse, when it comes to d20, basic Treachery is really pretty pointless. Like it or not, the characters are generally the functional equivalent of a small army. They may go back on deals, or backstab their patron – but they tend to define “subtle” as “single target spells and the Barbarian not using rage”. When it comes to NPC’s betraying each other the details are going to be up to the game master’s plot and don’t need game statistics. When it comes to NPC’s betraying PC’s… well, many PC’s don’t really trust anybody anyway, will automatically assume that they’re going to be betrayed if there is the slightest sign of it, and – if there isn’t – the players will get pretty cross about it, which is no good for the game.

Like it or not, the only form of treachery that will both work and be any fun when it comes to player characters is the flamboyantly treacherous kind – the sort of “treachery” you get from a villain who twirls his fu-manchu mustache, strokes his villainous goatee, and tells one and all that they would be fools to trust him and that he is a master of poisons – and then offers them tea and snacks.

And as long as they are useful to him… drinking the tea and eating the snacks will be entirely safe. Betraying people at random simply isn’t conducive to future operations.

The Dark Chancellor

  • Access to an Occult Skill (Foresight, 3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus, Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating first level skill points, Specialized for Reduced Cost / the skill points go exclusively into Foresight, providing an effective base of (4 x Cha Mod + Int Mod -3) in the skill (3 CP).
  • Witchcraft III (6 CP).
    • Hyloka, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user is immune to poisons. This is a constant effect with no cost.
    • Witchfire, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may spend 3 power to make an immediate Craft / Alchemy check.
    • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Aura of Honesty. The user may (in fact must) be an blatantly obvious villain, but no one with a base Will save below +6 will recognize this and he or she may spend 2 power actively to get a +10 Sacred (OK, Unholy) bonus to Diplomacy and Bluff for the next hour – as long as he or she makes it obvious that they cannot be trusted. After all, “only a fundamentally honest man would tell people the limits of his trustworthiness up front!”.
    • The Inner Eye, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may spend 2 Power to make a Gather Information check with a +10 bonus as a Standard Action.
  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (each Mana point spent counts as three) / only for use with Reality Editing, only for a specific set of edits (12 CP):
    • Quickly Producing poisons (1), drugs (2), “scrolls” of dark magic (1 for spell levels 1-2, 2 for 3-4, and 3 for 5-6. Uncopyable, but always usable by the summoner), suitable bribes (3), or various potions (2) – all of which must be used fairly quickly or they will lose their power.
    • Ritually Summoning dark spirits, undead, and demonic aides – although such entities will never have s CR of more than one-half the user’s level or serve for more than twenty-four hours unless the Mana used to summon them is left committed to them (usually 1/2/3 for minor/notable/major creatures).
  • Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the Reality Editing pool above, requires at least ten minutes of meditation and/or relative inactivity per die (3 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP). Points may only be used in conjunction with Create Relic, below, all relics created are products of dark magic, are limited to two points, must be approved by the game master, and carry at least one three-point disadvantage – although this does add to their point totals.
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with points from Double Enthusiast (above), all relics created are products of dark magic, are limited to two points, must be approved by the game master, and carry at least one three-point disadvantage – although this does add to their point totals (2 CP)
  • Specific Knowledge: Handbook of Poisons (1 CP).
  • +3 Specialty in Craft: Alchemy (see Haagenti, the Five Alchemical Catalysts, 1 CP).
  • Disadvantage: The channeler must be flamboyantly and blatantly criminal and untrustworthy, even if few others will ever notice this (-3 CP).

It’s boring, but if you really want classic simple-and-functional treachery instead, take…

  • Traceless Treachery (6 CP): When you send vital information to the enemy, open the gates to assassins in the night, or slip poison into a child’s supper… no evidence can be found, and no one will ever be able to prove that it was you.
  • Double Damage, when striking from behind or in treacherous attack (6 CP).
  • Cloaking (6 CP): Any form of magical or psychic detection will not reveal the user’s treachery.
  • Presence (Charm Person) (6 CP). Anyone who comes near a channeler of Treachery will find themselves trusting and liking them, regardless of how irrational that may be. (Alternatively, the user may radiate a mono-suggestion – “you want to take whatever bribe I’m offering” – but that overlaps with the Witchcraft functions below).
  • Witchcraft III (6 CP).
    • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may spend 1 Power to generate a Suggestion Effect.
    • Dreamfaring, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may store his or her gear in his or her dreams – duplicating the effect of a Handy Haversack without cost or the Call Item psionic power by expending power.
    • The Inner Eye, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may spend 2 Power to make a Gather Information check with a +10 bonus as a Standard Action.
    • Hyloka, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user is immune to poisons. This is a constant effect with no cost.
  • Grant of Aid with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / can only be recovered when the user commits some major act of treachery (5 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Those channeling Treachery are unable to stop scheming to advance themselves at the expense of others. While useful companions may be bypassed in the interests of using them in the future, everyone else they interact with for long is likely to suffer.

 

Chance:

Chance – or Chaos – differs from the other Discordant Powers. It isn’t really regarded as a “Sin”. It’s a FEAR. Civilization, and even simple survival are, ultimately, utterly dependent on the patterns of nature. Did the caribou take a different route in their migration? Did the rains not come and the crops fail? Did the river flood and sweep away your village in the night? Any little disruption of the pattern may spell doom. All of civilization… represents little more than a long struggle against the vagaries of chance.

And always… a fault in a dam, a wave from the depths, a shaking of the earth, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, or any other chance bit of bad luck that you weren’t prepared for (and no one can prepare for EVERYTHING) – may being it all tumbling down.

Even those who channel chaos do not wish to be consumed by it. They too are seeking some measure of control – to harness and ride what they see as an unstoppable tide, the deep currents of chaos that life and civilization rides atop of like a raft of soap-bubbles drifting on an ocean. Beautiful perhaps, and seemingly stable – but ultimately effervescent and doomed.

And there is more than a bit of uncomfortable truth to that vision.

Those who channel chaos really have only two abilities – to twist what is happening NOW and to shift the probabilities of the future.

A Fortunate Twist:

  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized for Increased Effect (each points spent counts as two, points may be spent at any time without requiring an action, the user is automatically aware of what events are reasonably likely and their costs (IE: the user may consult the game master at any time) / only for Reality Editing, only to affect the environment, only for triggering reasonably likely events or affecting the outcome of events that occur naturally (12 CP).

For example… if a roof is caving in, manipulating who it hits is a minor (1 Mana) edit. Causing an old, unmaintained, roof to cave in where you need it right NOW is a notable (2 Mana) edit. Causing a solid roof to cave in is a major (4 Mana) edit IF the game master thinks it’s likely enough to allow at all. Steering a lightning bolt from a storm? 1 Mana. Having a gust blow down a house? 2 Mana. Steering the storm to destroy the business district? 4 Mana IF possible at all (and it probably won’t be). Need a sudden gust of wind to deflect an incoming flight of arrows? 1 Mana if there is already wind to work with, 2 if there isn’t – because there always could easily be a little wind.

  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Unskilled Magic, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Effects cost only one point per level with the side effects subsumed into the effect, the Caster Level is equal to the User’s Level. Maximum level of effect = (User’s Base Will Save Bonus) or (Wis/3), whichever is less) / only for Destiny Magic (12 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / Onlyto recharge the fate-twisting pools above, recharges a maximum of one die per minute, user must behave in a throughly chaotic manner (5 CP).

Twisting Fate:

Destiny Magic manipulates the probabilities of the future. The level of destiny magic spells depends on two basic factors: the level of effect you want and how much you want the spell to consider your desires. This can be very, VERY, dangerous. For some samples:

  • “We will have good luck in this battle”. This one is safe enough; you and your friends get some luck bonuses. You can simply use some of the appropriate spells.
  • “She will look over this way and notice me”. Also pretty safe unless you’re a wanted criminal, or a werewolf who will start her screaming or some such. People look around and notice things all the time. There probably won’t even be a save.
  • “They will drop the charges and let me out of jail in the morning”. Less safe, but unlikely to get you really hurt. One character tried this with a low-level spell; the locals concluded that he was mad – or “god-touched” – and shipped him off to an asylum where the monks would listen to his ravings in search of prophecy. This was awkward, but he WAS out of jail with the charges dropped.
  • “A diversion will come up during the trip that will give me a chance to escape”. This turned out a lot better; a diversion wasn’t unlikely and the destiny mage made it a higher level spell to avoid the diversion turning out to be a major monster attack or something and wound up with a few falling rocks, one of which knocked the transport wagon open. He then made his escape under his own power.
    • He didn’t even consider trying “The Daimyo will pass by along the way, recognize me as foreign but not mad, and give me an excellent job!”. THAT would call for a very high level spell indeed unless events along those lines were already in the works.
  • Thus “You will soon be badly injured” is pretty easy. “You will be hit by a runaway cart tomorrow and badly injured” is harder, but still plausible. “You will be hit and badly injured tomorrow by a runaway cart driven by your drunken son who will be crippled in the accident” is WAY up there, and may well be effectively impossible – if, say, the kid is currently several hundred miles away. Trying to force an event that unlikely into existence is also likely to have all kinds of unlikely side effects which may well endanger the caster and his or her party. Worse, it usually allows a save.
  • For an example from the more disastrous side… The party was hunting a colossal river serpent. They obtained flying steeds and attacked it at long range. The serpent promptly dove to the bottom of the river and burrowed into the mud where they could not reach it. One of the characters then tried to use first level Destiny Magic to make the serpent to come back up and fight. What was easiest? A lure. Where was he? Hovering directly over the river where the serpent was. He’d used a spell of such low level that it didn’t consider anything but what he’d asked for. Ergo… a biting bug bit his steed in a sensitive spot, he got bucked off, he landed in the river, and the serpent came back up to eat him – instigating the desired fight, but at close range rather than the desired sniping contest. He asked for a specific, and not unreasonable, event – but lacked the power to constrain his spell to more acceptable methods. A slightly higher level spell might have brought a cow by to drink and had it fall in.
  • If you try to directly affect someone else… they get a save. So “May your bowstring break!” is simple, and not implausible (bowstrings do break) – but it allows a save, and if the save is made normal probabilities continue in their course. Of course, twisting destiny to tell an Orphan that “you will soon be adopted by a fine set of parents!” is not too likely to provoke a save, even if the easiest way to arrange that does affect the kid. He or she won’t WANT to resist that destiny.

 

The deadly sins provide a great deal of power for little more than behaving very badly indeed. Sadly, that is – perhaps – appropriate enough. Chance is an interesting choice for a player character though.

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Banishing The Darkness

And for today it’s a bonus post – responding to a question from Alzrius

One thing I’ve noticed in most d20 games is that banishing – as in, sending a creature from another plane of existence back to its realm of origin (or at least, removing it from the plane it’s currently on) – has no ability to enforce the banishment after the initial act of removal.

Spells like dismissal or banishment will send a creature back to its home plane, but most such creatures that warrant that level of magic being thrown at them have the ability to plane shift and greater teleport, meaning that if they want to come back, it will take them 2 rounds to do so (one to plane shift back, with the 5d100 off-target roll, and then one to greater teleport back to the exact place they were before).

Given that there’s no standard metric (other than local world laws) that formalizes the whole “demons and devils cannot enter the mortal world unless called by local residents,” this really seems to leave banishment options without any teeth. Even most exorcism options (which are a variation, to my mind, of banishment) simply expel the possessing spirit; they don’t stop it from simply trying again (e.g. a ghost can just use malevolence again). Since summoned creatures go back to their realm of origin anyway when “slain,” and called outsiders apparently die permanently when slain regardless of where they are when killed, it seems like it’s always going to be a better idea to just go ahead and kill extraplanar enemies, unless they’re summoned (not called) creatures of extraordinary power and are there for a long duration (such as a Pathfinder summoner’s eidolon).

To bring this to a question: how would you fix this? Adjust local world laws to change how extraplanar creatures can get to a particular world? Or come up with better banishing spells and effects? Or something else entirely?

-Alzrius

Well, in the wild days of first edition, putting together some widely scattered bits, it looked like an outsider who was forcibly cast out of the material planes could not return for a year and a day, while one that was slain on the material planes took a very long time (normally a century, although it was shorter for really powerful creatures) to reform on their home plane (often including a temporary or permanent demotion to a lesser form). One slain on it’s home plane was gone for good. Still… first edition; there were plenty of special exceptions and even likely some contradictory rules.

Third edition was originally pretty straightforward; if a creature was actually there and was killed, it was dead. If it was summoned, and was thus basically a copy, puppet, or construct, then no matter what happened to it there was no effect on the original creature (if there even was one). If it was Dismissed or Banished… It was sent home if it was really there while a summoning simply ceased to exist. Speculatively, perhaps you used a spark or your own vitality to help maintain the effect – and that linking to extraplanar energies was what gave those spells an alignment and potentially affected yours.

Then, of course, the Fiendish Codex I turned up. It focused on Demons, but I’d assume that the same general ideas applied to most outsiders.

According to it, if a demon was killed outside the Abyss, it’s body would dissolve in spectacular and horrific fashion and return to the abyss (unless magically restrained) while its “essence” fell back into the raw chaos of the Abyss, there (barring the direct intervention of a a god-tier entity) to be reformed as a new, and generally much lesser, demon.

Summoned demons, of course, weren’t really there, and couldn’t actually die; they were just spiritual puppets (barring the use of optional rules), so the demonic essence just come unanchored when the construct-body was “slain” and returned home to it’s real, undamaged, body if they were even real creatures in the first place.

If a demon was killed within the Abyss it was annihilated, both body and essence. Divine intervention could restore such a demon, but nothing else could. Thus most demons were FAR more cautious on their home plane.

In Pathfinder this sort of thing was addressed in Pyramid Of The Sky Pharaoh, according to which a dead Outsider either merges with its plane or has its essence escape into the planes. In either case it’s eventually drawn into the Maelstrom and wiped clean, to be born again at some point in the future – which is pretty much the eventual fate for everybody else too.

Unlike Death, Dismissal and Banishment do seem to be strictly temporary inconveniences. Of course, they are only 4’th and 6’th level spells respectively. They’re also potential one-shot encounter enders, given that an awful lot of Outsiders do not have the ability to plane shift on their own.

One-shot encounter enders are usually targeted for easy encounters, simply because the baseline “encounter” is supposed to use up about 25% of a parties resources. If an encounter is reasonably likely to be ended by one character with a single spell… it probably isn’t much of a challenge. Ergo, Dismissal (becoming available at level seven) is probably balanced for use against creatures of around challenge rating six or less. Banishment, which becomes available at level eleven and can handle multiple targets, is probably balanced for use against creatures with an individual challenge rating of eight or less.

Are creatures combining Plane Shift and Teleport to come right back after being Dismissed or Banished a common problem? Well… searching the Monster Manual turns up only seventeen creatures with access to Plane Shift as a standard thing. Those are:

  • Angels (Astral Deva, Planetar, and Solar), none of whom have Teleport – although a few have a once a day Wish. They probably have better things to do with it though.
  • Genies (Djinni, Efreeti, and Janni* (Janni are listed as having a Plane Shift special quality, but that is apparently referreing to Ethereal Jaunt. As natives, they’re not appropriate targets anyway)) have Plane Shift, but – once again – not Teleport.
  • Nightshades (Nightcrawler, Nightwalker, and Nightwing) also have Plane Shift but not Teleport.
  • A few individual creatures also have access to Plane Shift. These include the Trumpet Archon (which also has teleport! We have a winner!), Couatl* (no teleport and native anyway, so not a valid target), Bebilith (no teleport), Githyanki (1/day Plane Shift at at ninth level or higher, but no innate Teleport), Githzerai (1/day Plane Shift at eleventh level or higher but no innate teleport), Marut (Plane Shift 1/Week, but no Teleport), and Mind Flayers (Not generally appropriate targets, no innate teleport).

That leaves the Trumpet Archon (CR 14) as the only creature in the Monster Manual that can just pop back after being Dismissed or Banished.

The Monster Manual II only provides four creatures with Plane Shift – Ethereal Doppelganger, Ethereal Slayer, Glimmerskin, and Spell Weaver – none of whom normally teleport.

So against the intended targets, and most of the more powerful targets if they work, both Dismissal and Banishment are pretty much “out of the game” buttons. Evidently third edition pretty much handled the problem by making most creatures that you had any reasonable expectation of being able to handle with a mid-level spell unable to come back – and handled the “dimensional invasion” problem by simply not giving most of the more obnoxious creatures direct access to the material planes. I’m not sure if Pathfinder continued that offhand, but it seems fairly likely.

Now if you are plagued by evil spirits that keep returning… that’s likely to be a homebrew or third party rules problem, and so homebrew and third party rules solutions are in order.

  • In Eclipse the simplest thing to do is to build a little Metamagic into the spell formulas – most likely Compact (Using an expensive focus, taking 1d4 points of attribute damage from the casting (most likely Charisma) on the grounds that exorcising dark spirits is not easy) and +2 levels of Infliction (Ignorance: victims will remain unaware of the specific plane from which they were banished for a century to come. A fairly trivial effect really, given that there are myriads of prime material planes. I could easily justify cutting it down to +1 level of infliction).

World laws are more interesting though. “Extraplanar creatures must be summoned by natives of the plane they’re summoned to” puts an interesting limit on Conjuration, as well as preventing most demonic invasions. It does keep extra-dimensional beings from summoning allies though, unless you refluff that ability as “splitting off bits of their own essence”. Similarly, “Once banished, an outsider may not return to the plane of banishment for a hundred years” would work well. That might cripple a Summoner of course, but I rather suspect that Eidolons are constructs anyway, and not really subject to being Dismissed or Banished for very long.

For an interesting change of pace, take a leaf from “A Personal Demon”; In that book summoning demons was actually quite easy, and they didn’t really want your soul – but when one failed to come when called, you had to ritually bar it from again entering your world to keep it from using the portal later, Over the millennia… demons had failed to answer because they had currently been summoned by someone else – and so when they returned to the Abyss, they could not return. Over thousands of years… the supply of demons had been exhausted until no one believed that they existed any longer.

And then one middle-aged professor did his demon-summoning routine at a party, using the name of a trivial lust-demon from a newly translated clay tablet from a recent dig – a demon that no one had ever heard of because the ancient priests had noted her existence, but had ignored her and failed to pass on her name because she was too trivial to bother with.

And thus the Professor became “Master” of the last summonable demon on earth – basically “I Dream of Jeanie” long before that show came along. In a world similar to that… magicians might command the services of a single demon, with a very specific set of powers, and be frantically trying to steal other mages demons and searching for lost names.

And I hope that helps with the question!

Eclipse – The Golden Ones

The “Priests” of “Uncle Richie” (also known as King Midas, The Almighty Dolla, The Golden One Who’s Hands Drip With Jewels, He Who Teaches Men To Fish, God of Wealth and Self Help Books, The One Who’s Infallible System Will Start You On The Way To Prosperity) are often known as “Favored Nephews”.

Uncle Richie doesn’t grant his priests / salesmen SPELLS. Spells are expensive! They cost a lot of magical power! Instead he grants them self-help books.

And, at least for his “priests”… they work.

Disregarding economic consequences that d20 generally ignores anyway, the major problem with characters who start off with lots of money and have ways to readily get more is pretty simple; why are they risking life and limb in reckless adventuring? You CAN get experience points in other ways too. There are ways to do it with schools, and bards, and even by hiring some ex-adventurer who has defined “leadership” as “teaching” and is gradually leveling up his or her students by releasing their higher-level followers and promoting lower-level ones (at whatever rate the game master is willing to accept as reasonable) – so what is your motive for becoming a long-term adventurer?

Really, I suspect that such characters work best in fairly limited scenarios – the cultists have snatched your young granddaughter to sacrifice, and there is no TIME to hire reputable professional adventurers, so you grab a pile of equipment and go yourself – but if you want to keep playing the character you’ll soon have to find another reason.

That’s not all that difficult (after all, Batman is simply out to stop evildoers and comes fairly close to this style of character) but it may not fit into the standard party very well. It may be best to get a little help from the game master and be destined to go on a mighty quest to save the world or some such.

The best example of this sort of character that comes to mind was an elderly elven Jeweler / Gemcutter who, after hundreds of years of business success, wanted to shake things up in his final years and go out with a bang – so he pulled out his collection of dangerously-enchanted jewelry and unstable magical gems that it would have been grossly unethical to sell, bought some books that promised quick (if insanely dangerous and erratic) magical power, and went forth in search of near-terminal levels of excitement. “Heh-Heh-Heh! BY THE ACCURSED SAPPHIRE SEAL OF FALLEN RIOCHA COME FORTH SPAWN OF THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS!!!!… (to the party) “Command them? I can’t do THAT! WHY AREN’T YOU RUNNING LIKE ME?!?!”.

For this “build”… think Yuppie, Junior Aristocrat, Rich Kid – or even Rich Old Man.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) +6 (First Level Bonus Feat) +10 (Disadvantages of choice) = 64 CP.

Package Deal: Usually the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Basic Attributes: Int, Con, and Chr 12+ is recommended. Str is usually unimportant.

Basics (22 CP): d8 HD (4 CP), +6 Skill Points (6 CP), +2 Will (6 CP), Proficiency with Simple Weapons and Light Armor (6 CP).

Other Abilities:

  • Adept, Corrupted for Increased Effect / At least three skills of the six selected must be practical, non-adventuring skills – Appraise, Craft, Profession, Etc (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (+3 CP/Level) / Only for Skills, only to keep Adept skills maxed out (6 CP).

That covers being reasonably competent and having some useful skills and still leaves 30 CP with which to buy stuff. For this theme… we’ll want Wealth, Equipment, and Skill Enhancements.

So here’s a selection of things you could buy.

Among The 1% (6+ CP):

  • Create Item, Specialized and Corrupted/only as a prerequisite (2 CP)
  • Harvest of Artifice, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with Transmutation, only provides cash, user must specify plot-hook sources for his or her funding (2 CP). This provides 100 XP a month that can only be used for “transmutation”. (+1 CP per +50 XP)
    Transmutation, Specialized and Corrupted/only to produce money, never actually occurs on screen (2 CP).
  • Net Result: 6 CP: 200 GP/Month for 6 CP, 400 for 8 CP, 800 for 10 CP, 1200 for 12 CP, 1800 for 14 CP. and +300/Month per additional CP. A character who starts with this ability (whether at level one or not) adds ten times his or her monthly income to his or her starting cash. (If you want to convert to dollars, multiply by twenty – so this starts off at about $50,000 per year).
  • I wouldn’t really recommend going above 12 CP worth of income for a first level character, but there’s no actual upper limit. This is also pretty basic for this kind of character; they’ve ALL got money.

The Keys To Heaven’s Vault (6 CP):

  • Access to the Occult Skill Dream-Binding (3 CP) at normal cost (3 CP).
  • This is less useful at low levels, but can rapidly build up to cover some very handy gear.

Great Tracts Of Land (3 or 6 CP, best at higher level):

  • Privilege / Landlord: You have assorted local, non-liquid assets – ownership of, or shares in mundane or magical businesses, lands, or structures with a net value of one-half/three-quarters of the base wealth of a PC of the your level for 3/6 CP. Sadly, these cannot (for whatever reason) be converted to cash. You may either use something like Pathfinder’s downtime holdings system or – for the sake of simplicity – get a 5% yearly return on whatever portion of your holdings you devote to getting cash or use 10% (whether in amount or time) of whatever facilities you own. Thus, if you own a shipping company with three ships, you could reasonably divert one for three and a half months (10% of the 36 they will have available this year) to take you and your friends on an expedition – or use 10% of the space in the ships holds to transport your own cargo or some such. Similarly, you can use an office and some of the space in their warehouses.
  • In general, this is best used to gain access to various facilities or (if lifestyle costs are in play) to pay for those. Like it or not, 5% of 50% (or even 75%) of your wealth by level each year will not greatly increase your power – but at higher levels it will pay for a nice lifestyle and get you some social influence.

Imperial McMansion (6 CP). May be upgraded to A Mighty Fortress (+6 CP).

  • You control a mighty castle or other base, complete with troops, servants, useful facilities, and possibly even things like political connections.
  • This is obviously immobile, but the advantages of having a base with various facilities and employees should be fairly obvious.

Lord Of The Manor (6 CP, Minimum Level 15).

  • This package gets you a pocket-dimension full or architecture and people that you can carry around with you. You can use a minor variant if you want to bring some tigers or something. This is convenient, and can be a good money-maker, but isn’t a game breaker at this level.
  • Siddhisyoga, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (can buy mundane items and creatures that can be manifested into reality) / Only for purchasing “rooms” and “teams” according to Pathfinder’s Downtime System, the maximum value that can be used at any one time is equal to the user’s (Knowledge; Architecture and Engineering x 500) GP, once a structure is “brought out” it cannot be dismissed or modified for at least one minute, user must gesture dramatically to produce and place structures within short range, structures must be appropriately placed (no, you cannot drop houses on the wicked witch), creatures that would be within a structure may make a DC (16 + Cha Mod) Reflex save to pick where in the structure they wind up. Sadly, any external items left “inside” when a room is not manifested count against the user’s encumbrance (3 CP).
  • Imbuement. The pocket-dimension facilities gain a Ward Major (from The Practical Enchanter), Specialized for Reduced Cost / never improves past the “+4″ equivalent that it starts at (which, coincidentally, covers the cost of an appropriate level four ward – and is why the minimum level to purchase this power is fifteen, 3 CP). Four Minor Powers:
    • Enduring. The eldritch structures have triple their normal hardness and Spell Resistance 30.
    • Non-Euclidean. The village has many local portals and can be put into places that are completely unreasonable and far too small. Up to one ton of material can be kept in it with no effective encumbrance.
    • Industry: Variant; production is only 5x normal, but anyone working within one of the buildings is presumed to have a relevant set of masterwork tools for the user of their skill(s) and an appropriate workspace.
    • Sustenance: Residents need not eat, sleep or breathe while within the village. Those who get tired and hungry outside it will still need to sleep and eat to fix that, but they will not get hungrier or sleepier while they wait.
  • This can be very convenient and very profitable – but it can also be something of a headache for the game master if the character starts dropping architecture into fights. Use with caution.

In Realms Of Fantasy (6 CP):

  • Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans take some time to attune for use (6 CP).
  • This isn’t an especially powerful option, but Charms and Talismans (From The Practical Enchanter) can be quite convenient – and are nicely flavorful for starting off a game with less awesome powers than the later options.

That Will Cost You (6 CP):

  • Presence, Specialized and Corrupted/for Increased Effect/Only works on people who strike the user in melee combat, only once per round per individual / invokes Talons Of The Magpie (User may make a touch attack (automatic in the this case) to steal something from a victim – 2d6 HP (gained as temporary HP and lasting a maximum of one hour), or 4d6 GP (or equivalent in other valuables), or to swipe a random, loose, small item from the target.
  • OK, this is silly – but who could resist?

A Doctorate In Philosophy (6 CP):

  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for making a Philosophers Stone (2 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect and corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for making a philosophers stone (4 CP).
  • This allows the user to produce a plentiful supply of first level scrolls and potions, as well as assorted supplies, trade goods, and cash.

The Words Of Creation (2 CP):

  • This is expensive, but powerful; it allows you to get services and supplies, accomplish labors, and have henchmen – although this does cost a great deal.
  • Siddhisyoga, Specalized and Corrupted / only to purchase and upgrade a Supply Pouch, Rod Of The Imperator (or one of the many variants thereof), or a “Gangsta Wrap” (2 CP)

Genre Savvy (6 CP).

  • Access to the Occult Skill Stealing The Scene (3 CP) at Normal Cost (3 CP).
  • This is actually quite impressive, as it allows the user to pretty much ride the plot – exploiting the cliches that are inevitably going to appear.

The Luck Of El Diablo (6 CP):

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Skills. If you opt to go with the “devices not personal power” theme and corrupt this to require some obvious device, just raise it to eight bonus uses.
  • Sinple, straightforward, and incredibly useful when something just HAS to work.

The Luck Of El Diablo II (6 CP):

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves. If you opt to go with the “devices not personal power” theme and corrupt this to require some obvious device, just raise it to eight bonus uses.
  • Another one of the incredibly convenient, if less than dramatic, abilities to have.

Always On Guard (6 CP):

  • Reflex Training (Three Extra Actions Per Day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Defensive or Evasive actions only (6 CP).
  • This allows the user to get out of the way, use a protective device, throw a defensive spell, or otherwise get a free chance to save themselves when it hits the fan. A MAJOR survival mechanism.

Those Who Have, Get (12 CP):

  • 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing Specialized for Double Effect (Each point counts as two for Reality Editing) Half Cost, Corrupted for Increased Effect (effects may be built up over time via ritual behaviors) / only to produce effects associated with Skills, requires a minimum skill bonus of +5/+10/+15/+25 to make Minor / Notable / Major / Grandiose edits (6 CP)
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / requires five minutes to work, only to restore the Mana pool given above (6 CP).
  • This ability allows the user to pull off remarkable feats with simple skill checks – crafting a magical blade with Craft (Blacksmith), steering a ship through a hurricane and into another world with Profession (Sailor), and various similar stunts. If you want to take full advantage of this at higher levels you’ll need a few more dice of Mana.

Talking Your Way Through (6 CP):

  • Opportunist / If the character has a relevant skill at +5 or more he or she gets to make an immediate skill check if an appropriate attempt to resolve a situation descriptively fails (6 CP). Thus, if the user was describing how he or she would disarm a bomb by freezing the mechanism with liquid nitrogen, but wound up triggering it… he or she would get an immediate “disable device” check to get it right after all. If he or she was beating it with a hammer, he or she would not get a check at all; that wouldn’t be an appropriate attempt in the first place.

The Mystic Martial Arts (12 CP):

  • 2d6 Mana as 4d4 (10) Generic Spell Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / only usable to power mystical martial arts, below (4 CP).
  • Immunity/The normal limits of Martial Arts Skills: (Very Common, Severe, Minor, Corrupted / such effects must be powered by the expenditure of either (effect spell level + 1) generic spell levels or a similar number of ranks from the relevant skill (add +1 for an Swift Action or use during an Attack of Opportunity, +2 for an Immediate Action). No skill may be reduced below +0 in this fashion,. Expended skill ranks will return after a days rest, effective casting level equals character level (8 CP).
  • This can produce a wide variety of supernatural “martial arts” effects approximating spells of up to level three. Unfortunately, such effects must be in-theme for the martial art skill so employed. Thus the Tiger Style can be used for feats of strength, sprouting or upgrading claws, to make great leaps, to roll with and negate massive blows, to survive falls, to see in the dark, and for other cat-style effects. The Godfire Palm Style offers control of Fire and rapid movement, but few other options.

Words Of Power (Varies):

  • Immunity/the normal limits of Knowledges (specifically, having to take physical actions to get results from applying them, although a form of fatigue still applies to the skill, just as it would apply if you used your muscles): A Nymic Master may use his or her Knowledge and Concentration skills to directly manipulate reality, creating spell-like effects upon the things that the knowledge skill covers (Very Common, Severe, variable effect level, see below). Sadly, the more a Nymic Master uses this ability, the greater the distorting backlash against his or her mind – and the more confused he or she will become on the aspect of the universe being manipulated, reducing his or her effective knowledge skill rank.
    • The possible manipulations include Control (Ward Off, Move, Command, Summon), Destroy, Create, and Transmute (Heal, Reshape, Transform). The maximum level of effects which can be produced is set by the lesser of the user’s (Caster Level / 3) or the level of immunity purchased. Nymic Magic is normally a standard action, affects a single target within medium range and has a verbal component, but may be reduced to a swift action for +2 on the cost or to an immediate action for +3, expanded to Long Range for +1 on the cost, affect a 20′ radius for +2 on the cost, or be performed silently for +1 on the cost. Their equivalent of other “metamagic” effects must be built into the effect; it may not be added later. Their effects must also be built without modifiers for XP costs or expensive components, which may increase the levels of their equivalents of spells that normally require such components. Save DC’s are (10 + Effect level + Int Mod).
    • The extent of the confusion / cost in Knowledge Skill Ranks depends on how closely the user is pushing his or her current abilities – dependent on the level of immunity purchased – to their limit.
      • Trivial Immunity (06 CP): L0 spells cost 3 Knowledge Skill Ranks and L1 spells cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
      • Minor Immunity (12 CP): L0 spells cost 2KSR, L1 spells cost 3KSR, and L2-3 Spells cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
      • Major Immunity (18 CP): L0; spells cost 1KSR, L1 spells 2, L2-3; 3, L4-5; 4. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
      • Great Immunity (36 CP): L0-1 spells cost 1KSR, L2-3 spells cost 2, L4-5 spells cost 3KSR, and L6-7 cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
      • Epic Immunity (54 CP): L0-3 spells cost 1KSR, L4-5 spells cost 2KSR, L6-7 spells cost 3KSR, and spells of L8-9 (generally only available at epic levels) cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible. They might be achievable through Legendary Resistance (and very high caster levels) however; but whether or not to allow this is up to the game master.
    • Unfortunately, only the targets permanent base skill score (purchased ranks plus attribute bonus and feat-based enhancements) can be used to power magic – and the total base score cannot be reduced below +1. The user may, however, expend Concentration Skill Ranks in the place of any other knowledge skill and may also drop plusses from any actual true names that he or she happens to know (Eclipse, Pg 10, upper right column; normally a +4). A single reduced skill may be restored per hours sleep or quiet study and meditation.

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys? (6+ CP):

  • This package turns various limited-use innate magical abilities into charms, fetishes, potions, dusts, bags that “contain” spells, strange crystals, and even quasi-technological gadgets. This is a VERY powerful effect, and is likely to be a major sources of a higher-level “Nephews” special abilities.
  • Create Relic: Specialized and Corrupted / only to make limited-use items (Apply “Specialized / Does Not Recover to the items created, only select abilities that normally offer a limited number of daily uses) costing a maximum of 3 CP each, only using points from Enthusiast (2 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (provides four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / points may only be used with Create Relic, limited as above (4 CP).
  • Expanded: Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted (+1 CP for Relic Creation per CP).
  • The basic package gets you 4 CP worth of relics to start with – with the various limitations, enough to get you quite a few gadgets to play with. Another 6 CP worth will get you a small magical arsenal.

For some examples:

Spell Talismans:

  • Innate Spell with Multiple Uses:
    • Two L1 Effects: 6 Uses Each (1 CP), 14 Uses Each (2 CP), 22 Uses Each (3 CP).
    • L2 Effect: 6 Uses (1 CP), 14 Uses (2 CP), 22 Uses (3 CP).
    • L3 Effect: 5 Uses (1 CP), 13 Uses (2 CP), 21 Uses (3 cp).
    • Related L3 and L4 Effect (1 CP), either 5 Uses of Each or a Related L5 and L6 Effect (2 CP), 9 Uses Each of a related L3 and L4 effect (3 CP).
    • Related Set: One effect of each level 3-7 (3 CP).
  • Unfortunately, this doesn’t bypass the level requirements for using innate spells, so low-level artificers must wait a while before using the high-level stuff. On the other hand, there’s nothing at all wrong with taking along a plentiful supply of Multiplying Shuriken (Magic Missile), Rainbow Crystals (Color Spray), Healing Draughts (Cure Light Wounds), and Origami Golems (Unseen Servants) on your early adventures.

Curative Ointment.

  • Healing Touch with Bonus Uses (enough to cure (5 x Chr Mod x Level HP) and Improved/Switch/Empower with Bonus Uses to provide (4+Level/3) total uses of Remove Disease, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Cure Serious Wounds, Remove Curse, Neutralize Poison, and Restoration (3 CP).
  • Curative ointment isn’t all that level-dependent, so a low-level party may find having a pot along very VERY helpful.

Sorcerer’s Bag:

  • Improved Occult Talent, Corrupted for Increased Effect (spell level) / slots must be preset. provides 5L1 and 3L2 charms/fetishes/scrolls/whatever with whatever you like in them for (1 CP).
  • That’s not as many uses as you can get from Innate Spell, but you do get a wide variety of effects. This is taking cheesy advantage of the rounding rule, but Improved Occult Talent is not likely to break the game.

Ring of Whispered Wishes:

  • 6d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Corrupted / cannot be used for other purposes (3 CP).
  • This useful little item answers small wishes – that there be something solid to catch onto when you’re sliding towards the cliff, that an opponent suffer some brief disadvantage, that a spell operate in a way it really shouldn’t or pierce that spell resistance. There’s usually enough power for none or ten very minor requests, but larger boons expend the rings power far more rapidly.

 

  • Someone with this package makes a wonderful seller of potions and items that provide more uses of your own abilities, rather than independent abilities. Even better, they don’t need expensive ingredients, or to spend experience points, or to have all kinds of spell formula available. If you kill them, their stock ceases to work. If you steal their stock, it will soon cease to work as they invest their Enthusiast points in making some new stock. You can’t even accumulate it, because unused purchases will lose their power after some agreed-on date (when they make new stuff). On the other hand, buying from them can be quite inexpensive.

Channeling Mysterious Spirits – The Discordant Powers and the Seven Deadly Sins Part I: Gluttony, Lust, Greed, and Wrath

And now for something completely different!

Most of the previous power-package “Spirits” (and virtually all the actual character writeups) so far have been for people of one kind or another, with independent personalities of some sort. These, however – like Ansitif or the Exemplars of Magic – are forces rather than creatures, and extremely unpleasant ones at that. Still, it’s coming up on Halloween again, so it’s time for some evil powers.

As usual, all of these Mysteries build on the powers of the basic Bokor Package – although that is cheap enough that it’s normally well worthwhile. They’re all 32 CP / +1 ECL Acquired Templates  as usual.

Gluttony – and it’s sibling Lust – get a bad rap. Both are the result of perfectly natural, healthy, and necessary drives; if people did not eat, drink, and breed, there would very shortly not be any people. What has long placed them on the list of “sins” is a combination of the idea that enjoying yourself is inherently bad and humanities tendency to pursue pleasure beyond all reasonable limits (which is probably what led to the first idea). Eating is not bad. Eating well is not evil. Eating “Sinfully Delicious” deserts isn’t especially wicked either – although the phrase itself says that at least some people find it inherently morally dubious.

On the other hand, gathering the ingredients for a fabulously expensive banquet by working a dozen poor farmers to death and then feasting while the people outside your gates starve isn’t all that different on the personal level from having an extra brownie that you know you shouldn’t eat (you can only eat so much after all) – but even if the exact line is impossible to identify, most of us would say that you have crossed it SOMEWHERE.

Similarly, simply feeling lustful isn’t terribly important. Even a private sexual romp between two consenting, adult, and socially-acceptable partners stirs few objections beyond “They’re having fun and I’m not! No fair!”. After all… King Solomon didn’t get into serious trouble for lusting after foreign women, or even for having a thousand concubines in his harem until he started to worship their gods. David apparently wasn’t thought to be going totally overboard until he had a loyal man killed so that he could add his wife to his harem. Once again, there’s definitely a line somewhere in there between “just fun”, “mildly naughty”, and the kinds of things people like Wu Zetian, Prince Sado, Justinian II, or some of the crazier Roman Emperors got up to. I can’t say exactly where it is – but it can probably be found somewhere between “enthusiastic participation” and “pleading to be let go”.

Of course, in d20, where even the “good guys” routinely burst into other creatures homes, massacre them, and steal their stuff, even really serious cases of “selfish exploitative individual who is grossly fat because they eat too much” and “shallow and egotistical individual who considers everyone they meet a potential sexual conquest to be ogled because they want to have a lot of sex” aren’t really that impressive. Even in medieval reality the “deadly sins” were usually considered to have a lot more depth than eating too much turkey or a couple of teenagers setting themselves up for a shotgun wedding. Still, d20 also offers some darker options.

Gluttony:

When you slay, or sometimes even when you merely defeat, an opponent in d20 you may absorb a portion of it’s energies – those oh-so-precious “Experience Points” – a magical force that can transform and enhance the user in all kinds of ways. Some few, however, learn the dark art of true gluttony – becoming a literally demonic force that takes not only a portion of the energy that is released naturally, but actively draining parts of the victims very soul as well.

  • Major Privilege: Gains access to a Wealth Level Template from The Practical Enchanter, with the level depending on the number of hearts of worthy enemies or sacrifices the user has eaten in proportion to his or her current level. Specialized and Corrupted / you must eat your enemies hearts or drink their blood, you will be haunted by fragments of their souls, and anyone seeking to raise or resurrect those you’ve so slain must seek you out and defeat you to make it work (2 CP).
  • Grant of Aid with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / The user is blatantly drawing upon foul and evil powers, uses may only be regained by eating the heart or drinking the blood from a ritually sacrificed sapient being (6 CP).
  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / The user is blatantly drawing upon foul and evil powers, uses may only be regained by drinking the blood from a ritually sacrificed sapient being (6 CP).
  • 2d6 Mana (Resilience Option), plus Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / The user is blatantly drawing upon foul and evil powers, Mana is only regained via Rite of Chi, uses may only be regained by drinking the blood from a ritually sacrificed sapient being (12 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP). Points may only be used in conjunction with Create Relic, below, all relics created are
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with points from Double Enthusiast (above), all relics created will carry at least one 3-point disadvantage since they are created using unwilling soul-fragments (2 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus/ Adds (Con Mod) to Charisma-Based skills, Specialized for Reduced Costs and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Counts as being Skilled) / only for Rune Magic skills, only for terrible black magic (3 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Bloodlust, a boundless desire to consume the lives and souls of others, and being pretty obviously evil on a level that even most evil people will want nothing to do with (-3 CP).

While it’s certainly foul enough, even this version of cannibalistic spiritual gluttony isn’t all that far beyond the usual d20 conventions: after all, the characters usually kill a lot of things. Still, it is only the first sin on the list.

Lust:

Lust is born of the urge to breed, to produce offspring – although, in this corrupted version, this is not for their own sake but as tools of your own power – things to be used and exploited at your whim, not children to be nurtured and loved (although you get extra style points if the other parent is protective, nurturing, and loving and you let them see what happens to their offspring).

  • Presence / Aura of Seduction. This rather resembles “Charm Person”, but it induces lewd, lavicious, and sexual thoughts and urges in those affected (6 CP).
  • Perform (Sexual Acts) +1 SP (1 CP). That’s not a very high skill base, but most people have no actual skill in the field at all.
  • Dominion: Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to organize, and collect Dominion points from, orgies, drunken debauchery, gang-rapes, sexual conquests, and similar activities (6 CP).
    • Path of Valor:
      • Voice of Command, Specialized and Corrupted / only to suggest lechery, turn normal gatherings into outbreaks of sexual depravity, and induce sinful behavior (2 CP).
      • The Rightful King, Specialized and Corrupted / only to establish yourself as a lord of parties, persuade authorties to overlook your utter immorality, and become a sex symbol (2 CP).
      • Heroism, Specialized and Corrupted / only to counteract the effects of excessive self-indulgence, cure the venereal diseases you catch, and otherwise enable horrible behavior (2 CP). Yes, this is a minor variant on the ability. Eclipse explicitly allows this – especially when it’s not a lot of use in actual play.
      • Epic Heroism (Half-Infernal Template). You may spend 8 Dominion Points to take on the half-infernal template for twenty-four hours or 2 to pass it on to one of your children (6 CP).
  • Channeling, one use per day, Specialized/only for use with Dark Awakening (1 CP).
    • Hatred’s Weal Path:
      • Dark Awakening, Specialized / only to rise as an undead monstrosity if slain (3 CP).
      • Shadow Casting, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effect (disregards the ECL of the half-infernal template, uses dominion points instead of experience points; each point spent grants the shadow one level up to a maximum of two-thirds the user’s ECL) / each shadow is inherently linked to a single creature, which must a child of the user’s less then six years old. The shadow devours the child’s mind and enslaves it’s tormented soul, turning it into a mere extension of evil and the user’s will. This is most effective, of course, if done shortly after a child is conceived (6 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Being obsessively sexual, mistreating children on a level that most normally evil people would hunt you down for, and having to make will checks to avoid trying to seduce people and turn every situation into a depraved orgy (-3 CP).

There are few darker evils than this, even among the Deadly Sins. This gets you the betrayal of family, the torture-damnation of children, the corruption of innocent souls, lust for power, the intentional spreading of supernatural evil, blatant abuse of sexuality, and (almost certainly) forcing heroes who resist you to slaughter abused children all in one tidy little package.

Greed:

Greed – or Avarice – is especially troublesome in d20, for not only does d20 virtually enshrine Greed above all other goals, but it tells us that there really is always more to get – and that getting it brings ever-increasing power. In d20 even the greatest Paladins, the exemplars of Law and Good, focus on upgrading their equipment and going forth in search of still more plunder and power rather than on – say – caring for orphaned children, building temples, or healing the sick. Such is the nature of Greed – forever unsatisfied, demanding more and yet living in desperate fear of what it has already claimed being plundered. As befits the nature of wealth in d20, Greed is one of the few “spirits” which can make lasting changes in a summoner.

Unfortunately, it isn’t really one of the most effective ones. d20 characters are generally already getting many of the benefits of unbridled greed already. Still, investing your time in Greed brings ever more bonuses.

  • Stipend (12 CP) 1200 GP/Month. Those channeling Greed will become known as ruthless moneygrubbers, usurers, and corporate raiders. Each day that you do so, you gain a base income of 40 GP. If you do so as a starting character, add 12,000 GP to your starting funds. Note that this is actual cash; it does not vanish when you cease to channel Greed.
  • Landlord I, Specialized for Double Effect / you gain your funds from slumlording, usury, rackets, illegal gambling, and many similar activities, and gain an appropriate reputation and legal problems (3 CP). During the times that you are not channeling Greed, this money is tied up in legal problems, protests, and similar difficulties.
  • Siddhisyoga with the Efficient, Fey, and Inner Whispers modifiers, Corrupted / to keep your Siddhisyoga powers working you must maintain a horde of unused treasure worth at least 25% of the effective cost of those abilities hidden away (16 CP). Note that the Siddhisyoga powers remain even when you’re not channeling Greed; they were paid for with real money and are quite permanent.
  • Occult Sense / Sense Valuables, Specialized / only to maintain an awareness of the user’s horde (3 CP). As long as you continue to channel Greed, you will remain aware of your horde and of anything that disturbs it.
  • A +1 bonus to Appraise (1 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Those channeling Greed must make will checks to turn away from opportunities for profit, to refrain from taking bribes even if they have no intention on following through on their promises, and will show no consideration for others (-3 CP).

Wrath:

Wrath is more than flying into a simple rage. It is swearing revenge on entire bloodlines for minor offenses, it is the slaughter of a village lest you miss a rebel, it is blindly sacrificing what you hold precious in pursuit of destruction.

Anger is natural. Hatred is natural. Violence is natural. Wrath… is when those things are without temperance. When nothing – not pain, not love, not survival itself – restrains the urge to destroy your target. It is all too easy for the urge to resist injustice and evil, the defiance of those who have injured you, and even the heroic desire to defend others to lead to Wrath.

Wrath is, not surprisingly, probably the least subtle of the Deadly Sins or Discordant Powers, as well as one of the least devalued. Most people are still aware that genuine Wrath goes somewhat beyond yelling at annoying people or even punching a hole in the drywall simply because random shootings due to “road rage”, people killing their spouses and children in a fit of anger, and similar human tragedies are still all too common.

Little can stand against a Wrath-channeler in a rage – but at least Wrath does nothing but destroy.

  • Birth of Fire, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Use 9’th level base and double it) / the constructs only exist when the user is in a berserker rage and he or she has little actual control over most of them. They will tend to defend the user, if only so that they will not be dispelled too early, and will prefer to attack his or her enemies – but inanimate or precious things, buildings, allies, and anything else in the area is on the target list (6 CP).
  • +6 Bonus Uses on Birth of Fire, with the same limitations as above (9 CP).

The Minions of Destruction are Huge, have 38d10 + 80 (289) HP, Initiative +0, Spd 80, AC 60, 6 Attacks at +58 for 6d6+33 damage, all Saves +12, Str 76, Dex 10, Cha 10, Wis 11, Int 10, 152 Skill Points and 12 destructive feats. Special abilities:

  • Class-A Options: Damage Reduction 10/Magic, Fly, Knockdown (those hit must make a DC 46 Str check or fall), Semisentient (+18 to Intimidate, Spot, Jump, and Listen), Swim, Tunneling..
  • Class-B Options: Extra Attacks, Fast Healing 4, Sentient (you can usually just treat them as having the summoners feats and skills), Trample, and Warding.
  • Class-C Options: Natural Invisibility, Noncorporeal at Will, Spell and Power Resistance 48, Dimension Slide 90′ as a move action, has True Seeing and 60′ Blindsight.

When the channeler goes berserk, the Minions of Destruction manifest themselves and start smashing up the area. They will make some effort to protect the channeler, simply because if he or she falls their rampage will come to an end. They don’t really have the foresight to try to avoid collapsing structures or setting off explosions though. If someone can see them… they can be presumed to look like a bunch of monstrous giant beasts suitable for monster movies.

  • Berserker with Odinpower, Odinmight, Enduring, and +3 Bonus Uses (20 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Must make will checks to avoid flying into blind rages when insulted or defied or to avoid to avoid undertaking absurd levels of retribution for minor offenses (-3 CP).

Simple. Straightforward. Insanely Dangerous. More than a little rules-abusive. When someone channeling Wrath flies into a rage, and seven invisible forces start destroying everything in the area… very little is likely to survive. The best way of dealing with such a situation is probably to run like mad and wait for the channeler to either burn through his or her rage or to self-destruct by bringing down the roof of causing a massive collapse or something.

And now I feel sort of slimy…

Linear Fighter, Assistant Wizard

For today, we have a retrospective question about just when “wizards got so overpowered!”.

For the quick answer, is 3.0. For the long answer…

Originally, back in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (First and Second Edition), if you played the game as written… spellcasting didn’t really dominate the game. Over more than a decade of play with several different groups it soon became pretty obvious that Fighters did. Paladins, Rangers and Monks were all good – but the entry requirements kept them rare. Thieves helped with scouting and traps and taking out bosses with carefully set up backstabbing, but the main drive against the enemy was always the fighters.

And that was about right. In a very large proportion of legends, myths, and fantasy stories… wizards were either enemies or they were assistants to the heroic warriors who were the real stars. They had many interesting powers, and their spells might turn the tide at a dramatic moment, enable visits to strange locations of adventure, and trick overwhelming foes – but they were still secondary. Swords, bows, secondary weapons, and (sometimes) martial arts still did the main work.

But wait! Magic-Users had all those incredibly powerful spells! Almost as many as Wizards and Sorcerers do in 3.5 or Pathfinder!

Yes, they did. And they had segmented casting times at ten segments to the round and usually at least one segment per spell level. It was often more; looking back at my first edition books, many first level spells required three or four segments. Hold Person, at level two, required five segments – in a system where you determined initiative with opposing d6 rolls and any interruption ruined the spell. There were no “concentration” checks, saving throws were fixed numbers, spellcasters couldn’t evade attacks while casting, only got to know a limited number of spells, often couldn’t learn spells they wanted, some of them couldn’t use armor at all, and might take many days of rest and study (or prayer) to prepare all their spells.

Thus the Dungeon Masters Guide told us

Because spell casting will be so difficult, most magic-users and clerics will opt to use magical devices whenever possible in melee, if they are wise.

For that matter… it took a lot longer to go up in level. For example… killing an Orc was worth an average of 14.5 XP. Getting to level three as a Magic User required 4501 XP. That meant that your party of four needed to kill off 1242 orcs to reach level three through combat experience if no one died (if someone died the doubling experience point tables let a new character catch up very quickly, which was good because older edition characters died a lot). Even with experience for treasure… a party usually only gained 3-6 levels per year of play – 50-odd sessions.

So what would those spellcasting limitations look like if you imported them into a current d20 game? Well, at least in Eclipse, such “Old School” magic levels are blatantly Specialized and Corrupted for one-third cost (or possibly even double-specialized given the number and severity of limitations here).

Basic Spellcasting Limitations:

Casting Spells takes more time. If the base casting time is:

  • One Standard Action the spell requires three initiative counts per spell level including metamagic other than “Quicken”).
  • One Full Round the spell requires sixty initiative counts.
  • More Than One Round the spell requires ten times as long to cast.
  • A Free Action the spell requires one initiative count.
  • A Swift or Immediate Action the spell requires two initiative counts.
  • Scrolls require the normal casting time, and are subject to the same limitations as direct casting. Wands and Rods only require three counts to activate, while Staves require six. Unfortunately, the save DC for wands, rods, and staves is only 14.
  • If such an action would not be completed before “0”, the countdown continues into the next round.

There is no such thing as a concentration check. Any damage or distraction that would normally call for a concentration check causes your spell to fail automatically, and be lost.

Spellcasting does not invoke attacks of opportunity, but the spellcaster cannot apply Dodge or Dexterity bonuses to his or her AC while spellcasting without losing the spell.

You may only prepare spells after a period of uninterrupted rest or meditation.

  • 1’st and 2’nd level spells require four hours.
  • 3’rd and 4’th level spells require six hours.
  • 5’th and 6’th level spells require eight hours.
  • 7’th and 8’th level spells require ten hours.
  • 9’th level spells require twelve hours.

It takes fifteen minutes per level of the spell per spell to prepare a spell. Thus preparing a third-level spell requires forty-five minutes. If you then go on to prepare a fifth level spell, that’s an hour and fifteen minutes – for a total of two hours to prepare two spells.

You cannot spend more than eight hours preparing spells before you will need to rest again to prepare more.

There is no such thing as spontaneous spellcasting. All spells must be prepared.

The spell charts are not “spells per day”. The spell chars show the maximum number of spells a spellcaster may have prepared. A powerful spellcaster may need many days to prepare all of his or her spells.

This means that a spellcasters daily “spell budget” is basically sixteen to thirty-two levels of spells. At the low end that might be four first, three second, and two third level spells. It would take a seventh level magic user five hours to memorize his or her selection of 4/3/2/1 (twenty spell levels in total) spells after at least six hours of uninterrupted rest. A ninth level magic user with the capacity to store 4/4/3/2/1 spells needs eight hours of rest and eight and a quarter hours to prepare spells – and if he or she tried to cast them in a fight, a fair chunk of those would probably be disrupted and lost.

The DC of saving against a spell is fixed at 16. Yes, this means that high-level targets will almost always make their saving throws.

Counterspelling is possible, but usually pointless. If you have time to hold an action for a counterspell, why aren’t you tossing off a quick Magic Missile or something and stopping your opponent from casting a spell in the first place?

Additional Arcane Caster Limitations Include:

  • Arcane Casters may only learn (Int/2) spells of each level they can cast. Read Magic is automatically one of them. They normally begin with another three first level spells – one offensive, one defensive, and one utility, selected at random.
  • Arcane Casters must record the spells they gain access to along with the results of a roll of (1d20 + Spell Level). If that is under their current intelligence, they can comprehend the spell and may choose to add it to their spells known.
    • For an example, Tim the Intelligence 14 Magic User has gotten ahold of scrolls or spell formulas for Color Spray (19), Burning Hands (3), Glitterdust (15), Pyrotechnics (12), Fireball (9), and Fly (16). With a maximum spell list of seven spells of each level he can cast, he may opt to learn Burning Hands, Pyrotechnics, and Fireball. If he gets his Int up to 15 he could opt to learn Glitterdust, and at 16 he could opt to learn Fly. Sadly, Color Spray is likely to remain far out of reach at any level where it might be useful – unless Tim saves a first level slot and opts to research (say) Tim’s Scintillating Butterflies, which is a different spell with the same basic effect. Note that, if you successfully research a spell you still roll – but the maximum result is equal to your current intelligence.
  • Arcane Casters only automatically gain one spell formula from among those they could potentially cast each level (although they may seek out or buy more if the game master allows it or they capture a spellbook or something). They may check (and record) their spell comprehension for desired spells until they find one that they can currently comprehend to add to their spellbooks. They may add a spell that they cannot currently cast to their books if they so desire, but usually have no reason to do so.
    • For example, Tim has made level seven, and wants a fourth level spell – in his case he wants Wall of Fire. Unfortunately, the check results in a roll of 23 – far beyond his intelligence! He doesn’t pick that one. Dimension Door turns up a 15. That’s tempting – next level he’ll get his Int up to 15 and be able to use it – but why not choose it next level? Next up, his third choice of Lesser Globe Of Invulnerability comes up a “7” – and so Lesser Globe Of Invulnerability goes into his book and onto his list of learned spells.
  • Arcane Casters will find that any armor or shield that would normally produce a 5% or more chance of arcane spell failure causes automatic arcane spell failure.
  • As a note, spellbooks do NOT have plot immunity. They may be stolen, destroyed by area-effect spells and attacks, and so on. It is VERY WISE to use backup spell books and traveling spell books!

Additional Divine Caster Limitations Include:

  • Divine spellcasters may only pray for a limited list (Wis/2) of spells of each level they can cast. “Consecrate Holy Symbol” (L1) is always one of them.
  • Divine spellcasters may only select spells for their list that are appropriate to their god. For a quick example, Odin does not grant Sanctuary and Poseidon does not grant Flame Strike. If the game master has the time, and wishes to make the effort, gods may also offer access to unique spells related to their particular specialties.
  • Divine spellcasters gain spells beyond level three from spiritual servants of their god and gain spells of level seven or above directly from their god at the discretion of those entities. They may be denied spells, granted spells other than what they prayed for, be assigned missions or quests, or be asked to attone for misdeeds at the whim of those entities.
  • Divine spellcasters who change gods must prove themselves worthy followers of their new god with mighty oaths, quests, and deeds in the service of their new god. If they attempt to leave the service of their new god, those same oaths will utterly destroy them.
  • As a rule, Clerics will be asked to spend time preaching, to refuse missions that their god does not approve of and to undertake ones that he or she does approve of without further reward, to use weapons and armor only as approved of by their god, to build and maintain temples, and so on.

Spellcasters operating under those restrictions will be roughly back to where they were in first and second edition; they may have some useful noncombat effects that they may use for special circumstances and they will have a very limited range of combat spells and game-changing effects that they can cast once in a while during fights IF a bunch of other characters protect them while they do it. Their spells, however, often will not work against high-end opponents, who can be counted on to make their saving throws. Magic will become, once again, a very limited special resource, to be husbanded carefully and deployed with planning – or in extreme emergencies.

Of course, in Eclipse, all this reduces the cost of your magic levels to the point where you can easily afford to add some weapons skills, a better BAB, a few more hit points, and other bennies – resulting in the modern equivalent of an old-style multi-classed character without any major complications or sacrifices.

Looking at all this also helps explain why so many players made Elven Fighter/Magic-Users in first and second edition days despite the 7/11 level limitation. After all… level eleven was well past the point where you could prepare all your spells each day. Were you on a long adventure? You’d have just as many spells each day as a higher-level human mage. They’d be weaker spells (at least in some cases), but YOU could wear armor. Not only did you have a better chance of getting your spells cast because you were harder to hit, but you weren’t an obvious target like that unarmored guy. If you started from level one, a human magic-user wouldn’t really have much of a magical edge on you for nearly two hundred sessions. Even better, the high-end magical gear worked for you just as well as it did for a higher-level wizard – reducing the gap even more. I, personally, played a maxed-out elven fighter/magic-user for a couple of years in a game that went up past level eighteen (for the human wizard, characters with easier advancement tables had higher levels) and it worked just fine. I even got some better items than the higher-level mage because they were used more often, and so did more good for the party, in the hands of someone who didn’t have so many other high-level spell options. And best of all… you could reasonably play your fighter/magic-user through the fifty-odd lower-level sessions before adding a human wizard to the party became really viable.

Eclipse d20 – Playing With The Pulps Part II: Pulp Powers

For Part I – the Basic Pulp Hero and Advanced Pulp Hero Templates – Click HERE.

The first, and largest, option for Advanced Pulp Heroes is Pulp Powers – the weird abilities that make many of them just a bit more than human. For an awful lot of those powers the mechanism of choice is Witchcraft. At its base Witchcraft is low-powered, low-cost, and very versatile – which means that it can easily be specialized in particular functions to make it medium powered (just right for pulp powers) while maintaining it’s low cost. That’s important because pulp heroes generally aren’t of particularly high level and rarely grow in power all that much – so unlike a baseline d20 character they don’t go from “slightly above ordinary” to “stronger than most classical gods” over the course of their careers.

And the next step in basic Witchcraft is a simple feat – The Secret Order. So we can take that ability and build what we want as…

Pulp Powers/The Secret Order: +5 Basic Abilities, +4 Power (6 CP). Where saves are relevant, they have a DC of (16 + User’s Cha Mod). This gives our Advanced Pulp Hero a choice of five pulp powers, either drawn from the list below or built from the basic witchcraft abilities using these powers as examples.

It’s worth noting that the special effects are up to the user; if you want Venomous Infusion to be represented by a pouch full of vials and needles, then so be it. Do you carry bottles of special adhesives to use the Adhesion effect? Use C’hi powers? Or weird technology? Go right ahead; changing what your powers look like is quite acceptable.

  • A Thousand Faces/Shadowweave: You may spend 1 Power to gain a +12 bonus on Disguise checks for thirty minutes. During this time you may disguise yourself or change disguises as a Standard Action without penalty and gain a similar bonus to attempts to imitate voices.
  • Adhesion/Witchfire (constant): You can cause items you touch to stick together. You may perform small repairs (as per Mending), add +10 to the DC of escaping any bindings you apply, gain a +6 bonus on any rolls to hang onto creatures or things or to keep your footing, and may employ a Spider Climb effect at will.
  • Adroit Cavalier/Hyloka and Glamour (constant): Any mount you ride gains the benefits of Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter), Surefooted Stride, Jump, and Fast Healing I, all cast at your level, while you gain a +10 bonus to Ride checks. If you keep a personal mount for a week or more, those benefits will remain in force for it for up to forty-eight hours between contacts. Your mount will come when called, can perform any “trick” without training, and needs only one-quarter the usual amount of food, rest, air, and water.
  • All-Around Sight/Shadowweave (no cost, works until deactivated): Subtly guiding light to the user’s eyes allows the user to see in all directions. He or she cannot be flanked and gains a +4 bonus to Perception, but suffers a -4 penalty on saves against gaze attacks.
  • Analytical Gaze/Hyloka: You may spend 1 Power to commit up to five minutes worth of material to memory with photographic exactness – making it easy (at least with an advanced pulp heroes augmented intelligence) to deduce things like a targets likely profession, the presence of hidden weapons, the tiny inconsistencies that may indicate a disguise, likely guard routes and blind spots in surveillance, and similar elements. As a side effect, you do not need a spell book, may sketch or draw what you’ve seen with great precision, can read off all the titles of a shelf of books you merely glanced at from memory, and may perform many similar stunts.
  • Animal Companion/The Inner Eye (constant): You have a vague link with a normal animal with a range of about a mile. Within that range you can get bits of what it sees and hears and you can influence it with Animal Handling rolls. If something happens to it (including dying of old age) you will need at least a month to replace it and will probably be upset.
  • Animal Friend/The Inner Eye (constant): The user can gain simple clues, warnings, and even some facts from observing animals and can get simple messages across to them. Thus observing frightened birds might reveal an ambush and Lassie can both reveal that Little Timmy is down the well and be sent to fuss at the main house, and perhaps bring additional aid.
  • Athletic Paragon/Hand Of Shadows (constant): You gain a +4 bonus on Acrobatics, Climb, Fly, Ride, Swim, and Martial Arts based on Str or Dex (this does increase the number of techniques that you know) in each such art, +10 feet/round to all of your movement rates, subtract six dice from any falling damage you take, and can never become overweight or out of shape.
  • Bioawareness/Witchsight (constant): You are a walking lie detector. When you focus on a target within 20′ you become aware of their heartbeat, eye movements, any pains they may be feeling, whether or not they are sweating, and similar responses. You gain a +10 bonus to Sense Motive, a +6 bonus to Heal, and can easily tell if someone is merely pretending to be unconscious or dead, when people are nervous, and if they are ill or drugged.
  • Blinding Flash/Shadowweave: You may spend 1 Power as a standard action to create a burst of light equivalent to the effects of a Pyrotechnics spell cast on a fire source. While this has only a sixty foot range, you are automatically immune to the effects.
  • Cloud The Senses/Glamour: You gain a +6 bonus on your Social Skills and may subtly influence perceptions; you may “set the theme” of the immediate setting (adding minor descriptive items to it – adding a dry wind, a tumbling tumbleweed, appropriate subtle “background noises”, and other “western” cliches, or setting up a haunted house with creaking doors, flickering shadows, chill drafts, and cobwebs. This adds +4 to the DC of penetrating any deception which matches the theme), With concentration you can erase your presence from other minds; for 1 Power per Minute you can use the Pathfinder version of Cloud Minds, at an effective power point total equal to your level.
  • Clouds Above The Earth/Hand Of Shadows: You may spend one power to create footing (small force disks) where none exists for one minute. During this time you may walk silently and without putting pressure on the floor, stand on water, and perform similar stunts.
  • Cultivated Blandness/Shadowweave (constant): You may make a Disguise check each morning; the result is the DC of the will save needed to recall any details about your name, face, or voice. This does not, however, interfere with memories of what you actually did – just of your identity. If you opt to present yourself as a generic member of a group, those you encounter must save successfully before they can become suspicious.
  • Darkness/Shadowweave: You may spend 1 Power and a Swift Action to render normal vision useless within a radius of up to 20 feet. If this is an ability, it centers on you and moves with you for up to ten minutes. If it is device (such as a smoke bomb) the effect is immobile and only lasts for three rounds, but you may place the effect anywhere within sixty feet as long as you have line of sight and get three uses per Power expended.
  • Darksight/Witchsight (constant): You get 120′ Darksight.
  • Defining Aura/Glamour (constant): You may give yourself a brief personal description; those who interact with you will accept it as the truth, and react accordingly, unless they make their saving throw. Once chosen, your description will not change without months of work. For example, you could be “A deadly criminal mastermind, with wealth, favors, and minions to call upon and a deserved reputation for dealing harshly with those who cross him” – and watch people get out of your way, try and curry favor with you, and cower in fear if you seem upset. Be “A wealthy playboy whom every woman secretly wants, with loads of money and a reputation for throwing marvelous get-togethers and attending every social function” and watch the invitations pour in, doormen wave you into exclusive clubs, and bartenders and caterers gladly run a tab for you. Play the role of an incredibly brilliant scientist, a great detective, or whatever you wish. Sadly, if you act too far out of character, a new save can be made every day.
  • Demolitions/Infliction: You may spend one minute and 3 Power to rig up a stationary explosion that inflicts triple the normal Infliction damage in up to a 10′ radius. Unfortunately, such lash-ups are too fragile to be thrown, although they can be rigged up with various triggers, such as when a car starts.
  • Draught Of Eternity/Hyloka (constant): You age extremely slowly, if at all. You may spend 1 power to heal 1d6 points of attribute damage or drain as a free action once per round. As a side effect, if you are more than sixty years old and still adventuring, you will find that people will believe almost any story about your exploits and abilities.
  • Elder Sorcery/Various (normally villains only): This is any single Basic Witchcraft Ability, Specialized for Double Effect/requires gestures and incantations, calls upon terrible elder beings and occasionally lets them or their minions slip into the world, is widely recognized as terrible black magic, requires occasional sacrifices to or missions for the eldritch powers that back it. (Witchcraft is generally fairly low-powered. Doubling up a basic ability this way gets it up to the lower-mid power level as far as basic d20 goes – but in a pulp setting this tends to be the terrifying upper limit of magical power.)
  • Elemental Mastery/Witchfire: While it’s a distinct rarity in the pulps (and a transitional phase towards more modern superheroes), a very few pulp characters can control elemental forces. What makes them distinctly “pulp”, however, is that these abilities tend to be relatively weak, but versatile; a Firemaster may be able to generate weak blasts and bolts of flame within a very limited radius – but he or she can also weld, heat their coffee, generate heat to shrug off cold weather, melt an incoming fusillade of bullets, snuff out flames, and provide light. Someone with cold powers might create a chill mist, prevent explosives from detonating, shatter metal, protect themselves from heat or cold, extinguish fires, preserve specimens, or spread a film of ice over nearby surfaces. In general, the user must select a specific type of energy to manipulate and may create effects within their field equivalent to Cantrips without cost, may create first level effects as Standard Actions for 1 Power. The elemental forces may also be employed defensively as an Immediate Action for 2 Power, reducing the effects of an appropriate incoming attack or group of attacks by 1d6 per level (to a minimum of zero).
  • Evasive Jinx/Elfshot (constant): Anyone within a two block radius who is actively pursuing you must save on the first round and every four rounds thereafter or suffer some minor, transient, hindrance – someone getting in the way, a flat tire, a minor accident, being tripped, or some similar difficulty. Similar Jinx abilities may be developed for other activities – such as Theft and Burglary or (if the game master is willing to allow it) even Combat.
  • Focused Mind: You may spend 1 Power at any time to gain the results of a DC 25 Autohypnosis check, to regain your Psionic Focus, or to throw off a Confused, Dazed, or Stunned condition.
  • Forced March/Hyloka (constant): You may go for up to a week without food or water, up to three days without sleep, and up to three minutes without air, with no penalty. Thereafter penalties accumulate normally. As a side effect, you gain the Endure Elements and Longstrider effects.
  • Ghost Strike/Dreamfaring (constant): You and your attacks effectively have the Ghost Touch property. You may spend 1/2/3 Power to briefly phase a small/large/complete portion of your body into the Ethereal plane; this can be used to get things out of sealed boxes, reach through doors to unlock them, or even to step through walls.
  • Gliding/The Hand Of Shadows: If conscious, you may control your falls – moving up to 15′ per 5′ of fall and taking no damage when you land. Strong winds may make it hard to make progress upwind, but can be used to gain height. This has no cost and does not require an action.
  • Grandiose Gesture/Glamour: You may spend 2 Power as an Immediate Action to get everyone in a sixty foot radius who fails to save to focus their attention on you this round. You gain a +2 to +6 (GMO) bonus on the DC of the save if you actually do something attention-grabbing or very dramatic. If you keep speaking, you create an effect similar to the Enthrall spell.
  • Greased Lightning/Hyloka (constant): You gain a +3 bonus to Initiative checks and may perform minor “super speed” tricks such as getting a fire started by friction in mere moments, moving the shells in a shall game too fast for anyone to track, using a sword to put your initial on someone’s chest, or shuffling and dealing cards in mere moments.
  • Handwriting Analysis/The Inner Eye: Given a few minutes to examine a sample of someone’s handiwork – a sample of their handwriting, something they built, a piece of art they created, or a house they decorated – you can recognize other examples of their handiwork, create a profile of them (getting a good idea of their traits, behaviors, and personality), and may make a Perception check to try to obtain a (very) general physical description of them.
  • Hypnosis/Glamour: You may spend one power as a standard action to Hypnotize (as the spell) up to 4d4 levels of creatures. If you choose a single target, they may be given a Suggestion (classics include inducing temporary delusions (“You are a chicken!”), getting them to answer questions, getting them to remember things that didn’t happen (“You met with a Dragon that demanded…”), inducing a Delayed Suggestion (“When the clock strikes two in the morning, open the south gate”) although this allows a second save when it activates, and even undo the effects of other mind-affecting abilities (allowing a new save).
  • I Planned For This Contingency!/Glamour and The Inner Eye: As a free action you may spend 3 Power to create a near-instant psychic conference. This lets the players take a five minute break to plan, solve some puzzle, or what-have-you – although the usual special effect is “we planned for this in advance”. Secondarily, for the next one minute, everyone in the group receives a pair of +2 Insight Bonuses which they may elect to apply to any two of Attacks, An Attribute, Damage, Checks, Saves, or Armor Class – although the choice is fixed for the duration once made.
  • Illusion Projection: You may spend 1 Power as a standard action to generate the equivalent of a Minor Image anywhere to which you have line of sight within sixty feet.
  • Impeccable Image/Multiple (constant): You look good at all times. Your clothing is clean, your hair styled, your manners impeccable, and your manner suave. You can automatically fit into any social gathering and never make faux pas. Any accusers tend to be seen as lying villains and your actions are generally seen in the best possible light. Any legal or social troubles are automatically reduced by one level in severity and you are an extremely credible witness. If there are any rolls involved in such things you gain a +6 bonus.
  • Inspiring Presence/Glamour (constant): Every ally within 30 feet gains a +1 Morale Bonus to attacks, weapon damage, saves, and checks. You may spend 3 Power and a Standard Action to increase this bonus to +2 for 3d6 rounds or to counter fear and/or negative morale effects.
  • Instant Inclusion/The Inner Eye: You have an amazing knack for finding friends, both new and old. You may call on up to (Base Cha/2) character points worth of Contacts and Favors during each adventure without having actually purchased them and may make Gather Information checks in a mere ten minutes.
  • Intuitive Operator/Witchsight (constant): You know how to properly operate any device you come across. This does not necessarily mean that you have any idea what it DOES, but you intuitively know what to do to make it work. You enjoy a +6 bonus on any rolls to operate a vehicle or otherwise operate machinery.
  • Kangaroo Pouch/Shadowweave (constant): You gain a +20 Circumstance Bonus on any attempts to conceal objects around your person and may employ Call Item at the 100 GP level up to once per round.
  • Lay Of The Land/Witchsight: You may sense what you would have learned if you had taken the time to search an area throughly, gone through a stack of books to research a topic, or spent an hour interrogating a suspect or checking their computer files – effectively substituting a moments glance for several hours of effort. Even better, this does not disturb the area and gives no external sign of what you’re doing. It does not, however, obviate the need for the relevant skill checks and costs 1 Power each time you use it.
  • Linguistic Acquisition/The Inner Eye: If you can spend five minutes in the company of someone who speaks or reads a language (and who isn’t shielding their mind against you) you may expend 1 Power to pick up that language. If you wish to maintain it, you must spend 1 power per day – although contact with the source is no longer necessary unless you let it drop. If you maintain it for thirty days or more, you may “forget” and old language and substitute the new one for it permanently.
  • Longevity/Hyloka (constant): Aging has little effect on you; you do not suffer attribute penalties for middle age until old age, do not suffer old age penalties until you are venerable, and are treated as having obtained the greatest possible result + 1d (of whatever type the roll normally uses) for your maximum age. Thanks to your many experiences, three times per day you may apply a +4 Insight Bonus to any in-game roll, this does not require an action. Yes, this overlaps with Draught of Eternity; this is for characters who are just extraordinarily healthy and vigorous, not semi-immortal.
  • Medium/Dreamfaring: You may sense the presence of the dead (constant) or – given something linked to a deceased individual – hold a seance. This requires the expenditure of 2d4 Power which the spirit, if it chooses to appear at all, may draw on to power witchcraft effects of its own. Most spirits are willing to talk to a medium, even if it’s only to mock and threaten them, and they generally don’t know (or won’t admit to knowing) anything that they didn’t know in life.
  • Mind Over Body/Hyloka: You possess an utterly unnatural ability to manipulate your physical form. You may contort and compress your flesh to achieve a +12 bonus on Escape Artist checks at no cost, fit yourself into a container capable of holding your volume (about 100 liters or 3.5 cubic feet) for 1 Power/Hour, squeeze through cracks, crevices, and pipes as small as four inches in diameter (2 power per 30 feet or part thereof), or temporarily suppress your Constitution Score (taking on the attributes of a “creature” with no constitution score, including picking up size-based HP and losing any constitution-based bonus hit points) for 3 Power for one minute. All of these require a Standard Action.
  • My God That’s A Big Gun/Infliction: Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (three times the base damage) /requires an especially prepared material focus (worth 100 GP), can only be used three times per session. Yes, you can pull out your rarely-used missile launcher, wand of disruption, death ray, or similar every so often.
  • Mystic Adept/Various: You have one Basic Witch Ability in unmodified form. This is rare, and no heroic pulp character will have more than one such general ability. Basic Witchcraft is simply too flexible to fit into
  • Outrun The Fireball/Hand Of Shadows: Once per minute you may spend 6 Power as an Immediate Action to accomplish some incredible acrobatic stunt powered by telekinesis as well as musculature. You may dart across a rooftop to grab someone who has just fallen off before they fall, reach the ground fifteen floors below by safely by “bouncing” back and forth between two buildings, snatch a parachute, dive out of a plane, catch up with someone who’s falling while you put your parachute on, grab them, and open your chute dramatically close to the ground, or run up a wall, tumble over your opponents, and reach the self-destruct button before they can fire their city-destroying death ray. You cannot, however, directly attack or interfere with anyone who’s unwilling while accomplishing this maneuver.
  • Papers Please/Glamour: You may spend a Standard Action to attempt to convince up to six people that you do indeed have proper authorization for whatever you’re up to. Sadly, those who save will not be convinced and cannot be affected again for at least an hour.
  • Perfect Healing/Hyloka (constant): You can slowly heal from any injury that you can survive for an hour or more – although the process of regrowing a leg, or healing a major traumatic brain injury, or similar injuries may require months. Permanent attribute drain is treated as attribute damage and negative levels never become permanent.

And next time around on this topic… the rest of the Advanced Pulp Powers List, Pulp Drugs, and some Pulp Archetypes.

Subsidized Magic Part I – Guards and Armies

And for today it’s the start of an answer to another question…

It recently occurred to me to ask to what extent a local government might be inclined to subsidize magic items for characters that work for it?

While most NPC government workers wouldn’t need that many magic items to begin with, those with combat-related professions likely would, such as city guards. While armies don’t make that much sense under the d20 System’s assumptions (as higher-level characters can effectively overpower large numbers of lower-level ones), a lot of places still seem to have them, particularly if there’s a concern about covering large amounts of territory and subjugating a large but geographically diverse number of low-level creatures. So the idea of outfitting a police/military/similar force doesn’t seem to be entirely meritless. From the Romans to today, most militaries don’t expect you to bring your own gear.

The issue with this is that it seems to run up against the underlying presumptions of the d20 System, which is that wealth (at least insofar as the gear value of items is concerned) is a measurement of personal power, emphasis on “personal.” Having gear loaned out to you by the state throws that out of whack. If a rich government is invading a culture where most everyone knows some low-level spell effects, then it might make sense for them to equip all of their soldiers with a +1 breastplate of spell resistance (19), but each of those costs 36,750 gp, which is far and away more than an army of 3rd-level NPCs should be able to individually afford.

The compromise would seem to be that your wealth-by-level value would presumably cover subsidized gear (e.g. that lower-level characters are (not) given very much because they’re not very valuable individuals), and that the issue of that being “subsidized” rather than personal is little more than flavor text that never actually comes into play. The problem is that this still necessarily runs up into metagame limits on the equipment that a government-sponsored force (under this idea) would have, rather than taking into account a verisimilitude-based accounting of what would actually be most useful for them and what would be plausible for the government to be able/inclined to invest in their troops. (Having an Eclipse-based answer, such as taking Major Privilege/government-sponsored gear, helps to reduce this down to the cost of a feat or so, but simply moves the cost to CP rather than gp.)

Overall, there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer to this, besides saying that such funds would be better spent elsewhere.

-Alzrius

There are two major pieces to this question. First up, we have giving the general military – guards, patrolling troops, and so on – magical gear. Secondly, there’s how such a system might affect Adventurer’s and other special characters magical resources.

We’ll need to break that first part down quite a bit more.

So… How much does equipping soldiers cost in the first place?

It sounds awfully silly today, but for a very long time troops were indeed expected to supply their own armor and much or all of their gear. Thus the early Athenian army poor men went unarmored as Psiloi (usually carrying nice cheap javelins, spears, slings, or – very rarely – bows), those who could afford a full infantry kit went as Hoplites, and the wealthy (who could afford horses and armor) went as Hippeis (cavalry). Incidentally, Hippeis could also usually afford to stay out of most of the fighting and thus avoid being killed. It was good to be wealthy!

Of course, that tells us nothing at all about how much wealth that really represented in a citizens life. I suspect that no one really has enough detailed information on the economy of ancient Athens to give a satisfactory answer to that question these days.

Roman Legionaries needed to bring pretty much all of their own equipment until the late republic period – and they weren’t really supplied by the state until Augustus. Of course, they were pretty generously paid to enable them to buy their own gear while still supporting their families (at least to some extent; the later tendency to destroy families finances while the men were away fighting really messed things up in the long term). Depending on whether or not there was a war on Rome spent fifty to eighty percent of its budget on the military (in 2015 the USA spent between 18 and 20% of its budget on the military depending on what you count – more than the next eight most expensive militaries on earth combined) – but the Roman military only employed about 2% of the adult male population or less than .4% of the population overall. A d20 world might well do the same – d20 civilizations are at LEAST as threatened as Rome – but they’ll have to cut back on the numbers substantially to afford much in the way of (very expensive) magic. A prosperous city of 100,000 might support a roman-style military of 300-400 men – or 30-40 men with 6000-8000 GP worth of supplied magical gear each.

Oops! We’ve basically gone back to first edition, with one-in-one-thousand being a possible henchman or adventurer and less than half of those actually active in such pursuits. Well… first edition WAS very heavily influenced by the “historical simulation” gamers.

Similarly, the men in most feudal armies had to supply much of their own gear – which is why padded armor was so common; a mans mother, wife, or sister could throw that together in short order, and hope that it would keep their relative alive. Even layers of cloth stuffed with rags was a lot better than nothing.

With armor that was relatively understandable (if not nice). Is one guy too poor to afford good (or any) armor? Well, it sucks to be poor. That’s nothing new. Is someone who can afford it still too cheap or stupid to properly maintain their armor? If it makes a difference, then it’s their own fault and the loss is small. At least as importantly… two guys in mismatched armor are a lot easier to train and drill than two guys with mismatched weaponry. Armor was a LOT less important than a good shield through much of history anyway.

Weapons were supplied a lot more often. After all, when it came to weapons… trying to train a group armed with a random selection of old swords, spears, knives, javelins, clubs, and repurposed tools was and is a NIGHTMARE – and usually turns out to be very expensive for what you get out of them on the battlefield. It’s good enough for irregular troops, but irregular warfare was a lot less effective in classical warfare.

Why was that do you ask? Well…

A modern commander most often wants to occupy an area, control it, and – if possible – treat it as a resource. He or she wants to maintain order, to keep the farms and production facilities operating, and avoid massacres of women, children, and noncombatants. Such a commander can be readily opposed by irregular warfare. Groups of guerilla fighters can gain supplies, recruits, information, and other support from the locals that they represent even as they conceal themselves amongst them and can – over time – greatly increase the costs of occupation, perhaps even making it unsustainable or diverting troops and thus contributing to defeats elsewhere.

A classical commander who wanted to ship the useful women, children, and noncombatants home as slaves, exterminate everyone else, loot the area, poison the water sources, burn the fields and settlements to the ground, and sow the ground with salt so that no one could live there again for a generation… couldn’t be opposed by irregular warfare. If you wanted there to be anything left of your homes or families in a week or two you needed to face and defeat his or her army in open battle. In the face of that kind of enemy there was no time for irregular warfare.

Lets consider some quotations.

  • “I destroyed them, tore down the wall, and burned the town with fire. I caught the survivors and impaled them on stakes in front of their town.”
  • “Pillars of skulls I erected in front of the towns.”
  • “I fed their corpses, cut into small pieces, to dogs, pigs, and vultures.”
  • “I slowly tore off their skins”.
  • “Of some I cut off the hands and limbs; of others the noses, ears, and arms. Of many soldiers I put out the eyes.”
  • “I flayed them and covered with their skins the walls of the town.”
    • -Translated from various Assyrian monuments by Pritchard and Champdor.

And that sort of leadership was why the principle that “you must meet them in battle” (since irregular warfare did not work unless you were doing it in the enemies home country) went unquestioned for a long time even after nations started to have some scruples about such tactics and irregular warfare started to become practical.

Secondarily, few governments wanted (or want today) anyone and everyone to have easy access to military weapons. There are a few places – like Switzerland – that made or make it work to some extent, but it isn’t normal.

So weapons, shields, and basic supplies like food and such (since troops were useless without such things), were usually issued.

That still doesn’t tell us much about the actual costs though.

Looking to the d20 rules for answers… is a bit odd.

According to Pathfinders Downtime Rules it costs 220 GP (or 44 apiece) to add a squad of five soldiers to your army. Each comes equipped with Scale Mail (50 GP), a Longsword (15 GP), a Heavy Wooden Shield (7 GP), and Javelins (1 GP each, number unspecified) – and rather than having to be paid, they provide an income (1.5 GP/Day) for you. OK, that’s 147 days to start making a profit – but reinvest in more troops and the magic of compound interest gets you 558% growth a year. This obviously does not work, so I’m going to skip this bit; it makes even less sense than most d20 rules.

According to the SRD, the salaries for “Trained Hirelings” (including mercenary warriors) start at 3 SP/Day, but may be “significantly higher”. That doesn’t say what equipment they come with either. Do they come with normal gear for their professions and levels like followers do? How much extra money will they want? Who knows?

Well, your basic craftsman or professional earns about 1 GP/Day. That’s probably about what your basic guard makes, albeit with lots of little kickbacks and graft on top (unless we go with “the guards are notoriously underpaid” idea, which has some justification). If the job is supposed to be dangerous, two to three times that. If it’s adventurous… at least ten times that (and even then it’s mostly “guard the camp” stuff; guards and mercenaries are not there to be heroes). For basic gear… Studded Leather (25 GP) or Chain Shift (100 GP), Heavy Wooden Shield (7 GP), Shortsword (10 GP)… three to five months salary should cover a decent gear package. You’ll need to subsidize that if you’re recruiting a new guard, although part of the cost can be taken from their salary if they don’t want to turn the stuff back in when they retire.

Is that reasonable?

  • About the earliest actual hard costs I can find for equipping a basic soldier are from World War II, where it apparently cost about one and a half weeks salary ($15 ro $25 or $200-$400 after inflation) to equip a basic US infantryman. Of course, that is after industrialization, with little armor, and with cheap-and-reliable firearms – which tells us very little about quasi-medieval fantasy settings.
  • By the 1970’s – after throwing in a flak jacket and some new weaponry – that cost was up to around $2000 after inflation. That was still pretty cheap – roughly half a months salary (again, as adjusted for inflation) for an average person.
  • A few years ago it was about $20,000 after (much less) inflation. That’s probably our best comparison, because it’s now starting to include a bunch of pricey special-purpose, gear, body armor, and fairly expensive weapons – which seems very roughly comparable to equipping a classical man-at-arms. About four to five months wages at the mean salary.
  • All right; the d20 SRD-based estimate isn’t totally unreasonable, so it should be good enough to play with.

For a full-sized army there are notable economies of scale, and no extra cost for danger (danger is a fact of life in d20 worlds in any case) since you’re paying all the time and any danger is very likely to be occasional. So I’ll call that 100 GP/Year for maintaining a professional soldier. So a professional army of 5000 men… will cost half a million gold pieces per year.

This kind of expense is why the legions soaked up everything that the Roman Empire could come up with and were always looking for more – and why feudal armies were normally called up for the length of their service obligations and no longer. It’s just as insupportable in d20. If you’ve got that kind of money to spend on military matters you invest in high-level adventurers and let them handle things. In the real world an army could often get you money. In d20… not so much.

Now if we go with the city magic warlord trick… it’s 120,000 GP to deploy an army consisting of 12,000 L2 Veteran Troopers, 800 Grizzled L3 Sergeants to command squads of 15 Troopers each, and 100 L4 Dashing Captains to command Companies of 8 Squads each – all properly, if mundanely, equipped for their levels.

Of course, with a warlord it’s a one-time cost coming out of their wealth-by-level – but, after all, an army can usually get you some money. It just isn’t often enough to actually pay for itself. At the worst, if they’re not fighting, you can put them to work as field engineers and such. That’s one reason why the Warlord trick doesn’t have any kind of an upkeep cost.

So lets double that cost. That will give each man… an extra 9 GP worth of gear. An increase of 1.5% if spent directly. That’s fairly useless. It would cost 645,000 GP to get each man a Cure Light Wounds potion (who would produce them anyway?), let alone something worthwhile. (This, of course, also tells us that the d20 economy makes no sense, but I’ve been over THAT).

What about the cheap options using Magical Businesses? A Shrine of War can maintain 1200 +5 enchantments for a mere 36,000 GP – 30 GP per weapon. That might even work if you got bundles of arrows. At an effective cost of .6 GP each (or less if you pay for the Shrine over time), you could keep each man supplied with ten of them for a mere 77,400 GP.

Looking at the costs for a magical Tattoo Parlor… no, we’re back in the millions again.

There simply is no way to permanently equip even a modest army with really useful amounts of magic in d20 unless you use a Ward Major (from The Practical Enchanter) with an appropriate Distant Gift, use Eclipse-Style Leadership to give them all some positive levels, teach them all Innate Enchantment (Eclipse again), or employ some similar trick – which is mostly back to personal power again. You can use Dominion (again, from Eclipse) to temporarily give them some positive levels, possibly including some magical talents – but that’s still personal power and even then it’s only temporary.

You could give the city guard a few items that they hand around from shift to shift – but City Enchantments and Wards Major are better for that.

Like it or not, magic item prices in d20 are designed to allow the characters to find huge, exciting, treasures, deal in heaps of gold and fabulous jewels, and be incredibly rich, while still having personal stuff to spend that money on – and items that are out of reach.

And when magic items are intentionally set up as a manifestation of incredible wealth, success, and personal power, it’s pretty much impossible to rationalize handing them around to ordinary folk without wrecking the assumptions of the game.