Eclipse And Sphere Magic – The Sphere Of Blood, A.K.A. “Bloodbending”

This inquiry was about constructing a Spheres of Power character – in particular, a user of the Blood Sphere.

That’s a system where characters are generally limited to a relatively small selection of effects in a few narrow themes but can use the basic effects (usually equivalent to fairly specialized spells of level three or less) as much as they want. They also get a relatively small number of spell points available to boost those effects up to the equivalent of spells of levels 4-6. Finally, there are a number of specific talents and boosts they can pick up – mostly equivalent to specialized feats -to improve their magic.

Honestly, there are already a LOT of ways to dabble in thematic magic in Eclipse, and ways to pick up specific specialized boosts. Still, it’s boring to do things the same way again and the request was to pretty much match the original system – so here is yet another way to build this sort of thing.

First up, Spheres Of Power gives characters (Level + Casting Attribute Modifier) “Spell Points” to boost them up with. To buy those spell points take…

  • 6d6 (24) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (12 CP) / only for Spell Enhancement or Rune Blood Magic, only to upgrade Blood Spells, each spell only allows a specific set of seven (I like seven, so why not?) Upgraded functions. As usual, no more than three points of Mana may be spent upgrading any single spell.
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (6 CP) / only to recharge the restricted Mana Pool above, takes at least half an hour of rest per die.

Well, that was cheap. Most characters will probably want more spell points and recovery thereof, but that’s not hard to get.

Next up we need to buy the actual abilities – which the Spheres Of Power system seems to mostly limit to third to fourth level effects. A few individual effects may hit higher levels, but they’re usually special cases and have various special conditions attached to them.

One way to make such a character in Eclipse is to take Rune Magic (the “Blood Casting” and “Blood Mastery” skills, for 2 SP/Level), take Shaping (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/ only to produce level one effects in an extremely narrow field, only works with specific spell effects approved by the game master, requires gestures and spellcasting to use (although that also gives us “Caster Level = User’s Hit Dice” automatically) (6 CP).

Please note that, in some cases, I’m just going to substitute something better for the abilities listed for the Sphere Of Blood. That’s because the Sphere of Blood includes some implicit assumptions about “biology” having something to do with “life” in d20. It doesn’t, or you couldn’t use the same healing spells that work on humans on elementals and such. In d20 a human can father a mostly-human kid on a mass of fire or rock – or on a ghost. You can cross-breed almost anything. Face it. Real-world “biology” has nothing to do in D20 beyond getting frustrated and going to cry in a corner.

We’ll also add the Arcanum Minimus metamagical feat from The Practical Enchanter, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to Shaped effects, always applies to shaped effects (2 CP) – allowing affected spells to be cast at a reduced level if they are sufficiently limited. In this case, Blood Sphere spells only work on creatures with blood and creatures inherently immune to bleed damage cannot be targeted unless they have fed on living blood within the last hour. Other special conditions may apply to particular effects

That gives us effects with a base effective power level of level two spells – with additional special requirements commonly boosting the base spell up to something equivalent to level three (which I’ll be taking as the default). Common enhancement options include:

  • Continuing (+1/2/3 Mana to have the effect continue for one round/minute/hour per caster level without concentration).
  • Multiple (+1/2/3 Mana, effect strikes up to 2/4/8 targets).
  • Area (+1/2/3 Mana for 5′ Radius or 10′ Cone, 20′ Radius or 30′ Cone, or 30′ Radius or 60′ Cone).

and

  • Range (+1 Range Category for +1 Mana).

Note that enhancements can be applied up to a total of 3 Mana, so there is nothing wrong with combining them until that limit is reached.

  • Save DC’s are normally (13 + Mana Spent + Casting Attribute Modifier). Dedicated bloodbenders will buy Improved Augmented Bonus (12 CP) to add a second attribute modifier to this.

So lets define those effects:

Beasts Of Blood: You may cause a temporary Construct to rise from the blood of a recently-slain creature of at least medium size within close range (no more than once per corpse). This is a Psychic Construct I to III (your choice, as per The Practical Enchanter), with a duration of Concentration. It can leave the creation range. You can control no more than twice your Caster Level in hit dice of constructs at any one time although you can merge two of them (choosing which “survives”) to add the sacrificed constructs remaining hit points to the one that “survives”. The Continuing option is available.

  • +1 Mana: Construct IV. Summon a Hemo-Goblin from a currently bleeding targets blood*.
  • +2 Mana: Construct V. Add one Construct Option of each rank (A, B, and C) to your construct.
  • +3 Mana: Construct VI. Summon up to four Hemo-Goblins from currently bleeding targets blood, still only one per target*.

*A Hemo-Goblin has the base states of an otherwise ordinary goblin. It appears in a space adjacent to the target. It gains a (Caster Level) bonus to its armor class, attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks and fights the target to the death. It will relentlessly pursue the target if they try to run. It vanishes after a full day, when slain, or if the target dies, whichever comes first. It will not do anything save pursue and fight the target but always knows the targets general location – not that it will tell anyone. Only one can be created for any given target at a time. This, of course, is from the Spheres Of Power Wiki – and is a sufficiently horrible pun that I just could not leave it out even if the effect actually makes little or no sense.

Blood Spider’s Weave: Target takes 1d4/Two Caster Levels and is Entangled. A Fortitude save negates the Entangled part. The Entanglement persists for (Concentration + 1d4) rounds or the target spends a move action to save again successfully. The Continuing, Multiple, Area, and Range Options are available.

  • +1 Mana: When the caster takes damage the target also takes damage, up to 1 point/caster level/round.
  • +2 Mana: The damage continues each round until the entanglement is broken. The user may force the target to remain still or to take a 5′ step as the caster directs each round.
  • +3 Mana: None.

Bloodlore: Within close range you may learn the targets state of health, current and maximum hit points, and other physical health information, such as diseases and toxins present, although a Fortitude save applies if the target wishes to resist. Range and Multiple apply.

  • +1 Mana: Relieve Illness/Poison (Hedge Wizardry). Enhance Disease/Poison (Victim gets an extra dose of the deleterious effect).
  • +2 Mana: Expel Disease/Poison. Blood Sense (Blindsensing of creatures with blood within a 30′ radius).
  • +3 Mana: Bestow Curse.

Blood Spray: Given a source of uncontained blood within close range, you can telekinetically manipulate it. A flask of blood, 2d6 HP worth of the user’s blood, or blood drawn in combat will do, but using blood this way renders it unfit for further use. This allows you to perform a variety of simple tricks (laying a trail, pushing a button, closing a door, etc) using the blood as a tool or allowing you to perform a Ranged Combat Maneuver at +4. The Range and Mass modifiers apply.

  • +1 Mana: Blood Alchemy (add an alchemical effect up to 50 GP), Obscuring Blood (Mist)
  • +2 Mana: Blood Link (you are effectively grasping the target until it’s removed).
  • +3 Mana: Blood Shield (grant 2 x caster level temporary hit points), Stinking Cloud

Coagulation: The user may take 2d6 damage to create any mundane item (or group of related items, such as a bow and arrows or the pieces of a suit of armor,which can be created in place) valued at up to 500 GP. Such items are enchanted with Greater Magic Weapon or the equivalent (Greater Magic Armor, or Greater Magic Tool) but will fade from existence a few moments after the caster lets go of them. The Continuing option applies to keep items around after they would normally disappear.

  • +1 Mana: The item is effectively made of Adamant, Mithril, or another GM-Approved special material.
  • +2 Mana: The items “Plusses” may be expended on specific powers, although the GM may rule that some will not work.
  • +3 Mana: The user may control the item within close range as if he or she was using it normally. He or she might thus create a suit of armor and walk it into an area to check for traps.

Conduit Of Life: A weapon anointed with 2d6 HP worth of blood or which has wounded an opponent within the last five rounds may be manipulated by virtue of that blood, being granted the Bane (versus the type of creature the blood came from) and Whirling properties. The Continuing modifier may be applied.

  • +1 Mana: Add the Brutal Surge or Corrosive property.
  • +2 Mana: Add the Enervating or Vampyric property.
  • +3 Mana: Add the Bodyfeeder or Implacable property.

Crystals Of Blood: You may crystalize blood, causing an opponent to take (2d6 +1d6/two caster levels to a maximum of 12d6) damage and be staggered for a round. Being internal and made of the targets own tissues, this bypassed DR and temporary hit points. This may be used as a ranged touch attack ray or allow a fortitude save to half the damage and negate the staggering effect. The Area and Multiple modifiers apply.

  • +1 Mana: Add (Casting Attribute Modifier) rounds of being staggered to the damage.
  • +2 Mana: Boost damage to (2 + Caster Level)d6, 20d6 maximum. Add “victim takes 3d6 bleed damage per round for (Casting Attribute Modifier) rounds” to the effect.
  • +3 Mana: Change Of State: If the victim dies, their blood remains crystalized until the crystals are broken, and may be readily collected and saved for later use. Blood Talisman: Using 1d6 HP worth of crystalized blood from a creature you may grant up to (Caster Level / 2, 12 maximum) CP worth of abilities from that creature to whoever carries that crystal for the next hour. Sadly, only one such talisman can be used at a time by any given creature and the blood vanishes after the duration expires.

Hemorrhagic Command: As long as you concentrate, the target must make a Fortitude Save each round as a standard action to avoid being forced to perform some simple physical action instead of their intended action(s) – although this causes considerable bruising. The victim can forego this save to act mentally. The Continuing and Multiple modifiers may be applied.

  • +1 Mana: Provide a +10 bonus to a physical movement skill (EG: Jump, Running Speed, Tumble, etc). Provide the “Compression” ability
  • +2 Mana: Override Paralysis, casting without need for physical movement and moving yourself.
  • +3 Mana: Induce the equivalent of Nausea, for (Concentration + 2d4) rounds. A Fort save reduces this to Sickened. Cause 3d6 Constitution damage, but a Fortitude save reduces this to 6d6 normal damage.

Sanguine Mastery: With concentration you can manipulate another creatures blood within Close range. You may cause bleeding (1 Point/Caster Level) or grant resistance to bleeding (1 + Level/3 points, bleeding attacks must roll Caster Level or (for nonmagical bleeding attacks) BAB + 1d20 against your Caster Level + 10 or be negated). A Fort Save, a lapse in concentration, or any of the usual methods will stop the bleeding. The Multiple, Area, and Continuing options are all available.

  • +1 Mana: Spell impedes a sense, causing a 20% miss chance or inflicting some similar penalty. The victim is effectively Greased while the bleeding continues.
  • +2 Mana: Spell negates a sense while the bleeding continues. Double the Bleeding Damage or the protective effect.
  • +3 Mana: None.

The Blood Is The Life: You may manipulate life force, either causing or removing the Dazzled, Deafened, Fatigued or Staggered conditions while you concentrate and for an additional 2d4 rounds. The Continuing, Multiple, Area, and Range modifiers are all applicable.

  • +1 Mana: Add Blinded, Exhausted, and Surged (Gain an extra attack or AoO) to the list.
  • +2 Mana: Add Diseased (pick one), Poisoned (1d6/1d6 Con), Confused, Nauseated, and Hasted / Slowed to the list.
  • +3 Mana: Add Energy Drained and Paralyzed to the list.

This one hung me up for a while – but then I realized that, in my general fondness for “realistic”, simulationist, systems, I was trying too hard; d20 “biology” runs on magic and positive energy, not on earthly notions about how bodies actually work, making this just a “modify conditions” effect.

Transfusion: Once per round as a free action the user may transfer any Bleed Damage taken by a creature in close range to another creature in close range as temporary hit points. The Multiple option is available.

  • +1 Mana: Add 1d2 Con Damage to the Bleed. Heal beneficiary by (Hit Dice of Victim x Con Damage). This won’t work on creatures with no Con.
  • +2 Mana: Drain 1d4 Mana OR 2d4 Spell Levels OR 3d4 Power from the victim. Transfer a poison or disease from one victim to another. Vampiric Touch using d8’s.
  • +3 Mana: Transfer Mana/Spell Levels/Power from the victim instead of draining them. Blood Brotherhood / link two willing targets together so that, as long as they remain within medium range of each other, they have a common pool of hit points.

While there may be something I missed, one final item from the Sphere Of Blood is Immunity to Bleed Damage. Personally I’d take that as an Innate Enchantment (Cure Minor Wounds Cantrip, x.7 Personal Only x.6 only to automatically stop wounds from bleeding, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 420 GP. About half a CP worth of Innate Enchantment.

There are various special modifiers you can buy – but Eclipse offers an immense variety of special modifiers to buy. Get what you like.

Now that entire package comes out to 38.5 CP and 46 SP – although you’ll probably want to buy a few of those thematic extras along the way which will increase the cost to around 50.5 CP. In practice I would probably just pay a little more, go freeform to begin with, and save the bother of writing up the base effects – but that wasn’t what the request was for.

In any case, this is still pretty cheap; you could complete the basic components of the Sphere of Blood in about five levels without much of a strain. That’s because the Spheres were designed to bring Spellcasters down to a desired power level – the equivalent of “Tier 3″, where most of the martial classes tended to hang out. Sure, the system boosts the save DC’s a bit, but it pretty much eliminates the vastly powerful high-level magic shenanigans and a great deal of the versatility.

Eclipse, on the other hand, was designed to let martial characters, and skillmasters, and other types of characters, be just as effective as the clerics and wizards. After all, how could I say that “you can build any kind of character that you want” and then tell people “except that I’m taking away a lot of the spellcasters toys so you can’t build them”?

So very limited power sets are kind of cheap in Eclipse. After all, there has to be SOME reason to take them instead of full-blown spellcasting. Thus, while Eclipse will build pretty much any power set you want, there’s one thing that it definitely WON’T do. By itself, it will not limit the characters to fit a particular setting, power level, or style of play. After all, if it did… it would not be letting you build pretty much any power set would it? Thus, while the basic Shaping / Arcanum Minimus / Spell Enhancement combination as shown above sticks reasonably closely to the limitations of Spheres Of Power, there are ways around that. Most obviously… if a character pursues the Rune Magic option long enough they WILL eventually be able to cast improvised spells of above ninth level within that field, even if they will want to buy a bunch more Mana to do it with. As always, it is sometimes up the the game master to say “No”.

Eclipse, Spelljamming, and Cosmic Voyages

The ornate helm is a thing of beauty. Wrought of blue-green metal and ornamented with a tracery of tiny black opals, it is hard to say if it suggests the surface of the sea at night or the night sky. It is clearly a treasure of great price even before it is touched – but when it is touched, to the heart it sings the music of the spheres, a song of travel and distant worlds. The mana within it burns with the need to take flight, and sail the seas of space once more.

Today, it’s something that’s come up recently – a relic of a lost world created by a long-dead god from the dreams of his (or her?) followers, for – thanks to the Eclipse’s “Infusion” ability – gods often wind up creating religious relics, granting powers to their followers, and developing strange divine attributes based on their followers beliefs.

Crown Of Worlds (Also known as the Helm Of Stars and by many other names) (4 CP Relic):

  • One Level of Cleric Of Madai Package Deal Spellcasting (10 CP): As usual, using this requires making a fairly serious commitment to the service of Madai (at the moment, that mostly means gathering what little is known about him or her and working towards his or her resurrection). As usual, the package deal includes two Paths/Domains, their accompanying “Domain Powers”, Spell Conversion (to the spells from the Cosmic Voyager Domain. It is important to note that any spell the user happens to have available can be converted – not just clerical spells), and the usual set of Domain Spell Slots.

The Cosmic Voyager Domain:

Within the cosmic deeps, the elemental forces of reality – whatever those may be in any given part of the multiverse – run riot, unrestrained by the presence of stars, worlds, and life. Still, voyagers seek to penetrate those depths, searching out whatever lies beyond. For those who feel that call, the Cosmic Voyager domain will answer.

Granted Power: Superstition (6 CP). Characters with this domain may prepare clerical spells of up to level four even in realms where the power they draw upon has no presence – or even if it does not currently exist.

  • L1: Locate Self: Identifies your current location in some detail, most often starting with identifying your current plane of existence and galaxy.
  • L2: Locate Portal: Locates the nearest ship-sized hyperspace jump gate, stargate, crystal portal, wormhole, nexus, or similar location, regardless of the form such things take within a particular realm or crystal sphere.
  • L3: Key Portal: Opens an existent, but currently-closed, stargate, crystal portal, or similar long enough for a ship to pass through it.
  • L4: Hidden Paths: Cloaks a ship against detection, providing a +15 insight bonus to Stealth attempts (using the pilots base skill) for the next hour.
  • L5: Shipway: Opens a ship-scale portal through realm barriers, allowing entry to, or exit from, hyperspace, subspace, astral space, or other planes – although the accuracy is poor, there is no guarantee of safe arrival conditions, things can follow you through, it can take up to ten minutes, and you are limited to those planes associated with the local reality.
  • L6: Arcane Modulation: Allows weaponry and spells to operate normally in poor conditions for up to an hour. You could fire lasers through ionized gas, plasma weapons underwater, kinetic weapons through a raging storm, or use incendiary weapons safely in a flammable medium. This normally affects a ship and all aboard it, but can be used to simply affect a 30′ radius.
  • L7: Planar Sphere: Alters certain planar traits around a ship to maintain “normal” conditions for the caster and vessel for one day.
  • L8: Warp Bubble: Allows a ship to reach worlds and regions that lack normal access routes. The voyage may require several subjective days and occasionally involves strange encounters along the way. There have been reports of time travel when the lengthy casting time of this spell is rushed, but those are difficult to confirm; there seem to be many random factors involved.
  • L9: Atheric Slipstream: Allows a ship extremely high-speed travel – sufficient for long-range interstellar travel and intergalactic travel given time. The exact time required is set by the game master, but even crossing a galaxy is fairly fast.

The Spelljammer Domain:

Ships that sail between the stars must be even more prepared for anything than those that traverse mere distant seas – and so this domain exists to allow sufficiently skillful captains to meet any contingency. A truly powerful Spelljammer Captain can guide his or her ship to harbor through incredible perils, always, somehow, bringing it safely home.

Granted Power: Spell Conversion (To the Spells of This Domain, 6 CP). With full spontaneous access to both the Cosmic Voyager and Spelljammer Domains, a powerful Captain can indeed be ready for anything!

  • L1: Evaluate Cargo: Allows you to evaluate the value and difficulties involved in transporting a given cargo – including things like hatching monster eggs, stowaways, and other troubles.
  • L2: Planetary Scan: Provides basic information on a planet from orbital range. This includes it’s general elemental conditions, whether intelligent life is present, and a quick description of it’s biosphere.
  • L3: Atheric Blast: Fires a 5′ wide line of energy with a LOS range of several thousand miles, but only functions in space. Attempts at planetary bombardment affect a single space, and only work if the caster is of very high level, with how high is required dependent on the planet.
  • L4: Aetheric Wind Mastery: Functions as Control Wind for the currents of space, only in space.
  • L5: Asteroid Field: Creates a dangerous barrier – roughly equivalent to a Wall Of Fire that takes a bit of time to reverse and lasting one minute per level after concentration ceases – on ship scales, but only functions in space. Interestingly, each caster tends to have their own unique variant.
  • L6: Aetheric Sail: Allows a ships sails to catch atheric winds for a day – creating dimensional distortions that allow flight, provide a form of “artificial gravity”, and hold an atmosphere bubble around it. Unfortunately, this works like sailing a ship in unpredictable weather with a crew that generally cannot see it – leaving the vessel subject to solar storms, unfavorable “winds”, and requiring a full crew and a skillful commander to maneuver effectively. Developing an appropriate piloting skill is highly recommended.
  • L7: Make And Mend: Performs basic repairs on a shipwide basis, renews a depleted atmosphere bubble, and replenishes and restocks minor supplies, such as rope, canvas, and water.
  • L8: Atheric Broadside: Allows a ships weapons to fire up to (Caster’s Level, 24 Max) Atheric Blasts, although no individual weapon may fore more than once per round.
  • L9: Atheric Shield: Wraps a ship in a sphere of force, preventing boarding, teleportation aboard unless the caster permits it, the effects of breath weapons and environmental conditions, and reducing all damage by 75% for the next ten minutes – although a close-range Disintegration attack will bring down the shield.

While these two domains may not be entirely unique to Madai, they certainly aren’t common.

Tapping The Emergency Reserves:

  • 1d6 (4) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Spell Enhancement, only for the Domain Spells listed above (2 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only ro recharge the Spell Enhancement Pool above, only works between encounters (4 CP).

This combination allows a captain to push the limits of his or her powers – spending mana to reduce the effective level of a spell for casting purposes by up to three levels. Thus, for example, a captain capable of casting only third level spells could still use the sixth level Atheric Sails effect to get his or her vessel into space.

Returning, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to the Helm itself (2 CP). A Crown Of Worlds / Helm Of Stars is close to indestructible, unless very special measures are taken to get rid of it. Of course they’re incredibly valuable items in any case, so it’s rather rare for anyone to try to destroy one.

Witchcraft II, Specialized for Reduced Cost (6 CP) / not cumulative with other Witchcraft abilities, does not provide Power if user has other Witchcraft abilities and will usurp at least (Cha Mod) power as a reserve to provide repairs for it’s ship construct if needed, user must be a follower of Madai, and must provide at least a vehicle framework to focus these powers through.

  • Witchsight: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: The user may employ skills on space-vessel scales – using Survival for space navigation or tracking other ships, Spot to scan solar systems and planetary surfaces, Listen to hear broadcasts, Knowledge / Nature to determine planetary environments, Stealth to try and sneak his or her vessel past opponents, and so on, at no Power cost – but may not use this for other effects or except when aboard a suitable vessel.
  • The Inner Eye: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: The user may borrow a bit of skill at a language from whoever he or she is speaking to at no Power cost, bypassing language barriers as long as the mode of communication is something he or she can use and the target is neither shielded nor inherently uncomprehensible, but may not use this for other effects.
  • Hand of Shadows: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / The user can effectively operate, maintain, or repair a vessel with a fairly minimal crew, especially in dramatic situations, at no Power cost – but cannot use the Hand of Shadows for other effects.
  • Witchcraft/Path of Fire/The Birth of Flames. Corrupted for Increased Effect (Construct IX) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / Creates a vehicle (3 CP). Vehicles do not get their own actions; they must be operated by pilots, drivers, gunners, and other crewmen using their own skills and BAB, they can only be manifested or unmanifested off-screen in reasonably plausible locations, they always have type flaws (for example, most air vehicles cannot carry nearly as much weight as their strength indicates and only get half the usual number of hit points), and they suffer from any obvious vehicular limitations (such as not maneuvering well in dungeons). They do get a x3 multiplier for long-distance travel though, as they are utterly tireless. In this case, if the vessel has been “destroyed”, or “left behind”, the user must acquire or construct at least a suitable framework around which the construct can be manifested. Still, this will allow the user to turn any old hunk of junk that they can salvage into a functional ship.

Generic Spacecraft (Huge Psychic Construct IX):

  • Class-A: Elemental Subtype (Space), 2x Flight (40 in atmosphere).
  • Class-B: Fast Healing II, Facilities (Baths, Galley, Etc), Spell Storing II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for a spell or spells of up to L3 used to represent bizarre weapons, 18 self-charging levels worth per day).
  • Class-C: Enveloping (Crew Compartments), Dimension Slide (Interplanetary Drive Variant: Once out of atmosphere may travel between worlds within solar systems in plot-convenient time), Basic Shields (Variant on Extreme Deflection, +4 to AC, +4 to Saves).
  • Flaw: Prone to weird malfunctions and negative space wedgies, attracts pirates, creatures, and other weirdness at a completely unreasonable rate.
  • Note: Spacecraft may also make physical attacks by ramming things; but this is a very poor idea.
  • Individual Crowns may manifest variant ships – perhaps substituting advanced sensors or laboratories for the Shields.

Net Cost: 27 CP / 6 = 4.5, rounds down to 4 CP as a Relic.

Like most four-point relics, this is a campaign-changing item – in this case, obviously enough, into “d20 in space”. It probably isn’t reasonable to allow player-characters to simply take “Create Relic” and turn items like this out – but it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to restrict “Create Relic” to lesser items. While the user will need to be able to use sixth level spells to access the full power of a Helm Of Stars, third level spells will suffice to get into space and start traveling – meaning that would-be Captains must have some basic competencies, but it’s nothing particularly noteworthy.

It’s also possible for a character to simply buy the relevant powers on his or her own, and do without a Crown Of Worlds – perhaps by becoming one of Dune’s “Guild Navigators” – but that is generally a rarity (unless, of course, the game master WANTS a bunch of random spacefarers casually knocking around the galaxy).

Six thousand years ago there was a world rich with magic, inhabited by many races and gods. It had fought off invaders before – but this time it was not to be. The enemy was a thing of darkness, all-devouring. Vortexes of negative energy tore across the lands, shattering defenses both magical and mundane, gouging the earth, and pulling people, beasts, and objects into the devouring void-flesh of the Enemy – the tiny part of it’s inconceivable form that extended into the realm it sought to devour. Armies, beasts, adventurers, and gods fought and died – but the Enemy raised legions of the dead, spawned devouring monsters, and replaced it’s losses with the allied fallen even as it continued to ravage the world.

According to the Histories of Atheria, an Emissary of the Light and the Archmage Almin of the Stars, wielding the power of a fallen god, opened a portal to Atheria – a last refuge for the survivors – and sacrificed themselves to seal the way behind them even as the last gods sacrificed themselves to turn the ancient world into a vast prison, a trap designed to hold the Enemy for long ages. The Domain Lords of Atheria, living Cosmic Principles, allowed those lost survivors to take refuge within their realms – a place where the Enemy could never come, for no being of the void could endure the Plane of Archetypes for so much as a moment.

And for ages, the people of Atheria believed themselves to be humanities last survivors.

But at least one of the Ancient Gods – Madai the Shipmaster, Master of the Winds and Patron of Travelers – had granted his followers another way to seek refuge. He had created (birthed? splintered?) mighty relics that allowed their users to sail between the stars, sparks of life traversing the void to seek out new worlds on which to burn. More, those helms were forged from a part of his own essence – and so, given enough power with which to work, were a potential seed of his resurrection.

Almin’s ancient spells have failed at last, the gates to the planes beyond have opened once more – and one of Madai’s creations has been gathered to Atheria, the realm of Principles and Archtypes, Fountianhead of Creation. If more can be gathered there, to drink from the cosmic source, Madai might well be reborn at last.

Practical Enchantment – Bardic Instruments and Knacks

Backwards and forwards swayed their song.
Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong
The chanting swelled, (Finrod) fought,
And all the magic and might he brought,
Of Elvenesse into his words.
Softly in the gloom they heard the birds
Singing afar in Nargothrond,
The sighing of the sea beyond…

…The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
The ice mutters in the mouths of the sea.
The captives sad in Angband mourn,
Thunder rumbles, the fires burn-
And Finrod fell before the throne.

-Tolkien,

While high-end musical magic is a thing of art that – at least ideally – should swing back and forth like a cinematic battle of master martial artists, in d20 that’s basically spellcasting, high magic, and personal power. Magical instruments, however, are things of myth and legend, subtle devices that can influence the world and enhance the user’s musical talents in a thousand ways.

Which is why it’s so disappointing that d20’s musical instruments mostly aren’t very interesting. In fact, bardic optimization handbooks often don’t even mention them. There are quite a few – but most of them seem to be masterwork instruments that cast three spells once per day each. Their prices are mostly reasonable, and that’s not at all bad – but even one of the best examples – the Canaith Mandolin (Masterwork Instrument, 8100 GP, requires 8 Ranks in Perform, casts Cure Serious Wounds, Dispel Magic, and Summon Monster III once per day each at caster level eight) is a bit lackluster. Yes, those are all generally useful spells at a decent caster level and the price is good – but there’s not much subtlety, or room for creativity, or room for making your magical instrument a major part of your life.

So lets do something a little different. Lets take some fairly versatile, but cheap-and-basic, effects and make them unlimited use instead. Perhaps the most obvious place to start is with…

Arcane Melody: Greater Invocation: Melody Of Orpheus (L1. Produces any of the following music-focused cantrip-level effects (or others as the game master approves). These generally have a duration of “as long as you keep playing” and, thanks to them being use-activated, the musician can activate one effect per round while playing up to a maximum of (Charisma Modifier +1, 1 Minimum) simultaneous effects. That’s Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .9 (Requires Perform / Strings) at +6 or better = 1800 GP. Some of the possible effects include:

● A Private Moment: You can direct the sound of your music to an individual within 60 feet so that it is just for them.
● Background Music: Recurring snatches of theme music – associated with particular people and situations – will play on their own. This is sometimes a warning and sometimes just awkward.
● Calming Music: Those listening gain a +1 bonus on saves against emotion-manipulating effects.
● Carried On The Wind: You can let your music “originate” from any location within 30 feet.
● Choreography: Willing creatures who hear your music can sing or dance along as if they had practiced if they choose to participate. Yes, this lets you do musical-style spontaneous music-and-dance numbers with people you’ve just met if they’re willing to do so.
● Coincidental Chorus: Your music smoothly blends in with ambient sounds – birdsong, a smith working, and so on.
● Convey Meaning: You may use a social skill through your music. The skill works normally, you just use music instead of words.
● Crescendo: Your music is louder and easier to hear, as if you were using an amplifier.
● Discordant Notes: Your music is as annoying as a screeching blackboard. The GM might even impose a small distraction penalty or let you really annoy creatures with sensitive ears.
● Deep Harmony: You may use the Heal skill through your music. While this lets you attend a group simultaneously, the total time needed to complete the job remains unchanged.
● Empathic Melody: Those who listen to your music will recognize how you feel about the topic of your song.
● Harmonic Whisper: You may embed the equivalent of a Message cantrip within your music, but the effect is only one way – from you to the recipients. You don’t need to point to them though.
● Haunting Melody: The music will persist for 3d6 rounds after the playing stops, although any occult effects stop after one round.
● Impressions: You can convey the emotions and vague versions of the visual imagery associated with a song or tale, as if calling up memories of having witnessed it, giving your audience a fair impression of what it was like to have been there.
● Lullaby: You make a target feel drowsy, taking a –4 on Perception checks and a –2 on saves against sleep if they fail a will save – without the save being particularly noticeable. If they fail several (GMO) in a row they are likely to fall asleep. If you keep this up for an hour or so you may be able to put a quite lot of people to sleep (especially if they were just having a feast or are otherwise well-fed and tired).
● Musical Meditation: Those who fall asleep listening to your music need two hours less sleep (minimum two hours) to be fully rested.
● Orchestral Accompaniment: Gain a +3 Competence Bonus on your performance. (This also covers various effects – harmonies, descants, echoes, synthesizer noises, etc. Not that that matters).
● Power Chord: If using a bardic music effect that normally affects multiple targets you may affect one additional target.
● Soothe The Savage Beast: Animals will often stop and listen to your music. This isn’t forced, they just find it pleasant.
● Subliminal Whisper: You can cause a thought to occur to those listening, either causing an idea to occur to them or providing a +1 bonus to other persuasive efforts. No compulsion is involved.
● Threnodic Melody: You may cause those who listen to remember random bits of their pasts. such as “a time when they were happy”. They may feel nostalgic for a bit. This effect may also be used to produce pleasant dreams.

Now none of those effects are particularly game-breaking, In fact, several of them only affect role-playing aspects of the game (unless, perhaps, a bit of musical theater has somehow become vital to the plot) – but they can be fun and, since they’re unlimited-use, you aren’t wasting precious resources by using them. Go ahead, send a private performance to that cute potential romantic interest, try to soothe the angry shouting in the kings court, turn up the volume to drown out those annoying hecklers or cover up the sounds of your friends trying to search a room. There simply isn’t any reason not to have your music be a normal part of life rather than a combat boost.

For our next obvious possibility, lets look at…

The Visual Arts: Silent Image (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.5 Only to produce the list of effects given below (no general illusion-casting) x .8 (Requires Perform / Strings at +8 or Better) = 800 GP. Use up to three at a time.

● Costume: The user may opt to look like they are wearing their preferred stage costume whenever they are playing.
● Creepy Shadows: The user may fill the stage with ominous shadows, making anything else around him or her slightly hard to see. If they are focused on a single target, that target gains one-half Concealment.
● Dread Reflection: You may cause a reflection to portray a target as if they were aged, deformed, horribly diseased, or even undead when they see it. This can be quite startling.
● Envisionment: Your music generates glowing strings or fancy light patterns as you play. This can make it hard to see that you are spellcasting, inflicting a -5 penalty on the relevant Spellcraft checks. Furthermore, if you cast Hypnotic Pattern or a related spell while playing, the save DC for that spell increases by +1.
● Firework Display: You may enhance your performance with an assortment of small-scale smoke-puffs and minor “fireworks”. This usually attracts a larger audience and makes you more likely to be invited to give special performances. .
● Makeup Effects: When the user is playing, he or she can seem to have glowing eyes, little demon horns, a glittering halo, black starry voids for eyes, or whatever. This can make a stage persona especially recognizable.
● Ornament: You may give a target within 30 feet a bit of dramatic lightning, making them obviously important and giving them a +1 bonus on social skill checks (if a -5 penalty on being stealthy).
● Personal Spotlight: The user may have minor personal lighting effects whenever he or she is playing – usually a spotlight, a bit of hazy backdrop, and so on.
● Radiant Glade: The immediate area appears sunlit and pleasant. This can be reversed if you would prefer to give observers a gloomy and ominous (or haunted-house) impression instead.
● Rule Of Cool: When the user casts a spell while grasping the instrument, he or she is free to give it dramatic visual special effects, although the actual game effect remains unchanged. If you want your Cone Of Cold to look like a sudden attack by a swarm of horrible ice-spirits… well, this is the function you want.
● Street Performer: Your act includes various visual flourishes – cute animals looking appealingly at the lack of money in your bowl, card tricks, birds flying around you, and so on. Add +2 to your performance total when busking for money. If you combine this with Impressions you can produce the general effect of having shown your audience a movie or television special on your topic. If this function is combined with the music for a play or similar production, the backdrops and props will look quite good.
● Statuesque: You may make yourself appear to be made of some material other than flesh. People may reach quite oddly if you pass yourself off as a suddenly-animate statue or musical automaton or some such.

The Visual Arts are the obvious next step for a magical instrument – allowing the user to give reality to the adage that “All the worlds a stage” with relative ease. Once again, there isn’t a lot of raw power here and a lot of the effects are pure role-playing props – but it gives you license to throw minor descriptive elements into the setting to suit yourself. When it comes to having fun that can be quite priceless.

For our third major function we have…

The Anvil Chorus: Unseen Servant (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Unseen Servants only act while you play music, you only get enough to act as a crew of a dozen people at any one time) x .7 (Requires Perform / Strings at +10 or Better) = +700 GP. In general, only one function of the Anvil Chorus may be used at a time.

● Animate Implements: Your music may act as a crew of servants – washing dishes, doing laundry, cooking meals, setting up camp, and so on as if (Performance check) basically unskilled people were working on the project.
● Breezy Notes: You may direct small breezes, as if several people were waving fans.
● Construction: Your music can dig trenches, cut wood, assemble a cottage, clear rubble, and perform other basic projects and repairs as if many laborers were working on them. Sadly, duplicating the construction effect of a Lyre Of Building would require a performance check of 1600+. Settle for small projects.
● Capstan Shanty: You can provide the equivalent of (Check / 4) horsepower to drive an engine, mill, or similar mechanism while your music continues.
● Farmers Boon: Your music can plow fields, harvest crops, shovel coal, carry burdens, and otherwise perform the work of (Check / 2) field hands and (Check / 8) relevant draft animals.
● Industrious Song: You can help a craftsman work on a project, tripling the amount of work he or she could normally perform.
● Opening Chord: Unlocked doors, windows, trunks and similar closures may be thrown open, curtains pulled back, and covers pulled away in the area. This may be reversed, to close up a place, put out lights, and seal an area.
● Phantom Crew: Your music can act as a crew for the purposes of rowing, manning a ship, carrying palanquins, or accomplishing similar tasks. .
● Poltergeist Chorus: You may cause quantities of relatively light objects to fly about and get into peoples way, possibly even breaking line-of-sight through a square if you have stuff cluster together.
● Rescue: Fallen friends may be carried from battle, crude pressure applied to staunch the flow of blood (+5 circumstance bonus on Stabilization checks), sailors who have fallen overboard be pulled from the sea, and so on as if some unskilled people were helping.
● Squires Chord: Your music can get (Cha Mod) targets into their armor and equipped in a single round. The Maid’s Chord can do the same for getting people into fancy dress or their makeup on.
● Wings of Song: You cushion falls, reducing the damage to up to (Cha Mod +1, 1 Minimum) targets per round by your performance check, 0 Minimum. Unfortunately, unless you have an action readied to catch those trapeze artists, or the children leaping from windows to escape a fire, or some such, this will probably only be useful if a group is intentionally jumping down.

Now the Anvil Chorus starts to offer a bit of actual power in that most of it’s options actually accomplish tangible things – but few of them are things that adventurers find important. When was the last time that your characters did their laundry or spent the day harvesting apples? Even if you’re short of crew to run a ship or something… you’ll find some way to do it or the game will grind to a halt anyway. On the other hand, causing unseen powers to do the dishes or pack your bags is an excellent way to imply that you have enough magic to not mind “wasting it” on trivial matters.

Finally, for our fourth power, we have the…

Travelers Song: Mount (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (“Mounts” are sonic phantoms, and exist only as long as the user continues to play, maximum number manifested at once = users performance check / 2) x.7 (Requires Perform Bonus of +12 or better) = 700 GP

● Drover’s Canticle: Your music may move carriages, barges, wagons, sledges, and similar large objects as if many horses were pulling them. Alternatively, you may keep such an vehicle from moving with a similar force.
● Melancholic Descant: You may increase the load of a vehicle or area as if a horse was sitting on it. If someone is unable to resist or unconscious or some such you may also do this to people.
● Hammermill Chorus: Your music may supply up to (Performance Check / 2) horsepower to run mills, industrial machinery, pumps, and similar devices as long as they could reasonably be powered by draft animals.
● Huntsman’s Hymn: You may send the sound of hoofbeats rushing off, simulating either a group or a single horse, and even leaving a trail of hoofprints behind – although the trail will vanish after a few hundred feet.
● Traveling Montage: The users party is treated as being mounted (on tireless horses) even if they are not, and so may travel more quickly and with less fatigue.
● Sonic Barricade: If you have a held action ready you may block an incoming spell or effect with the equivalent on an (invisible) light horse. While 20 points of damage will make the barrier disappear, it will otherwise last while you play. If you like, while playing, you may maintain multiple such barriers, blocking doors, passages, and people trying to charge you. (Yes, this is silly. Ask the GM if it’s allowable first).
● Sonic Wave: You may send a sonic wave equivalent to the passage of a light horse up to 60 feet. (This usually triggers traps and also has a reasonable chance – equivalent to that of a light horse kicking – of opening a door).
● Wings Of Song: Given a standard action to prepare you may let your music carry willing targets, making a Jump Check for them at +15 that does not count against their movement.

OK, we’re stretching things a bit on the special effects – but that’s no problem if you’ve already got The Visual Arts anyway.

So let’s add this up for our “Etheric Instrument”:

  • Masterwork Musical Instrument: 100 GP.
  • Arcane Melody: +1800 GP. (Requires a +6 Bonus).
  • The Visual Arts: +800 GP. (Requires a +8 Bonus).
  • The Anvil Chorus: +700 GP. (Requires a +10 Bonus).
  • Traveler’s Song: +700 GP. (Requires a +12 Bonus).

That’s 4100 GP. Lets throw in a Wand Chamber (+100 GP) for a total of 4200 GP.

An individual GM may want to insist on a higher caster level (likely three) and up the price a bit (at CL 3 the base magical cost would be 12,000 GP, but there’s no actual benefit associated with the higher caster level, which would justify cutting it down a bit). After all, this list does include fifty-two different (if not particularly impressive) unlimited-use bardic tricks.

In particular, in Eclipse, you can take this Bardic Knack (sans wand chamber) at the base cost as six CP worth of Innate Enchantment and have at least 900 GP left over. Personally, I’d invest most of that in books – things like “Collected Popular Songs”. “Great Tales Of Adventure”. “Myths And Legends”, and so on. Being able to boast of a 900-1400 GP library in your head ought to be enough to let you know pretty much every myth, tale, and piece of music in most settings. That gives you your “bardic studies” and a considerable range of magical music for a mere 6 CP.

The skill requirements will be a little restrictive for a while, but are built around a total required bonus – so your attribute bonus and any permanent personal boosts you’re using will help you get there. Go ahead. Act like a mage who’s just acquired unlimited use of Prestidigitation; see how many ways you can use minor magics to accomplish your goals instead of casting major spells.

Eclipse – The Houngan Conjurer II

This time around, it’s a bit of a collaboration and an example – how one Eclipse character in a Forgotten Realms game is opting to use the Houngan Conjurer package (a method of making temporary character-enhancing items. He’s calling his “Talismans”.).

The in-game justification for his powers is apparently that:

It is my art to channel what WAS, what MAY BE, and what IS NOT into the NOW. Of Magic, Lore, and Prophecy in the service of the Loomeinsenerid and the Kvoorum-Parandaja order. The Talismans are of time-not, embodiments of talents you might have in other lines of time or might yet learn. Being within the High Forest – the Eye Of Time on Abeir-Toril – makes it easy to call such things forth.

  • “Loomeinsenerid” – apparently the “Engineers of Creation” who built the universe.
  • “Kvoorum-Parandaja” – apparently “Quorum Healer”, repairers of broken realities?

In other words “Here is something you might opt to learn in the next level or two. Go ahead and experiment with it. If you don’t like it, we can try something else. If you do, you can buy those powers normally it and I’ll make a new “Talisman” with some other powers you might be interested in trying out”. It lets players experiment with various powers before they have to make any permanent decisions about them or get a temporary boost to fit some specific situation. That’s a good way to do it since it’s both very useful to the players who are new to the system and a nice way to boost a group.

The first set of Gerad’s talismans were forged in the foothills of the Lost Peaks, amidst the great trees of the primordial High Forest of Faerun. There, at dawn, the time of new beginnings, atop an outcropping of the mountains bedrock, he build a ritual fire of oak, ash, and hawthorn with which to call upon the powers of the world casting into it the tokens and spirit-fetishes he had spent his time preparing. Soon, beneath the moon, the fire burned black and cold, yet as filled with stars as the night sky above. The flames were feathered by no physical force, raven’s wings of spiritual fire beating against the winds of fate. It defies what is to come; there shall be no fate but what the strong make for themselves.

The first talisman was for an Uthgardian Barbarian of the Raven Tribe:

Alone among the birds and totems of the North, the Raven speaks outside of Dream. It carries the Words of the Spirits to the ears of mortal men, with the discarded quills from it’s wings are written runes of strength and wisdom, and it guides the souls of the fallen to the realms of the honored dead! Those who are shown the wisdom of the Raven may learn how to draw upon their inner strengths, the divine spark that dwells within! Bright will they shine in the tales to come!

Here, in this Forest which is of more worlds than one, we stand upon the borders of the Spirit World. You have left your kin, and a choice stands before you! To follow the Raven’s Path and bring forth new gifts and wisdom for your descendants to come, to follow the Scouts way, standing as a guardian between your folk and the horrors that may come, or to take both paths, and stand as a hero to both those who live and those who are yet to come. If you would take the Raven’s Path or the Dual Way… reach into the possibilities of the Raven’s Wings, and draw forth what wisdom speaks to you. Then… you may either make it your own, or seek another choice with the seasons turning.

When the Mighty Barbarian reached into the cold flame (taking one point of cold damage to set the link) he found himself holding a belt woven of hide and raven’s feathers – a token of spiritual wisdom.

Cincture Of The Raven (1 Point Relic):

  • Pen Of The Raven: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (L1 and weak L2 Effects) / only to power the equivalent of Charms and Talismans and subject to all their limitations. The belt’s wearer may draw a quill from the belt and use it to sketch the Runes and Symbols of Uthgar, Beorunna, the Ancestors, and the Totemic Beasts upon otherwise normal items, allowing them to channel the wearer’s personal strength – in effect equipping himself or herself with the equivalent of seven Charms and three Talismans (as found in The Practical Enchanter) (6 CP).
  • The Enduring Blood Of Uthgar: Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized / only to restore hit points (6 CP).
  • Disadvantage: The Cincture Of The Raven lays upon it’s wearer an obligation to teach others of the ways of Uthgar and the Totems as chances arise to do so (-3 CP).
  • Net Cost 6 CP + 6 CP -3 CP = 9 CP. 9 CP / 6 (Relic) = 1.5 CP, rounds down to 1 CP.

The next talisman to called forth was for a spirit-shaman and witchcraft-based blaster.

Fire is the element of change, transforming what it touches. The fire of the ritual burns upon the outcropping of rock, the fragrant smoke rising beneath the moon and stars. As Gerad casts a shimmering crystal-bound feather into the flames, the dark fire of the Raven Spirit changes to a pillar of twisting flame, burning green at it’s base and the riotous colors of autumn foliage above.

Seasons Pass, gods pass, and ages pass – but the earth and forest endures, it’s strength undaunted. Here, in the forest where too are the roots of time, we touch upon that solid core, the strength that binds the worlds together. As you have sworn to defend the world, so may it may lend it’s strength and endurance to you. If you would claim the strength of that bond, reach out to the fire of the world’s heart and, with a drop of your blood, become one with it’s ancient strengths.

Reaching into the fire to claim the Talisman again caused one point of damage to set the link and produced a belt of thin links of ash bound with iron, each of the twenty-four links engraved with a rune of the elder futhark.

Girding Of The Forest Lands (1 Point Relic):

  • Vigor Of The Elder Ash: Grants access to the Bones Of Iron (Ash), Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only works within the boundaries of the High Forest, only when at least two other members of the Pact are in the party (4 CP).
  • +2d6 Mana as +6d6 Power, Specialized and Corrupted / only to power the Bones Of Iron (Ash) ability above (4 CP).
  • +1d6 Mana as +3d6 Power, Corrupted/this deep reserve can only be recovered at the moment of dawn (whether or not the user sees it), as the forest wakes, not via Rite Of Chi or other methods.
  • Disadvantage: Obligation / Must deal with the natural animals of the forest through nonlethal means if that is at all possible.

The next talisman to be forged was for a war smith gadgeteer, a follower of the gods of artifice.

As Gerad cast a rune-covered ingot of iron into the green flames, they leaped up into a raging blaze before collapsing from a flaming crown into a deep bed of coals, the furious breath of heat from it mirroring the heat of a forge, where imagined tools become reality. Within the fiery tunnels of the coals in the fires heart lay glimpses of salamanders, efreeti, and fire elementals, hammering out the weapons of wars past and present, from crude copper daggers to unimaginable devices from beyond the stars.

Artificer and Visionary, the past you have forsaken for the sake of what is to come. In the spirit of Gond your Patron, and of Oghma the Loregiver who is mine, know that the chains of the past are broken, no forge but your will will be needed for your many creations to come! Reach forth now to the forges of the gods and take the fire of creation that will burn henceforth within you as well.

When the smith reached into the fire to claim the forming Talisman, he took one point of damage (to set the link as usual) and found himself holding a cincture of flattened links of chain, each wrought with images of weapons, some known, others suggesting fantastic creations and vehicles of war.

Cincture Of War (1 CP Relic):

  • +6 to his Preferred Martial Art (6 CP).
  • DR 4/- (Universal DR 2/-, Specialized for Double Effect / only versus physical attacks, 3 CP).
  • Immunity / the time normally required to put gadgets (He was using the Gadgets skill) together, so they no longer had a +1 point cost if not specified in advance (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge / Tunnel Fighting (1 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Must fight as an honorable warrior (-3 CP).

Finally, the fourth and last talisman in this set was for a psychic specializing in Astral Constructs and Energy Projection.

With the colors of the dawn in the eastern sky, and the first glint of the sun shining like a fiery jewel upon the horizon, the remains of the fire collapse to ash, to be blown away upon the wind – although a single burning ember that refuses to be extinguished or fade remains, set into a buckle, suitable for a belt. The circular copper clasp is inscribed with twin dragons, inlaid in black and white, mirroring and circling each other in the symbol of balance. If opened, it reveals the eternally-glowing ember within.

The Purest Yang Becomes Yin. The Purest Yin Becomes Yang.
Two Sides Of A Coin, Separated By A Barrier That May Not Exist.
From Rites End, A New Beginning; The Cycle Turns.
From Darkness and Cold an inextinguishable spark of Light and Fire.
A Creation Incomplete Draws Balance From The Void.
A Sourceless Wind Blows Between The Worlds.
Receive Now The Spark That Answered A Call Unvoiced.

Sunset Hag’s Broom Cinder (1 CP Relic):

  • Hysteria (Mental Powers), Specialized for Reduced Cost (2 Power) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for boosting psionic abilities (not skills, will saves, or non-psionic abilities), only for effective caster / manifester level (4 CP). This can be activated as a free action for 2 Power and lasts for the rest of the round. It manifests as hysterical cackling laughter.
  • Streamline, Specialized for Double Effect in applying standard Augmentations to Psychic Powers for Double Effect (+6 Power worth of “free” Augmentation), Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only when using Hysteria, above (4 CP).
  • Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to set up Mystic Link Effects, Double Enthusiast / Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to set up Mystic Link Effects (Net Cost 4 CP, may be used to set up 4 CP worth of Mystic Link Effects).
    • This defaulted to two of the groups mystics with Communications and Power Link, Specialized and Corrupted / only within the High Forest, only with individuals or places touched by the Fey, can only transmit seven supernatural effects per day, all those linked must possess at least latent telepathic abilities (GM Veto over NPC’s)
  • Drawback: Insane: The bearer of the Cinder develops extreme hydrophobia. While this phobia excuses liquids kept in artificial containers (barrels, glasses, waterskins, and so on), it extends to natural bodies of water, puddles, and rain. The Cinder does not function if wet since the user will be too panicked to draw upon it.

Overall… I think the Cincture Of War was a little uninspired in comparison to some of the others (apparently it was more or less what the player asked for though) and the Broom Cinder looks like it’s a bit TOO efficient, but both are functional enough. Otherwise things were nicely themed; all men, a fire ritual, a small “test of courage” and a minor sacrifice of the recipients own strength to claim their talisman, a basic theme, a more-or-less reasonable explanation for why the character can make talismans in the first place, and – I’m told – some nice role playing in response. Yes, it makes the characters a little bit more powerful – but getting the group all taking an interest in and participating in a mystical ritual? Giving them all a common bond and a commitment to something beyond themselves? Thematic yet unique toys for everyone? Just as with Narthion – the character the Houngan Conjurer package was originally written up for – I think this makes a pretty good addition to a RPG.

Permanency and The Practical Enchanter

And this time around it’s a magic question from Alzrius:

Page 115 of The Practical Enchanter lists the following as one of the Standard Formula Modifiers for designing new spells:

“Permanence: Spells which may be made permanent with a Permanency spell may have the option built into the spell formula for +2 spell levels. This allows the caster to simply spend XP when casting the spell to make it Permanent.”

What I’m curious about, however, is determining how a new spell would be eligible for permanency (whether on yourself only, yourself or others, or an area) in the first place. The standard list of eligible spells seem restrictive and oddly inconsistent, with spells like detect magic and arcane sight being allowable whereas greater arcane sight and Pathfinder’s greater detect magic aren’t. Is there a particular factor besides GM fiat involved? Would that factor make a difference when determining the DC for making a new spell?

-Alzrius

I must admit that that’s an awkward question, simply because the Permanency spell – as a legacy from first edition (where it was level eight and casting it cost a permanent point of constitution!) – has never been particularly consistent or provided any in-setting explanation for how it works. Worse, of course, the Permanence modifier from The Practical Enchanter was set up for back-compatibility – so it doesn’t even attempt to provide an explanation. Similarly, Pathfinder I never attempted to explain anything either.

On the other hand, I’m always willing to try and take a shot at analyzing things, even if I can’t provide a full explanation in the end.

First up, the Practical Enchanter modifier is straightforward since it applies to normal (3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder, Modern, Etc) games. You select a spell effect that could be made permanent – say, “Detect Magic”. You may then research a third level version with the “Permanence” modifier. When you cast that version you could then opt to spend 500 XP (3.0 and 3.5) or 2500 GP (Pathfinder) during or shortly after the casting to make it permanent. If you didn’t want to research it (and it probably isn’t worth the bother), you could probably find a scroll of it for sale somewhere. Of course, if you’re playing Pathfinder or Eclipse, why would you want to bother? In Pathfinder you could cast the cantrip all you wanted and in Eclipse you can pick up a bit of innate enchantment or get it as a minor point of a much superior occult sense. Even in a normal game you could just pay a little extra to get a scroll of Permanency.

So the Practical Enchanter modifier is basically an easy way of making individual spells permanent before you can cast the actual “permanency” spell. Given that “permanency” dropped to level five in later editions anyway, it isn’t a terribly important modifier – which is why it only got a brief mention.

So how DOES the standard “Permanency” spell work?

At the most basic, a Permanency spell could be viewed as a setting up a power tap to sustain another spell – in which case an eligible target would be of considerably lower level and with a reasonable base duration. After all, a high-powered spell that expended all it’s energy in an instant or over the course of a few rounds would obviously be much harder to sustain than a low-power spell that took hours to use up the very limited fund of energy that the caster had invested in it during it’s casting.

Now that works – but opens up quite a can of worms. Why would such a spell have to cost money or experience points? Couldn’t it draw on the (at least in older editions extra-planar) source of magic for power directly? Or couldn’t it be tied to some inherently-magical creature, material, or item?

That could be pretty interesting – allowing very low-energy effects to be easily rendered inherently permanent without cost, or allowing minor secondary effects to be tied to magical items (Perhaps weakening that +4 Sword (32,000 GP) to an effective +2 Sword (8000 GP) that also powers a selection of lesser (likely slotless) effects worth a good bit less than the 24,000 GP difference – perhaps 12,000 or 16,000 GP worth.

Secondarily, it would tend to go back to first-edition or MMORPG “crafting” style items. You found a Fire Ruby that contains massive amounts of fire magic but has no actual effects? Go ahead and mount it on a sword to make a flaming sword or feed it to a young golden dragon to make it stronger or use it to power some similar permanent effect.

That wouldn’t look much like classical d20 though, and – while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – this obviously can’t be our “default” explanation in a standard d20 game.

In 3.0 and 3.5 “Experience Points” really had nothing to do with “experiences”. They were a sort of transformative magical power that accumulated in adventurers or perhaps they represented the slow growth of your soul or inner magic or somesuch. They were a self-renewing power source that made the user ever tougher and more powerful – which meant that, in making a magical item, you were infusing it with a tiny fraction of your own essence to MAKE it magical – either temporarily, if the amount of “experience” you gave it was too small to sustain the power output indefinitely, or permanently if it was.

That actually made a certain amount of sense; it played into the tropes of classical magic, as seen in myths and legends and fantasy novels, where magical swordsmiths, the makers of magical rings, and similar crafters infuse their own strength into their creations. After all… if it was good enough for Tolkien, it’s probably good enough for us.

In this version, the Permanency spell is just a conduit – a way to transfer some of your magical potency / experience points / soul into an ongoing effect to keep it going. It’s fairly complicated – fifth level – because it’s meddling with a deep and subtle level of reality, but it’s still pretty straightforward. The usual cost was 500 XP per level of the spell to be rendered permanent – not all that large an amount by the time you could cast Permanency anyway.

It still doesn’t explain why you can make a Prismatic Sphere permanent, but not Shapechange, but its something. For that, we will be needing some more rules.

The Pathfinder version of the Permanency spell generally multiplied the given costs by five to convert them to gold pieces (the usual 3.0-3.5 figure for the “cost” of the experience points spent on item creation) but rather sloppily failed to adjust the costs for effects that had changed levels (which would make Detect Magic and Read Magic only 1250 GP, and potentially worth rendering permanent). It also added a variety of effects to the list – including some which broke the pattern – and later introduced spells which noted that they could be made permanent, but which sometimes failed to list the requirements and costs for doing so. Personally I’d just extrapolate from the existing pattern for those, but the writers not doing it is still sloppy.

The problem with converting the cost to gold pieces is the same throughout Pathfinder. Sure, both Experience and Gold look much the same from the players side – they’re both just numbers on a piece of paper that indicate how powerful your character is – but they really shouldn’t look the same from the characters side of things. How is that Permanency spell converting a mass of gold – or perhaps gems, or salt, or other trade goods, or a great master’s landscape painting – into empowering a permanent effect? Why can that one picture – which would sell at auction for 10,000 GP because the artist is famous regardless of it being an example of his “early crayon period” – be able to empower a permanent Symbol Of Healing when the only real difference between it and another kids scribbling is the artists later fame?

OK, magic doesn’t really HAVE to make sense, but it makes it a LOT easier to run a game if it does.

Sadly, while Pathfinder thus introduced an additional level of nonsense into Permanency, it made no real attempt to explain how Permanency works or what qualifies a spell for inclusion on the eligible-for-Permanency list besides being on the list already of having it noted in the spell description – which, as you note, left spells that fairly obviously fit the list off and put some things that didn’t really fit the list at all on it.

So what qualifications can we deduce about what spells are eligible?

  • They must not require any major control inputs. Once a permanent spell is running, the caster has little or no further control over it’s effects. You can move your “Dancing Lights” about, but you cannot swap between the options. Neither can you “discharge” spells with that option. After all… if a permanent spell can run while you’re asleep, in a coma, or long dead, you obviously can’t have much of an input on it any longer can you?
  • They must not involve any major transformation. Enlarge/Reduce Person and Magic Fang / Greater Magic Fang are about the limit for creatures, while Animate Object is the limit for items. I’d guess that in-setting such spells eventually start to cause problems of the “spend too long in a form and it starts to affect deeper levels” kind (or something like that). So while you might be able to make them permanent, it’s essentially a method of slow suicide.
  • They should have a duration of at least ten minutes per caster level OR of “Concentration” plus an additional independent period. There are a few spells on the existing list – such as Arcane Sight or Wall of Force – that violate this rule, but they are exceptions and are generally fairly stable effects.

Of course, those rules – while they’re reasonably good guidelines – aren’t really sufficient. Like it or not, the foundations of the d20 magic system are as much built on “that looks like it will be fun in the game” as they are on classical notions of “how magic works”. That’s inevitable – after all, classical notions of “how magic work” are kind of vague and inconsistent themselves – but it means that there is always a fourth rule:

  • It won’t work if the game master thinks that it will mess up the game – and may abruptly cease to work if it turns out that it messes up the game after the game master gave permission. The only reason to play at all is to have fun, so if something turns out to make the game less fun? Out it goes.

And while that answer isn’t entirely satisfactory to me either, I hope it helps!

Restricted Magic In The Practical Enchanter

And for today, and to get things started again, it’s a question!

Page 106 of The Practical Enchanter lists “User Restrictions” cost modifiers for making magic items. While these are a pretty easy way to limit who can activate the item(s) they’re applied to, they don’t seem to be that hard to bypass. Leaving aside that someone with the relevant item creation abilities simply pays the difference to have those restrictions removed, many of these seem to be exactly the sort of restriction that Use Magic Device is there to bypass.

My question is, is there a way to make it more difficult to use either of these options to bypass those restrictions? How do I make a magic item require a higher DC on a Use Magic Device check in order to get around its restrictions? How can I build in an anti-tampering measure so that someone can’t simply buy off the difference and remove a restriction? Would it require making the magic item sentient or is there another way?

-Alzrius

As Alzrius indirectly points out with his question, classical magical items tended to be what they were, they did what they did, and there really wasn’t any way around that – or to use them if you didn’t happen to fit their criteria.

Thor’s Hammer Mjolnir (“The Crusher”) was forged by Brokkr and Sindri, a pair of Dwarves. Thanks to Loki, it wound up with too short a handle for two-handed use. You’ll note that Thor didn’t take it back and have it fixed or upgraded though. Instead, he simply made the best of it.

Similarly, nobody tried to improve the Aegis after mounting Medusa’s head on it, or add more powers to the Djinni imprisoned in Al-Shamardal’s ring, or take the curse off of Tyrfing. Most of the time… once an item had been created, it didn’t change.

Even those items that weren’t powered by having a spirit trapped in them or by being forged from parts of some legendary monster usually couldn’t be upgraded. That isn’t to say that there’s no precedent at all – a few items of legend become more powerful after being bathed in dragons blood, or blessed by some mighty entity, or being used to perform great deeds – but that was fairly rare and usually was a case of the item not quite being finished in the first place or needing another magical boost to temporarily power it up.

That was the way it was in first and second edition D&D and most other tabletop games. Items were what they were – and while the game master would generally ensure that you got some good ones along the way (often quite intentionally covering your characters weaknesses or playing to his or her strengths) that Frost Brand Sword, or Wand Of Conjuration, or whatever was likely to be your characters signature gadget throughout most of his or her career.

And that was generally a good thing. The tales of how Markatha the Dragonslayer wielded his icy blade to slay the Fire Dragon of the West, held it to his chest and wrapped himself in sheets of asbestos to allow him to cross the burning desert, extinguished a section of flaming palisade to allow the people trapped within to escape a holocaust, and fought dozens of other menaces with his Frost Brand sword – and how his companion Amarith of the Shining Word used his Silver Wand Of Conjuration to defy a swarm of demons through the artful use of prismatic barriers and defied the traps of an ancient tomb with a swarm of summoned monsters – were as much or more a part of the reward for playing as that heap of gold, art objects, and rare jewels that they kept in the castle basement of the levels they earned. Gold Pieces were just numbers of a sheet, stories would be retold for decades, long after the actual game – and all those numbers on a character sheet – were distant memories.

You were playing to have fun with friends and to collect tales of great adventures and epic death scenes, romances, brilliant improvisations and solutions, daring rescues, clever mysteries, and unlikely feats that someone managed to pull off.

But when third edition rolled around… things changed quite a lot. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not, and quite often simply for the sake of change. It even picked up a few bits from the up-and-coming MMORPG’s of the day – and one idea that got pushed was making in-game rewards more readily trackable and more consistent and letting the players make stuff without all those bothersome quests. After all, there really was no good way to write rules that generated interesting quests or stories that would be remembered after the game.

One major change was that money and level came to mean a lot more. Items were made consistent, and – rather than game masters being encouraged to tweak things and hand out unique, signature, items – the idea of a gradual progression was built into the game as “wealth by level”. Now there had been traces of that earlier, as shown by the jokes about high-level warriors employing a golfing-style “sword caddy” to handle all their magical swords – but now, with the slow progression of “level appropriate” items, magic items became a panoply that you gradually upgraded and replaced as you rose in level – and if you let a low-level character have a really powerful weapon it threw off the game, regardless of whether they used it or if they sold it and used the money to boost the entire party.

Magic Items had to scale with level. Yet you didn’t want characters just trading out their equipment all the time to suit current missions. So… the rules said that you only got half price when you sold items.

But that meant that a character who got lucky with the random tables and got pretty much what they wanted would be way ahead of a character who got a bunch of stuff that didn’t suit them and had to trade it in. Being able to upgrade items was a partial solution to that – and also had the advantage that it let a character hang onto specific items for at least a little longer. That also meant that destroying gear was suddenly a no-no, instead of a risk of confronting something major – but that was a different sort of problem.

This also, very shortly, led to the introduction of artificer-types, who treated magic items like used cars, to be stripped down for parts. Magic items were no longer objects of wonder, but things to be junked and disposed of – or, at best, traded in or rebuilt – when you next went shopping at the magic-mart.

Thus, like most radical new solutions to classically-intractable problems, wealth-by-level and level-appropriate items created brand new problems of their very own.

Personally, I think there’s a strong appeal to those old notions of legendary magical items, things of ancient mystery, instead of mechanical devices to be rebuilt as convenient. After all… you didn’t see King Arthur taking Excalibur back to the shop to be upgraded with extra elemental damage or trading it in for a better model did you? The sword was a part of his legend.

So how to get back to that?

The first – and simplest – method is to return to the halcyon days of first and second edition and use “Create Artifact” for all your magic items other than potions and scrolls. Each one is now a unique (and usually fairly powerful) device, most of them will be permanent or rechargeable, and there’s no provision in “Create Artifact” for “upgrading” things other than simply including your current item as an ingredient and going on a brand new creation-quest. Of course, what you gain in simplicity on one end you lose on the other; now you need to make up unique items for major NPC’s unless you just mostly use an older-edition list. They may or may not be subject to “use magic device”, but the DC is likely to be high given their unique and idiosyncratic nature.

Relics kind of compromise. It is possible to upgrade at least some relics – but you can’t get rid of what’s already there, you can only improve them, removing restrictions will make them less powerful, it will cost permanent character points to upgrade them, and most campaigns will set strict limits on how many CP can be invested in any given relic and on how many CP worth of relics a character can have in total. They are pretty much immune to “Use Magic Device” though, simply because technically they’re not magical devices. They’re relics.

With standard magic items things are a little more awkward because there’s already a mess of rules covering what you’re trying to stop.

  • You can make them intelligent, and give them the ability to make life uncomfortable for anyone who tries to “upgrade” or use them against their will. That can be a fairly drastic power boost though since they can presumably use those same powers against other targets. On the other hand… it does make it awkward to try and just destroy the item or use it to pay for something else. Moreover, since things like “alignment” and “purpose” are freebies, they can’t be upgraded to something else.
  • If you apply the Impervious modifier (also from The Practical Enchanter, +31,500 GP and 2520 XP) then the item becomes essentially indestructible – which may extend to being upgraded and / or Use Magic Device if you like. Items that are impossible to meddle with are impossible to meddle with!
  • You can simply decree them Cursed. There isn’t anything in the standard rules that puts a price on curses, and “cannot be upgraded or modified” and / or “more or less resistant to “Use Magic Device” and / or “can only be upgraded or modified via an appropriate quest” certainly counts as a curse in a standard game. In fact, there’s no reason why an item can’t have multiple curses on it. Of course, The Practical Enchanter DOES give a price reduction for generic curses – and thereby opens up a way to remove them via upgrading – but if an item is cursed so that it cannot be upgraded, I think that would tend to trump trying to uncurse it by upgrading it.

About Use Magic Device… sure, it’s a standard part of the game and, but it has always struck me as a bit iffy depending on just how an item works.

Lets say that you have made a magical cloak. A Cloak Of Gnomish Trickery. It’s only for Gnomes, and it allows them to use their racial cantrips (dancing lights, ghost sound, and prestidigitation) twice a day each instead of only once.

  • If I build the cloak using a Pearl Of Power type effect – (250 GP per Cantrip x 3 Cantrips x .4 (only for a specific set of cantrips) x.7 (Gnomes Only) = 210 GP) – I have a neat little toy for a low-level gnome, but while “Use Magic Device” would let an elf who happened to have limited use of those particular cantrips use it to refresh them, it wouldn’t help him if he didn’t have at least one of those three cantrips in the first place. You can’t refresh a spell slot that’s not there.
  • If I build the cloak using a use-activated effect (Spell Level 1/2 x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x 3 Cantrips x .2 (once per day each) x.7 (Gnomes Only) = 420 GP) then Use Magic Device will work just fine.

And if a Cloak Of Gnomish Trickery turns up in a module priced at – say – 300 GP? Who knows how it was built? Use Magic Device is generally presumed to work – but if the Hellfire Scepter is fueled by the malice of your soul, as opposed to simply requiring an evil alignment to activate… should Use Magic Device be able to supply that dark power instead of just doing the equivalent of picking the lock on the trigger?

Worse, of course, about 99% of games and items never go into enough detail to tell you how items work – and it’s really hard to blame them for that. Hardly anyone actually cares.

By the way, as a note… “Emulate an Alignment: Some magic items have positive or negative effects based on the user’s alignment. Use Magic Device lets you use these items as if you were of an alignment of your choice. You can emulate only one alignment at a time.” doesn’t actually say that you can trigger a device that requires a particular alignment – just that if it has effects based on your alignment you can pick which effect you want. Still, nobody plays it that way.

So now that I’ve philosophically rambled all over the place… I shall attempt to answer the question!

  • In the case of reasonably-important permanent devices increasing the DC on Use Magic Device is most easily done as a “Flourish” (Practical Enchanter, Page 107). Honestly, the extent of the DC increase can be pretty much arbitrary; it’s not like it’s usually a major concern. For a default… +1 per 4000 GP value is probably reasonable. That will make it epically difficult to use major devices that are made to resist such usage, but that’s actually fair enough.
  • Alternatively, for any item… the maker can make a Spellcraft check with a +10 bonus when making the item. The result will be the DC for Use Magic Device checks made on the item. After all, anyone who’s building a device can make it harder to use (it’s making it EASY to use that’s hard). Why should magic items be any different? Of course, if you increase the difficulty of using the thing too far… it may become harder for the people you want to be using it as well.
  • Anti-tampering measures are usually built as Maledictions. That would be (Spell Level x Caster Level x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .2 (once per day maximum) x.1 (only when someone attempts to modify the device – which hardly ever happens and generally requires a full day, so once per day is sufficient) = 40/240/600/1120/1800/2640/3640/4800/6120 GP for a Level 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 Malediction effect – usually causing something to go seriously wrong with the attempt or with the required “fairly quiet, comfortable, and well-lit place in which to work”.

Honestly, you shouldn’t need a malediction of more than third level to cause an unacceptable interruption, but if you really want to have a plague of werewolves or major demon attack or some such you can go ahead and sink the extra 6120 GP into your item for a ninth level effect.

You can do something similar if you wish to add a highly specific curse to the device – “no one who has touched me can use Use Magic Device on me without massive penalties” (probably level one or two) – which can be gotten around by picking up the device, getting a remove curse spell, and then making your roll, but who’s going to think of that?

Or you can go with the “Cannot Be Upgraded” Curse/Restriction as well, in which case the attempt is hopeless to begin with AND unleashes some disaster.

There’s also some discussion on this and related topics in THIS article and it’s comments.

And I hope that helps!

Using Valdemaran Gifts, Part II

One of the major tricks of using Gifts effectively is to work gradually. After all… if you’re not in too much of a hurry, treating a flu patient with specific level zero effects – “reduce production of mucus”, “expectorate”, “reduce inflammation”, “weaken virus”, “bolster immunity”, “heal trivial damage to the throat lining” (a variant of “cure minor wounds”), “bolster immune system”, “drain lungs”, “spring tonic” (A.K.A. “provide vitamins”), and “relieve aches and pains” – probably followed by bit of cleaning up and an “resist flu infection” effect on yourself – is just about as good as zapping your patient with a level three “Cure Disease”. It just takes a few minutes instead of a single turn and requires that you have some idea of what you’re doing. Sure, you might not be able to handle a retrovirus hidden in the patients genome, but how often does that kind of distinction come up in most d20 games?

Unfortunately, that kind of gradual approach isn’t too effective in combat, where you’re usually in a rather large hurry. It’s also less effective in the original books, since there even minor uses of a gift often seem to be a bit of a strain and going step-by-step would bore the readers – but telling the players that even trivial uses of their Gifts are draining is just going to frustrate them.

Personally, I’d recommend that the “chaining minor effects” approach be limited by how well you understand what’s going on in the first place – so you can’t effectively chain more minor effects than your baseline bonus (ranks plus attribute modifier plus permanent feats) in a/the relevant skill – possibly subtracting a few points for general difficulty. Thus the step-by-step treatment for the flu described above would call for a minimum of a +10 total in the Heal skill so as to know what to do and not forget things and might even call for a few more points than that if there’s a penalty. That’s not really much of a limitation, but in a low-level game it’s reasonable enough.

 

Gift Of Tongues

This barely gets a reference in the books – mostly as “Companions understand what people are saying” – but I’m going to presume that it covers vocal and written communication in general.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Double Meaning, Message, Read Magic, and Imitate Voice. You can also sketch accurately, make sure that your words cannot be accidentally misunderstood, and understand any normal language given a minute or two to listen to it being spoken. This won’t let you speak it though.
  • Level One Effects: Aphasia, Comprehend Languages, Compulsive Liar, Fumbletongue, Share Language, Memorize Page, Command, Enthrall, Litany Of Sloth (usually via distraction and insults) Litany Of Weakness, and Vocal Alteration. At this point you can get a general message across pretty much any language barrier, identify relationships between languages, give a fair description of the attitudes and beliefs of the author of any extensive written work, and give excellent motivational speeches.
  • Level Two Effects: Glibness, Codespeak, Heckle, Steal Voice, Hidden Speech, Suggestion, Tongues, Voluminous Vocabulary, Castigate, Litany Of Eloquence, and Speak With Animals. At this level you will also automatically take on an appropriate accent, use native turns of phrase, no one will notice anything odd about your speech, and you can reconstruct messages, books, and instructions presuming that you have at least a third of the original material to work with.
  • Level Three Effects: Curse Of Babel, Demanding Message, Confess, Lesser Geas, Illusory Script, Secret Page, Communal Share Language, Deflect Blame, and Triggered Suggestion. At this point you can understand utterly alien languages, translate technical and magical material, understand blueprints and other plans, reconstruct books and messages from small fragments, and communicate directly with computers.

 

Healing:

In the original books healers are rarely chosen as Heralds, simply because they’re very badly needed in the general population and because Heralds have very short life expectancies. Of course, in d20, any rational party will find SOME excuse to have a healer along – especially since a d20 Healing Gift is far more effective than the ones in the books. Maybe the party healer was chosen in an utter emergency because bonding with a companion boosts gifts – and healing someone was vital to the future of the country. Maybe their Healing Gift was too weak to use without a Companion. Maybe it was triggered accidentally and unexpectedly. Maybe there was just a special reason – perhaps a healing gift that would have been wasted in a bad situation so there was no reason not to choose an otherwise-suitable person with the healing Gift. It’s not as if it never happens, as shown by Shavri, (and, according to the Valdemar wiki I consulted, a Herald named Shia whom I do not remember). Just go with it. There’s no point in arguing.

It is important to remember that – the way Gifts are built – cumulative effects are limited to 2-12 uses of the same basic effect per day per target – so “unlimited use of level zero effects” doesn’t equate to “unlimited healing”. What it means is “somewhat faster healing” – even if the baseline healing in d20 is already better than healer-assisted healing in the original books, a gifted d20 Healer can come close to matching some fairly significant Valdemaran miracles – and we’re bowing to d20 here. In the books many or most healers have ethical problems with using their ability to manipulate the body to harm others, but it’s possible (and, with player characters, all too likely).

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Cure Minor Wounds, Detect Poison, Diagnose Illness (Hedge Magic), Transfuse (Hedge Magic), Stabilize, Touch Of Fatigue, and individual Polypurpose Panacea effects. A healer at this level can also remove rashes, reduce scars and birthmarks, sooth burns and frostbite, keep wounds from becoming infected, relieve arthritis and headaches, eliminate male pattern baldness (if they want to waste time on regular treatments), slightly extend lifespans (regular attention from a healer will add about two years to the effective duration of each age category, resulting in a total extension of about ten years), and alleviate the effects of many other minor illnesses and disorders.
  • Level One Effects: Biofeedback, Relieve Illness (Hedge Magic), Relieve Poison (Hedge Magic), Cure / Inflict Light Wounds, Dentistry (Hedge Magic), Invigorate, Itching Curse, Restful Sleep, Touch of Blindness, Resurgence, Touch of Gracelessness, Keep Watch, Ray of Enfeeblement, Ray Of Sickening, and Remove Sickness (Pathfinder Version). A healer at this level can also produce effects equivalent to the best individual earthly medications, surgeons, and physicians.
  • Level Two Effects: Cure / Inflict Moderate Wounds, Sleep, Lesser Restoration, Youthful Appearance, Acute Senses, Blindness / Deafness, Delay Pain, Delay Poison, Bears Endurance, Bulls Strength, Sustenance, and Body Purification. A healer at this level can use his or her skill and Gift to reattach severed limbs, perform open-heart surgery, and imitate a trauma team.
  • L3) Remove Blindness/Deafness, Neutralize Poison, Cause Blindness/Deafness, Cure/Inflict Serious Wounds, Accept Affliction, Channel the Gift, Deep Slumber, Mass Invigorate, Remove Curse, Psychic Leach, Pain Strike, Remove Paralysis, Ray Of Exhaustion, Poison, Remove Disease, Contagion, and Endorphin Surge. A skilled healer with a Gift at this level will – at least with skill and a good deal of Mana expenditure – be able to perform organ transplants, create almost fully-functional prosthetics, perform extensive biophysical reconstruction, and – for that matter – create tailored drugs and diseases.

 

Mage-Gift:

Mage-Gift doesn’t work like the other gifts; the users have to learn specific spells and don’t get unlimited use of their level zero effects. On the other hand, it allows a MUCH wider variety of effects and Adepts can reach level four effects – which are generally beyond the reach of any other single character.

  • For 6 CP you can have Occult Talent, granting 4L0 and 1L1 effects that you can cast once a day each with a caster level equal to your character level.
  • For 12 CP you can have Advanced Occult Talent, granting 5L0 and 3L1 effects and a similar number of spell slots to cast them with.

Characters in the setting can have Occult Talents with a total base cost of 24 CP. If they wish they can limit their abilities to reduce the cost, but they can’t exceed that limit.

On the other hand, they CAN take higher level spells in those slots. They’ll just have to spend Mana to cast them – and while the Mage-Gifted have limited access to Rite Of Chi to recharge their mana reserves, mana is still a limited resource. Journeymen only have a bit and can only use spells one level above their base slots. Masters have a bit more, can recharge faster and can spend it to use spells one or two levels above their base slots. Adepts have even more, recharge even faster, and can spend it to use spells one, two, or three levels above their base slots.

But wait! That maxes out at ten L0 and six L1 slots! Adepts are far more versatile than that!

Are they? Almost everything complicated or powerful in the books falls under Ritual Magic. Most adepts only seem to have a handful of spells that they can really use immediately.

Pretty much every mage has Light (L0), a basic Shield (Immediate Action, L1 in a L0 slot so 1 Mana, blocks 15 points of damage), and some form of Energy Attack (Spells like Ray Of Frost, Magic Missile, Scorching Ray, or Lightning Bolt are popular depending on the user’s level of expertise).

For this particular “Gift”… here are some spells that fit in fairly well:

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Almost anything fits in here. If you like, you can use the Continuum II cantrips. There are a lot of those to choose from.
  • Level One Effects: Disguise Self, Sleep, Alarm, Protection From Evil, Floating Disk, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp, Color Spray, Shadow Trap, Shadow Weapon, Ventriloquism, Magic Weapon, Obscure Object, (Personal) Dream Shield, and Faerie Fire,
  • Level Two Effects: Scorching Ray (also Lightning and Force variants), Blur, Dust Devil (2’nd edition), Flaming Sphere, Wall Of Light, Glitterdust, Hypnotic Pattern, Invisibility, Armament (temporary force weapons, up to a dozen knives/arrows/etc). Spiritual Weapon, Contact Entity 1, Force Sword, Disguise Other, Invisibility, Mirror Image, Misdirection, Silk To Steel, Deeper Darkness, Daylight, Searing Light, and Dream Shield.
  • Level Three Effects: a long-term Disguise Self/other variant, Lesser Wall Of Fire (a weaker variant), Fireball, Circle of Protection, Dispel Magic, Pyrotechnics, Nondetection, Protection From Energy, Greater Stunning Barrier, Gloomblind Bolts, Ice Spears, Phantom Steed, Planar Inquiry, Arcane Sight, Contact Entity II, Daylight, Lightning Bolt, Sheet Lightning, Displacement, Call Lightning, Hedging Weapons, Infernal Challenger (only for evil blood mages), and Psychic Containment.
  • Level Four Effects: Dimension Door, Wall Of Fire, Lesser Gate (basically a time-consuming, exhausting, and error-prone teleport – or way to let various monsters come through. It might even be Ritual Magic rather than a spell), Summon Monster IV (“Adept Manifestation”), and Lesser Planar Ally.

That’s not exhaustive of course – d20 offers thousands of spells to play with – but a fair number of basics are on there.

 

Mind-Healing

The books represent Mind-Healing as being generally very slow, just as creating bonds that force someone to do your bidding is a very slow (and evil) process. You don’t see any mind-healers going “Zap! You’re Sane/Free/Rational!”. Honestly… given the principles of Lerandor’s Rule (the use-a-bunch-of-lesser-effects principle) even level zero mindhealing effects are more than they show in the books. If a character really wants “Mindhealing” the way it is in the books… take a bonus in Profession; Therapist or learn Ritual Magic. Because mental healing is normally pretty step-by-tiny-step anyway – which is just what level zero effects DO. So even with just cantrips you can finish up with anything within the power of level three effects within a few minutes – and that is NOT what the books show. In fact, it tends to wreck more than one of their plots – and it doesn’t add much to most games anyway since you can’t treat eccentric players and the villains aren’t going to hold still for it. That’s why d20 psychiatrists are not a favored class.

  • If you must be a Mind-Healer, buy Ritual Magic, Specialized and Corrupted / only for psychiatric purposes (2 CP) and put a few skill points in Profession: Therapist – and there you go.

 

Precognition

Precognition or “Foresight” seems to come in two basic forms in the books – short-term combat precognition that provides warnings of attacks and clues as to likely strategies and long-term visions of the future that are sometimes useful warnings, sometimes grim prophecies that tend to come true no matter what, and are sometimes simply wrong or misunderstood. There’s also room for very short-term precognition (the sort of thing that warns you of someone swinging at you from a blind spot or of an incoming arrow) and kingdom-scale foresight that warns of upcoming major disasters and such, but most characters with Foresight have very specialized forms, such as being able to foretell the weather.

Honestly, a lot of that goes under “plot device”, both very literally in the books and mostly so in the games. After all, the game is built around dealing with problems – and “the group is warned of an upcoming attack in time to set up the defenses or race to the rescue” is a pretty classic problem. In terms of the game… precognitive warnings really aren’t any different than being warned by a scout, peasant, merchant, angel, or wizard. The same goes for kingdom-level threats. If someone’s special power requires the game master to give a warning, he or she will just step up the threat to keep it challenging and exciting.

So this list is going to be a bit generic and include a lot of short-term bonus tricks – as well as some ways to inflict penalties, which is pretty much equivalent.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: There are pretty much all thematic; you can have meaningful dreams, get vague warnings of major threats, get details equivalent to having a few scouts (or perhaps a flying familiar) out in the case of more local problems, know about upcoming natural disasters in time to show up to help, give good agricultural advice, predict the weather, and will probably get a +2 bonus on saves against traps, checks to detect ambushes, and maybe even initiative. You might even be able to prevent the occasional disaster that would normally resulted from phrases like “I wonder what will happen if I push the red button / mix these two chemicals / try this unknown mystical ritual” – at least if the rest of the party is sane enough to look at the precognitive before actually doing it. Most NPC precognitives are pretty narrowly focused (since that is so much easier to write and run for), but PC’s are all about meeting unexpected challenges – so they’re going to be generalists.
  • Level One Effects: Anticipate Peril, True Strike, Bungle, Precognition (One minute per level. Variants include +2 to Attacks, to Armor Class, to Saves, and to Damage), Ward Of Heaven (The Practical Enchanter), Aura Of Favor (The Practical Enchanter). Low-Light Vision, Hawkeye, Improvisation, Omen Of Peril, Surefoot, Surefooted Stride, Divine Favor, Entropic Shield, Doom, Fallback Strategy, and Bless (via giving orders). This can also be used to anticipate attacks (dodging up to 15 damage as an immediate action), to negate surprise for the party, and to reroll a skill check since you “foresaw it’s failure”. On the larger scale, this is where you can start using the skill-based variant of True Strike (True Skill, The Practical Enchanter) to do things like pick out the very best moment to call for a tactical maneuver, or the best advice to give the farmers, and so on – as least as long as some relatively vague precognition would he helpful.
  • Level Two Effects: Honeyed Tongue, Tactical Acumen, Augury, Hunter’s Eye, Heroic Fortune, Gallant Inspiration, Find Traps, Sutra (The Practical Enchanter), Karmic Shield (The Practical Enchanter), and Harrowing (or any other form of fortune-telling), At his point you can also use your power as an immediate action to evade twenty-five points of damage, get some clues about the long-term hazards (and likely benefits) of a proposed course of action, and win outrageously at games of chance – up until you have to quit because the likely outcome of winning again is getting stabbed.
  • Level Three Effects: False Future, Find Fault, Minor Dream, Vision Of Hell, Find Fault, Perfect Placement, Good Fortune (The Practical Enchanter), (individual) Ruin Delvers Fortune effects, Find The Gap, Danger Sense, Ubiquitous Vision, and Prayer (via giving directions). At this level you can use your power to take an extra standard action as an immediate action, to try and manipulate the force of Destiny (see Destiny Magic), and to have set up Contingencies (See Politics) to deal with events that the player had no idea would happen. This is also far, FAR, beyond any Gift of Foresight used in the books.

 

Psychometry

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: D20 usually leaves low-grade information gathering up to skill checks – but this level of ability can date items, determine causes of death, determine if a weapon inflicted a particular wound, discern the true intent of a gift or missive, learn the final thoughts or terminal experiences of a corpse, tell which button opens the door and which one sets off the bomb, and otherwise pick up on the intent behind manipulations of physical objects – such as the intent to add poison to a drink, an attempt to get someone too drunk to resist being kidnaped, or the true intent of complex legal clauses in a contract. It can detect forgeries or the information someone was intending (but failed) to convey in a frantic scribble. Was someone recently murdered in a dark alley? Finding out about it will be trivial if a psychometrist takes a look.
  • Level One Effects: Call To Mind, Identify, Obscure Object, Nondetection, Cultural Adaption, Master’s Touch, Detect Secret Doors, Eidetic Lock, and Sanctuary (a bit of a stretch, but it’s basically infusing the area with a feeling). At this level you can easily trace the provenance of items and antiques, “imprint” messages on objects that can only be “read” by another psychometrist, make areas inspire particular moods and emotions, experience bits of the past strongly associated with particular objects – using a womans wedding dress to experience the wedding it was used in or using the cane a man carried everywhere for ten years to “talk to” the imprint of his personality. This sort of thing may take some time, but if you have the time to try and investigate something that rarely matters.
  • L2) Ancestral Communion, Blood Biography, Magic Weapon (Armor, Tools, etc), Object Reading, Sensitivity To Psychic Impressions, Find Traps, and Share Memory, The major distinction at this point is that the user can pull out fairly major bits of useful information very quickly, instead of having to sit around and meditate on it. It’s also at the point where forcing psychic energy into something actually starts to affect it – hence the ability to somewhat enhance items on a temporary basis.
  • L3) Borrow Skill, Akhasic Communion, Discern Value, Find Fault, Pierce Disguise, Pack Empathy, Mindlocked Messenger, Greater Magic Weapon (Armor, Tool, Etc), Channel Vigor, Speak With Dead, and Masterwork Transformation (no components required, but does take some time and use). At this point you are basically drawing information from the universe – and can push some back out into it (thus Greater Magic Weapon and Masterwork Transformation). Given time and the patience to keep asking questions, you can find out all kinds of things, weave warnings and messages into the fabric of the world, and explore almost any mystery. While adventurers rarely have that kind of time available, when they do this Gift can be devastating.

 

Pyrokinesis

According to the books, a lot of the characters with this Gift have poor control over it, although there’s no apparent reason why it should be harder to control the power to heat things up then it is to control the gifts of Empathy, Telekinesis, and Telepathy. You can give your character some such disadvantage if you must, but there really isn’t any reason to. D20 characters routinely mess about with things a lot more dangerous than mere fire.

To account for the books, I’d suggest that ANY Gift that you are nervous about, or fail to get enough practice with, may be difficult to control – but while a rogue flare-up of Farsight may give you a headache, and a telekinetic flare may break a pot, such things don’t spread – while a bit of flame in the wrong spot may burn down a city. Ergo, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, Pyrokinetics tend to be nervous about their Gift and don’t practice as much for fear of losing control.

Of course, when it comes to player-characters… they’ll row out on a lake and sit on a rock or use snowshoes to visit a field under four feet of snow and practice boiling water, torching models, and making hot drinks until they have things well under control.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Dancing Lights, Flare, Ray Of Fire (Frost), Mending (Welding Only), Spark. Of course, a pyrokinetic can also start fires, warm their fingers, heat or cool small objects or minor amounts of liquid, instantly brew tea, light or extinguish many candles, several lanterns, or a torch, prevent or treat frostbite, control smoke rings, create puffs of smoke, and shape small flames and quantities of smoke into various forms.
  • Level One Effects: Control Flames, Blades Of Fire, Flame Darts (like Magic Missile), Lesser Orb Of Fire, Light, Animate Fire, Cure Light Wounds (Fire and Cold damage only), Blinding Flash, Endure Elements, Flare Burst, Burning Hands, Touch Of Combustion, Burning Disarm, Faerie Fire, Produce Flame, and Resist Energy (Fire and Cold only). There aren’t specific spells for it, but this also provides the ability to weld larger objects, cause small flames to flare up, put out groups of torches or a large campfire, and create and control a 10′ radius of fairly heavy smoke – whether to sculpt it or to make smoke signals.
  • Level Two Effects: Scorching Ray, Cause Nausea (via induced fever), Personal Haste (Practical Enchanter, via Boosted Metabolism), Heat Metal, Chill Metal, Obscuring Mist (smoke), Boiling Blood, Pyrotechnics, Burning Arc, Burning Gaze, Fire Breath, Frost Fall, Ice Slick, and Campfire Wall. Effects on this level can also be used to open safe paths through major fires, briefly form a cool and solid crust over a magma flow, to cause a fire to lash out and engulf someone, animate a bonfire, cause a quantity of wax or oil to detonate like plastic explosives or nitroglycerin, and to briefly create massive images of flame.
  • Level Three Effects: Fireball, Energy Wall (Fire), Haste (via accelerated metabolism again), Flaming Arrow, Protection From Arrows (they burst into flames), Heatstroke, Firestream, Dispel Magic (an immediate-action version that only works against Fire and Ice effects) and Quench. Effects on this level can also be used to contain forest fires by creating counterfires or driving the flames back to create firebreaks, to melt metal objects, to project a sphere that absorbs fire or cold damage (Resist Energy 10′ Radius), or to put someone into deep hibernation (roughly equivalent to Feign Death – although this is kind of dangerous).

 

Shields:

In Valdemar, “Shields” are normally passive – and basically amount to “buying a good will save”. Only mage-shields normally seem to be active effects, so they’re handled under mage-gift.

 

Telekinesis

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Mage Hand, Hammertouch, Animate Rope, Launch Bolt, Launch Item, Breeze, Scoop, and Open/Close. While effects at this level are relatively short range and of fairly little force, you can produce a light zephyr, stir pots, work dangerous alchemical experiments from a safe distance, make bushes rustle distractingly, open latches from the outside, and pull off a wide variety of similar tricks.
  • Level One Effects: Guided Shot, Mage Armor, Force Shield, Feather Step, Lighten Object, Buoyancy, Coin Shot, Mending, Hold Portal, Stunning Barrier, Thunderstomp, and Gravity Bow. At this point you can move things to trip up opponents, yank chairs out from under people, guide pies to hit people in the face at considerable ranges, bind animals mouths shut, pull things to yourself, hurl small objects with force and accuracy, equivalent to a heavy crossbow, and get your armor on in mere moments.
  • Level Two Effects: Admonishing Ray, Alchemic Mist (turns a poison or alchemical item into a 20′ radius burst within medium range), Unseen Servant, Air Step, Protection From Arrows, Gust Of Wind, Gusting Sphere, Pilfering Hand, Knock, and Telekinetic Volley. At this point you can shove people away, manipulate objects at range, “feel around” for something you can’t see as if you were wearing heavy gloves, and cause masses of rope or vines to tie people up.
  • Level Three Effects: Web Bolt (using available materials). Raging Rubble, Make Whole, Tremor Blast, Hold Person, Wind Wall, Ape Walk, Arrow Storm, Telekinetic Force, Telekinetic Thrust, and Hedging Weapons. Effects at this level can also reduce missile damage in a small radius or create minor barriers.

 

Telepathy

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Daze, Message, and Distract. At this level a telepath can make ideas occur to someone, perform “stage” hypnosis, share memories, lend someone one skill point (such as sharing a language) or borrow one, sense surface thoughts if the target isn’t resisting, detect hypnosis and other mental influences, and project a vague persona around yourself – things like “he looks rich”, “that’s obviously someone important”, or “just another janitor” that will often get by people who aren’t paying too much attention.
  • Level One Effects: Distract, Conceal Thoughts, Borrow Skill, Cause Fear, Hypnotism, Charm Person, Lesser Confusion, Innocence, Lock Gaze, Memory Lapse, Sense Link, and Mindlink. At this point you can broadcast vague ideas to a crowd, share detailed visions, pull an exact image out of somebody’s memory (and reproduce it if you have the required artistic skills), or communicate long lectures with a glance.
  • Level Two Effects: Inflict Pain, Silent Image, Sleep, Daze Monster, Detect Thoughts, Enthall, False Belief, Hidden Presence, Passing Fancy, Share Memory, Enshroud Thoughts, Misdirection, Telepathic Censure, Mental Disruption, Mass Missive, Thought Shield, Brain Lock, Suggestion, and Zone Of Truth. At this point you can generate group compulsions with some force, anticipate peoples arguments, send a message over a long distance (usually in times of desperation), and fairly easily pick up on things that people are worried about (or are trying to keep from thinking about).
  • Level Three Effects:) Minor Image, Audiovisual Hallucination, Aura of the Unremarkable, Confusion, Mass Feather Step, Malicious Spite, Seek Thoughts, Triggered Suggestion, Aura Sight, Seek Thoughts, Psionic Blast, Deep Slumber, and Crisis Of Breath. While the range is generally short – unless you’re working with another high-order telepath or a group to jump up to fourth level effects (such as Sending) at this point you’ve got a fair amount of range and can fairly readily overwhelm – or probe – the minds of normal people.

 

Teleportation

In the books “telekinesis” and “teleportation” are usually combined into “Fetching” – which seems to cover everything from traveling a bit faster and moving small items around up to shaking major structures and teleporting someone out of a locked cell a hundred miles away. I’ve split them up again because otherwise few d20 players would be able to resist. “Teleportation” is still a catch-all category for movement powers, but at least it’s not a must-have discipline.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: At this level the user can grant themselves or others small bonuses to their movement skills, shift small items in contact with themselves around their body (making them very difficult to search), draw weapons as a free action, speed themselves up just a little bit, and cheat outrageously at many games.
  • Level One Effects: Skate, Catfall, Branch To Branch, Accelerated Movement, Expeditious Retreat, Feather Step, Liberating Command, Bladed Dash, Feather Fall, Jump, Longshot, Touch Of The Sea, Launch Item, Longstrider, Travelers Mount, Wings Of The Sea, Personal Haste (Practical Enchanter), Light Foot (Blog), and Benign Transposition. Not unexpectedly, given that basic physical obstacles are a significant problem for low-level d20 characters, the system also offers a wide selection of spells to deal with them. About the only thing that isn’t covered is the basic “teleport small objects” effect – which is simple enough; with this level of ability you can apport a small object from one spot to another within close range. Thus you can steal something off a table or (if you know the position accurately) from a bag, plant something on someone, and so on. Unfortunately, you can only teleport objects into open spaces, you can’t teleport them into creatures, and objects in someone’s possession get a save.
  • Level Two Effects: Retrieve Item, Returning Weapon, Trade Items, Moment Of Flight, Lions Charge, and Wall Walker or Spider Climb. Upgraded versions of the various first level effects also go here, as does teleporting small objects within medium range or somewhat larger ones within close range – even up to child size if you’re touching them and simply want to move them away.
  • Level Three Effects: Haste, Dimension Door, Blink, Urban Step, Greater Longstrider, Tailwind, Dimension Twister, Time Hop, and Hustle. You can even do the Lightning Step variant of Dimension Door from The Practical Enchanter.

And that’s about it for gifts from the books (in fact, it’s a rather drastic expansion on most of them) – and should be quite enough examples to work with if someone builds a more exotic gift.

Atheria Eclipse d20 Update

Currently the Atheria game is running online, with a few changes from the original tabletop game – most notably the use of Skill Tiers, the availability of some exotic Templates such as the Host Of Parath shown below, the banning of a few powers that are difficult to run in play-by-post, and (as usual) plenty of exotic spells. Today it’s time for a few of them that get used in the next over-complicated character.

Skill Tiers:

Skills on Atheria are somewhat cheaper than on most worlds, since they’re divided into tiers depending on their complexity and usefulness in the setting.

  • Tier-One Skills are quite often useful and are generally quite widely applicable. They include Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Int)*, Hide (Dex), Martial Arts (Varies), Movement Skills (Land/Tumble (Dex)*, Air/Fly (Dex), and Water/Swim (Str)), Move Silently (Dex), Profession/Occult (Wis)*, Search (Int), Sense/Spot (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex)*, Spellcraft (Int)*, and Survival (Wis). On Atheria all Knowledge Skills (Int) are Tier One – partly because they’re important in general and partly because they include the knowledge of related magical rituals. Tier-One skills cost full price.
  • Tier Two Skills are occasionally useful or relatively narrow, but are replaceable by special abilities or relatively low-level spells. They include Appraise (Int) Balance (Dex), Bluff (Chr), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Control Shape (Wis), Craft/Exotic (Int)*, Escape Artist (Dex), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha)*, Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Open Lock (Dex)*, Perform (Specify) (Cha), Profession/Complex (Wis)*, Psicraft (Int)*, Ride (Dex), Sense/Listen (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Speak Language (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha)*.Tier Two skills are available for half cost. They can usually be Corrupted, but not Specialized without special permission.
  • Tier Three Skills are either rarely useful due to their narrowness or lack of applicability or can be easily replaced by a first-level spell such as Comprehend Languages. They include Autohypnosis (Wis)*, Burrow (Wis)*, Craft/Mundane (Int), Decipher Script (Int)*, Disguise (Cha), Forgery (Int), Jump (Str), Profession (Simple), Sense/Touch (Wis), Use Psionic Device (Cha)*, and Use Rope (Dex). They are available for one-third cost. As a rule, they cannot be Specialized or Corrupted further without special permission.
    • Skills marked with an “*” cannot be used unskilled.

Skill Modifiers:

  • Skill-enhancing Feats multiply their bonus by the Tier of the skill they’re applied to. Thus a character with “Skill Focus: Forgery” would be a master forger, gaining a +9 bonus on his or her Forgery checks. Virtually no one without a similar focus on spotting forgeries would be able to detect his or her work – and the feat is actually worth taking in an intrigue-heavy game.
  • Declaring Raises: A character may voluntarily raise the base DC by +5, +10, or +15 in advance – whether or not the GM has revealed it – to gain a superior/remarkable/astounding result. Unfortunately, failing to reach the modified DC negates the entire attempt. Raises may also be used to allow two skills that require move, standard, or full-round actions to be used at the same time – if, say, a character wishes to pick a lock while using sleight of hand to make it look like he’s fumbling with the key, and thus keep the six guards from getting overly suspicious.
  • Descriptions: Sensible, or really dramatic, descriptions of your skill checks are worth a bonus on the roll. Using your brain SHOULD help, and so should making the game more interesting.

Host Of Parath (32 CP / +1 ECL Acquired Template).

Of the thousand fragments of Parath Beastlord, it is believed that fewer than four score reached Atheria. Hundreds of others fell to the Dralithar and obliteration, many fled elsewhere amongst the Thousand Scales of the Dragon, and many were lost to the Dragon itself. Most of the lesser fragments that reached Atheria have slumbered across the ages, but now that the gates of Atheria have begun to open once more, those fragments are awakening – and some are linked both to the Barbarians and to the energies of the Dragon. And so, occasionally, some barbarian child will find themselves linked to Parath and developing this template. Unfortunately, all the powers of this template are Corrupted / the user also bears some of Parath’s predatory arrogance, will tend to feel that nothing can go wrong with his or her plans, feels entitled to power and luxury, and only respects the strong. Things that hunt the divine will be drawn to him or her.

  • Heritage Of The Divine: +4 to any two attributes (16 CP), +2 to any one attribute (4 CP). If desired, these may be expended on the the Blood Of The Dragon. Parath is scattered and fallen, but remains one of the Ancient Gods and a conduit of power beyond mortality. Even a minuscule fragment of that might is of note to mortals. (In her case, these points have indeed been spent on the Blood Of The Dragon). In settings that are not using the half-price attribute rule, halve these bonuses.
  • The Acceptance Of Sacrifice: Siddhisyoga, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / The user must actually have access to, and full control of, the item or being that he or she wishes to acquire and then must ritually bind it to the divine essence within himself or herself. Once this is done, he or she can bring it forth or dismiss it at will as a free action – but damaged items and injured creatures must be repaired or healed normally (although any creatures that have been acquired may work on it). If an item is destroyed – or a creature slain – it must be replaced instead (4 CP). That which is offered to Parath is offered to those who host him – and becomes one of their attributes if they offer it to themselves. (While Siddhisyoga is normally disallowed on Atheria since you can’t buy magic item functions with gold anyway, this limited variant is restricted to mundane items and creatures that you acquire). .
  • Life Enduring: Immunity / The Physical Effects Of Aging (Uncommon, Major, Trivial, 1 CP). Parath’s hosts do not readily weaken due to old age and live very long, healthy, lives unless otherwise slain.
  • Nobility Of The Beasts: Innate Enchantment: Speak with Animals (SRD, 2000 GP), Surefoot (SC, +10 Enhancement Bonus to Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble, do not lose your Dexterity bonus to AC when balancing or climbing, 2000 GP), Personal-Only Immortal Vigor (Practical Enchanter, +12 + 2 x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP), Personal-Only Endure Elements (1400 GP), and Personal Only Cure Minor Wounds (only triggers once per round if below 1 HP x.7 = 490 GP) (5 CP). Immunity/The XP cost of the Innate Enchantments in this package (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP). Parath’s dominion over the beasts lies fallow, but traces of it and of the vitality of an immortal echo still within the blood of his hosts.

Shadow Guise

  • Illusion (Shadow)
  • Level: Bard 4, Sorcerer/Wizard 4
  • Components: V, S
  • Casting Time: One Swift Action
  • Range: Personal or Touch
  • Target: You or Creature Touched (Maximum of Large Size)
  • Duration: One minute per caster level.
  • Saving Throw: Will Negates (Mostly Harmless)
  • Spell Resistance: Yes.

Shadow Guise infuses the targets flesh with the stuff of shadow. During it’s duration the user can reshape his or her flesh as a free action with limits equivalent to those of the Disguise Self spell – although both touch and sound are included as the user’s now slightly-less-than-real flesh is truly reshaped. Thanks to the subtle shifting of the user’s flesh to respond to his or her will and its tendency to reshape itself to avoid damage from attacks the user also gains a +4 Alchemical Bonus to his or her Dexterity and Natural Armor. Sadly, however, the user will also suffer a -2 penalty to saves against light-based effects.

Secondarily, if given a moment to prepare. the user can perform various parlor tricks – opening a small hole to drop a small object through his or her hand, “stabbing” themselves without injury, escaping handcuffs with a bit of selective squeezing and bending, scratching the small of his or her own back, displaying an apparent wound, acting as a contortionist, accommodating an exotic sexual partner, and so on.

Laws Of Magic Part IV – Purification and Personification

For those looking to read in order…

And now for Part IV – Purification and Animism / Personification

In “real” traditional magic Purification is a vital prerequisite for any major working. After all… since everything is connected, and there are all sorts of influences and correspondences everywhere, the first step in any major working (that’s anything that isn’t purely reliant on your personal power like “psychic” abilities and petty cantrips) pretty much has to be to clear away all of the magical influences that you don’t want getting involved. Otherwise… you’ll be incorporating all kinds of random influences into your magic. So the first step in anything major is to set up a magic circle or ward to keep outside influences out of your working – and the second is to cleanse your ritual area of any influences that are already present. The third, of course, is to specifically invite, summon, or add those influences you do want present. These days this is usually known as Casting The Circle.

Only then do you actually start in on what you want to do. Otherwise you’re risking having your working go wildly out of control and causing god-only-knows-what to happen. Classically, working without purification was risking much more than your mere life.

In legends and literature, purification is mostly a matter of personal purification. After all, having your characters stop to conduct various purification rituals before they do anything every little bit gets boring very, VERY, fast – and even entirely mortal (super-) heroes are generally capable of doing the impossible ten times before breakfast anyway. Why shouldn’t they get away with skipping the dull bits here too?

Conventionally, when it comes to personal purity in legends and literature…

  • “White” wizards are likely to have to refrain from sexual activity and/or most personal emotional relationships, or avoid certain foods, or follow strict rules to avoid “sin”, or take ritual baths (or possibly never bathe so as to avoid dissipating their personal energies), or spend time in a sweat lodge, or dance and chant, or any of a hundred other methods. In most such cases, the potency of their magic relies on how pure they are, although failure chances and such do show up in some cases.
  • “Black” mages tend to offload their need for purity on other people – which is why they’re big on virgin’s blood, child sacrifices, and stealing the power of untainted magical nexi and items. Thus they weaken and corrupt the sources they draw on – which they care little about because they tend to throw them away as they weaken and grab new sources of power. Black Magic thus inherently taints and corrupts both the area around the user and the sources of magic he or she draws upon.
  • Elementalists, “Nature Mages”, or “Priests” tend to just bind themselves to a particular source or type of power (and usually one they have a natural affinity for at that) or two – thus making it relatively easy to remain “pure” by not interacting with other kinds of magic. All those systems of freeform magic that only apply to particular fields probably work like this.

Which is at least one way in which the (rather boring) traditional generic ritualist – who can try to do almost anything at all given sufficient time in which to work – turns into the familiar specialist-in-a-field / “elementalist” / “necromancer” / whatever role-playing-game quick spellcaster who can keep up with the action but has a strictly limited variety and supply of spells.

Purification is even less important in most RPG’s though, simply because in such games most spells are preset, as with Amber’s “Hung” spells, d20’s “Prepared” spells, or World Tree’s “Grafted” spells. When the effects are set down in the game rules, active purification usually falls by the wayside. Why bother when that fireball wand is essentially every bit as “mechanical” as a grenade launcher?

With systems like that… if you needed to purify yourself, you presumably did it while you were getting your spells ready to go. Once a spell is hung, assembled, or grafted, it is pretty much independent of outside influences – just as a grenade will go off regardless of where it is when you pull the pin (at least barring really insane environments such as the surfaces of neutron stars or “antimagic” zones).

Still, there are echoes of the idea in most role-playing games; that’s presumably where cursed items come from – and it’s why half the powers of The Practical Enchanter’s Wards Major are normally selected randomly; the area covered by such a Ward is usually just too big to purify effectively before it’s enchanted.

Games that happen to have a (usually secondary) ritual magic system or adhere to “only blunt weapons for priests (so that they are not rendered impure by the intent to shed blood, like early AD&D) usually already include some nods to the idea of ritual purity – but if you want to emphasize it a bit more, noting that mages must spend some time every day in meditation to cleanse their minds, or spend a day of downtime not casting anything so as to purify the energies of their chakra every so often, or burn the occasional stick of special incense to let it’s smoke carry away malevolent demonic forces, or never speak an impure language, or whatever, as a part of being a spellcaster, will do it. You can even give it a small penalty to ensure that the players make a note to do it. 5% chance of spell failure per week missed to a maximum of – say – 10% per spell level – will be plenty of incentive for your spellcasters to find an hour or so a week for some purification ceremonies.

Personification is basically Animism – the belief that objects, places, creatures, and possibly even abstract concepts, have spirits of their own, are at least somewhat aware of the world, and can act in their own ways. From this point of view there is no sharp distinction between the spiritual and physical aspects of the world – or between mankind and the rest of the universe. Of all the classic laws of magic… it is perhaps the oldest and most universal. The idea is so widely held and inherent to most indigenous peoples that they often do not even have a word in their languages for it – or even for “religion”. It is unquestioned; Animism simply IS.

It’s true origin lies deep in infancy. Even infants as young as three months of age seem to realize that objects continue to exist when they’re out of sight. Soon after that they begin to understand that not much happens around them unless something makes it happen.

So what makes most things happen around an infant? Sometimes it’s wind, but most of the time it’s a creature – occasionally a family pet or other animal, but most of the time… it’s other people. Infants do tend to be kept safe, warm, and tucked away in quiet, stable, places after all.

It’s not much of a jump to the idea that when things happen… it’s probably people of some sort. Even if you can’t see them, bigger and older people do all kinds of marvelous things. They bring you food, they mend broken toys, they bring fire and keep you warm. So things like lightning, wind, the growth of plants, the flight of birds, the movement of celestial objects, and the great eruptions of volcanoes… are probably acts of even bigger and older people. Sure, some spirits (like some people) are relatively simple and are only good at a few things – but others, like the Great Sky Spirit, are vast and complex.

And, as children grow… a rich animistic overlay of gods, nature spirits, haunts, and fancies grows with them, cast over cold reality like a warming blanket. So you asked for what you wanted or needed. And if, in extremis, that failed you and you died… well, you didn’t pass on that experience. And those times when – against all odds – you succeeded, soon passed through storytelling into legend. What further proof could a member of a small tribe ask for?

Older human brains play into that worldview in another way. The brain is a survival mechanism. It looks for patterns, for ways to survive and prosper in the present – and to predict and influence the future. When the patterns are beyond it’s current understanding, and appear impossible to change to suit itself, stress sets in. The brain starts throwing preconceptions, fantasies, and wild ideas into the desperate effort to find a manipulable pattern.

And waiting there, from early childhood, in the minds depths… is Animism. From a time when life was controlled by mighty beings who did mysterious things for no reason that you really understood – but whom could be influenced to fulfill your needs when you made noise. Did you have a stuffed animal as a child that you talked to? Did you hide under the covers to keep the monsters from getting you? Have you sworn at your car or your computer while trying to get it to start? Then congratulations! You are a practicing animistic mage. Most of us are, if only because It’s VERY hard to get rid of the feeling that threatening that annoyingly balky piece of equipment with being thrown away will help somehow.

Animism is so deeply embedded in human cultures and thus gaming magic that it’s barely even noticed. Look at the setting of your game. Are their various gods of nature and natural phenomena? Are there elemental entities or storm spirits? Do magical items respond when commanded? Are there haunted places, sacred groves, spirits of the land, and great totems that control animals? Do older weapons have proper names and perhaps powers due to their growing legend? Can you speak to the spirit of a mountain or a river? There’s a reason why no one questions that sort of thing when it’s put into a setting. Every fantasy setting has some of that sort of thing.

About the only way that “Personification” elaborates on basic Animism is to say that Animistic Spirits tend to react in kind and can be channeled – and that this is an entirely valid way to deal with the unseen world. Are you a noble hero serving the equally-noble Sun God? Then the Sun God will tend to answer your pleas and will support you as you support him. Congratulations; you’re a Paladin. Do you demand that dark forces do your will and strike down your enemies? Then they will demand equally dark deeds and offerings from you in exchange. Do you attempt to gently persuade locks to open even if you don’t have the key? Then the locks may refuse, or gently ask for a few drops of oil in exchange, or try to talk you into going away – but the are most unlikely to demand anything much more burdensome. If you’re polite and reasonable… then so are they.

Purification and Animism can be left unremarked in your games of course – after all, they’re usually a part of the underlying assumptions anyway – but bringing them a little more into view does serve to hint at a vast, underlying, structure to your worlds magic – and in a way that most people are already primed to accept.

Continuum II – Psychic Ability Upgrades, Dimensional Warps, and Energy Manipulation

Continuum II Psionic Abilities were – once again – minor (2 Point) and Major (3 Points) skills – and could be built up or modified by spending more skill points on them, just like any other skill. Unlike more mundane skills, however, Psionic Abilities involved the channeling and manipulation of exotic energies – and so there were a lot more options available for spending skill points than the usual “take a die off the check to get better odds”.

Thus, if you had the Minor Energy Manipulation Ability “Energy Bolt” you could lob around bolts of energy. You wanted to train a stubborn dog by giving it a light electrical zap whenever it went insane with barking at guests again? That’s a “Trivial” application. Melting an ordinary lock or getting your campfire going with wet wood? That’s pretty “Basic”. Throw a bolt at a nearby enemy? That one is – fairly obviously for an offensive ability in a RPG – “Basic”. Extra damage or throwing in a stunning or knockback effect or explosive on that basic blast? That’s probably “normal”. Hit two targets who are standing fairly close together? That might be a bit “Tricky”. Send a bolt arcing through three hostage-holders without touching the hostage? That would probably be “Advanced” unless there were special circumstances involved. Hold your power output even enough to substitute for your ships burnt-out electrical generator? That’s definitely pretty “Complex”. Those things have fairly tight tolerances. Trigger just the circuit you need to get that sealed door open? That’s blatantly “Absurd” – and you’d be a LOT better off using a more appropriate power.

Common ways to upgrade a psionic ability with skill points included:

  • Reduced Cost: Shift one column to the right on the cost chart. You could get this more than once, but couldn’t get off the chart.
  • Specialties: Reduce the application level by one (for relatively broad specialties) or two (for very narrow specialties) ranks. Specialties could be virtually anything. Area Effects? Piercing Defenses? Multiple Strikes? Explosions? Buffering Defenses? Increased Range?
  • Warding: You were never harmfully affected by your own power – although indirect effects, such as bringing down the ceiling, will endanger you normally.

As an option, if you came up with some way to seriously limit your power that the game master felt was reasonable, you could apply a free upgrade. So if you were limited to “Fire” (or, more accurately, low-density plasma) instead of energy in general… you could get a free upgrade, albeit only one.

Now, as for a couple of the specific lists…

“Dimensional Warp” abilities suppress a portion of the local structure of a dimension – such as a natural law or two, the dimensions of space, the structure of time, or some other principle, leaving little in the place of the suppressed principle but the fundamentals of existence – Sequence, Separation, Will (or Life), and Transformation (or Death) – filling that void with the user’s will. As such… they pit the user’s power against the metaphysical inertia of the universe and the massed will of those who inhabit it. The only thing that lets Dimensional Warps operate at all is that the user is generally only attempting to affect a very small area (at least when compared to the universe). Even so, Dimensional Warp abilities tend to be extremely expensive to use. On the other hand, the difficulty tends to depend on the size of the thing affected – not on it’s mass or the amount of energy involved. If you really need to get rid of an unstable quantum singularity, this is the discipline for you.

Naturally enough, the principles of Dimensional Warps are closely related to the Will Force and Psychokinetic Disciplines (which function by related forms of distorting natural laws as opposed to negating them entirely) and oppose Natural Forces (which subtly enhance and guide the local natural laws), Psychic Senses (which rely on gently probing what exists rather than trying to redefine it), and Heightened Talents (which rely on subtle amplification of what is already present rather than on breaking it down).

Energy Manipulation abilities are pretty straightforward: you reach out with your mind and channel raw energy – forcing it to do what you want. Unfortunately, since you’re running a mental interface with that energy, the big trick is to not let enough of it backlash through that interface to destroy your brain. Worse, maintaining such rigid control is power-intensive in itself – and dissipating what waste energies do manage to leak through (there are invariably some) costs even more. There is a reason why so many energy manipulators tend to be obsessed with their specialities, or pay little attention to endangering others, or seem intoxicated by their own power, or are otherwise a bit crazy – and it’s gradually-accumulating brain damage. Masters of Energy Manipulation always have the option to pay a little less psychic strength or push their limits and accept the resulting backlash – but it’s not a good idea to do it very often.

As such, the Energy Manipulation abilities are the opposite of the subtle, internal, disciplines of Life Energy Manipulation, with it’s emphasis on negative feedback loops and self-balancing systems. It’s generally not compatible with the subtle feedback required by Heightened Talents (since it focuses on blocking out such feedback as much as possible) or with the deeply personalized and internal amplifications typical of the Personal Control disciplines. It is, however, related to the imposition of pattern on psychic energies that the Telepathic Functions require and to the similar, but larger-scale, manipulations of the Psychokinetic Effects.

Dimensional Warp, Minor Abilities:

01 Blink Teleport
02 Coordinate Lock
03 Corridor Creation
04 Defensive Shunt
05 Dimensional Adaption
06 Dimensional Awareness
07 Dimensional Navigator
08 Disassembly
09 Displacement
10 Far Traveling
11 Folding
12 Gas Shunting
13 Gate Keying
14 Growth
15 Image Projection
16 Inertial Focusing
17 Inertial Null
18 Kinetic Matching
19 Linking
20 Otherplane Touch
21 Pocket Warp
22 Psychic Surgery
23 Shrinking
24 Space Distortion
25 Stabilization
26 Thought Oscillation
27 Tramline Generation
28 Wards
29 Warp Probe
30 Warp Rebound
31 Warp Tapping
32 Warp Tracing

Dimensional Warps, Major Abilities:

01 Apportion
02 Aspect Shift
03 Astral Projection
04 Axis Reduction
05 Axis Rotation
06 Block Transfer
07 Conjuration
08 Dimensional Lock
09 Dodging
10 Doppelganger
11 Etherealness
12 Geodesic Distortion
13 Hypershunt
14 Internal Gateway
15 Kinetic Shunt
16 Law Suspension
17 Matter Projection
18 Partial Phase
19 Personal Limbo
20 Plane Shift
21 Portal Generation
22 Power Source Creation
23 Reality Bubble
24 Refraction
25 Scattering
26 Stardrive
27 Summoning
28 Teleportation
29 Temporal Fugue
30 Temporal Shift
31 Time Manipulation
32 Warp Anchor
33 Warp Manipulation

Energy Manipulation, Minor Abilities:

01 Attuned Field
02 Cloaking
03 Conduction Field
04 Corona
05 Cybrenetic Telepath
06 Disintegration
07 Disruption Touch
08 Energy Analysis
09 Energy Bolt
10 Energy Imbuement
11 Energy Stabilization
12 Energy Storage
13 Holographic Illusion
14 Illuminator
15 Insulating Field
16 Invisibility
17 Multibolt
18 Nonresistance
19 Personal Shield
20 Plasma Generation
21 Potential Binding
22 Psychic Ground
23 Psychic Source
24 Psychic Seal
25 Reflection
26 Shadow Generation
27 Solidification
28 Storage Field
29 Tachyon Manipulation
30 Weapon Focus

Energy Manipulation, Major Abilities:

01 Amplification
02 Damping Field
03 Electrokinesis
04 Energy Absorption
05 Energy Animation
06 Energy Barriers
07 Energy Channeling
08 Energy Conversion
09 Energy Dissipation
10 Energy Doppelganger
11 Energy Focusing
12 Energy Form
13 Energy Patterning
14 Energy Pulse
15 Energy Redirection
16 Energy Screens
17 Field Manipulation
18 Jamming Field
19 Kinetic Transfer
20 Magnetic Control
21 Minimization
22 Mystic round
23 Mystic Sourcing
24 Negative Energy Manipulation
25 Pattern Stabilization
26 Pattern Suspension
27 Photon Manipulation
28 Radiation Manipulation
29 Seeking Field
30 Sonic Manipulation
31 Technic Ground
32 Technic Sourcing

d20 and Rapid Hiring

And this small request is, perhaps, a bit silly – but it struck me as amusing and didn’t demand much time, which has been in very short supply.

Voice Upon The Winds

  • Conjuration (Calling)
  • Level: Variable, normally a base of L2 Cleric, Wizard, Skill-Based Magic for Contracts, Management, and Playboy (among others). Probably suitable for various specialty classes and Hedge Wizardry as well.
  • Components: S, M (a written notice).
  • Casting Time: Ten Minutes.
  • Range: Special.
  • Effect: Calls forth a possible employee or employees.
  • Duration: Special (The message is instantaneous, arrival usually is not).
  • Saving Throw: None (Harmless).
  • Spell Resistance: Yes, but irrelevant; someone who doesn’t want to be employed will not be targeted anyway.

This unusual spell causes qualified potential employees to arrive (or merchants to pass by). The caster writes out a list of primary duties, any necessary special qualifications, and a list of what salary and benefits are being offered, and hangs it beside his or her door. Presuming that the job is suitable for a relatively normal person, that the benefits are reasonably good for whatever the job is, and that the location of your door is at all reasonable (whether or not anyone would really be likely to pass by under normal circumstances), a suitable potential employee will normally turn up to inquire about the job shortly. The spell may be cast at a higher level to enhance it’s effects. Possible enhancements include calling for a small group of applicants (+1 Level), calling for rare and/or exotic types (+1 Level), having very specific qualifications (+1 Level), and asking for basic magical capabilities (+1 Level). On the other hand, if you are simply looking for an apprentice, houseboy, dishwasher, lantern-bearer, or similar unskilled entry-level employee that is (-1 Level).

You can look for very specific and powerful groups – perhaps you want a group of adventurers who are capable of killing that miserable dragon that’s moved into the caves nearby – but while casting this at level six will ensure that an appropriate group hears about your offer, it in no way guarantees that they will bother to respond and – if some do – you will just have to put up with whatever you get. Adventurers are like that.

  • You want to pay a few coins for a reasonably reliable local kid to guide you around town for a day? Level one, and unlikely to take more than a few minutes. Pretty much every town has some bored kids. It may get odd if it’s a ghost town and you get a ghost kid, but what can you expect if you look for employees in a ghost town?
  • You want an apprentice/aide who has at least a slight acquaintance with and talent for magic but you will be providing more advanced training along with support and occasional pocket money? That’s a pretty standard apprenticeship deal. Level two, but it might take a week or two. Kids don’t travel very fast even if the requirements aren’t very exacting there..
  • You want a skillful nanny to look after the kids? Level two, usually in a few hours presuming that you’re in or near a reasonable settlement for raising kids in. They might want particular days off or something – and you probably won’t get Mary Poppins or Nanny Mcphee – but there are lots of older women who are good at handling children.
  • You want a group of pretty-and-compatible young women to be light duty house servants and concubines? Level three, and usually in a day or two if your terms are good. It’s not like housekeeper/mistress is a particularly unusual position – and cute young women are not all that rare either (unless you’re of some exotic species of course, in which case you may be out of luck).
  • You want an acolyte of a particular faith to look after your shrine and teach your kids some basics? Level three (if followers of the required faith are reasonably common in the area) or four if they are not. Could take a few days or weeks (and may well fail) if someone would have to come from hundreds of miles away and you’re not offering enough benefits to make it worth it.
  • You want to hire a group of competent Drow Spies? That’s a group (+1) of rare (unless you live in a Drow City or some such) types (+1) with some very specific qualifications (+1) for a total level of five – and if there aren’t any drow spies around who would be willing to work for you… it won’t work.
  • You want a pathfinder-style “Team” of Archers? That’s a group with some fairly specific qualifications, so level four if there are any such groups within a reasonable range. You want Elite Elven Archers who each know a little bit of Weapons Magic? Level six, and very likely to fail entirely if no such group is available for hire.

It is important to note that this is a Calling spell; what you want has to be out there and available. If you’re asking for people to work in an impossible environment, are looking for a qualified hyperdrive technician in a medieval setting, want to hire Drow in a setting that doesn’t include them, or some such, the spell will probably not be able to find a candidate. On the other hand… it IS a calling spell. If you fail to live up to your contract, or there’s some major difficulty, your employees have the option of simply going home. So if the Dark Lord teleports in and starts burning your castle to the ground at least you can pretty well count on your servants and clerks making their escape.

The Advancing Warrior Part V – The Archer

The oldest known bows date back some 10,000 years, although there are some indications that they existed some 64,000 years ago. The first known use of bows in large-scale organized warfare dates back some 5000 years, to the First Dynasty in Egypt – which is also about the first known occurrence of large-scale organized warfare. Bows – like rope, and spears, and several other basic inventions – have been a part of “civilized” warfare since the beginning, and remained in reasonably widespread use until a mere few centuries ago. Not surprisingly, the mythology of the bow is deep and rich.

It also shouldn’t be surprising that Archery builds have a lot in common with the Thrown Weapons Master. The major baseline differences are:

  • The base range is better. You don’t need to use a Talisman to increase it.
  • You don’t need Quickdraw (or another magical device) to get iterative attacks with a bow.
  • You don’t threaten the area around you, so you’ll want some way to do that.
  • Ammunition is relatively cheap compared to permanent weapon enchancements, but you generally can’t get it back. So it’s an ongoing expense. On the other hand, differing weapon-and-bow enhancements stack, so it’s easy to add a few special-purpose effects to your shots, either with temporary effects (Eldritch Weapon Spells, Greater Magic Weapon, Flame Arrow, Etc) or to carry a variety of special-purpose ammunition with you.
  • Dissimilar Arrow and Bow enhancements stack. This is really the big draw of Archery over Thrown Weapons.

To take full advantage of that last item in Eclipse, you’ll either want some points invested in either Improved, Superior, Focused, Imbuement (Bows) (24 CP) and the same for Arrows (24 CP) or to take Siddhisyoga (6 CP) and Imbuement (Arrows) – possibly with Inherent Spell with +2 Bonus Uses (Greater Magic Weapon, probably Specialized to require more time and Corrupted to only work on bows, 3 CP) to go with it all. The first way costs more CP (but no gold) while the second costs fewer CP and some 200,000 gold – but either means that you can eventually have a +5 Enhancement Bonus and +9 worth of special enhancements on your bow and another +9 worth of special enhancements on your arrows forever, at no further cost – and if your bow gets sundered? All you need is either Spirit Weapon (Composite Bow, 9 CP) to ignore the need to actually have a bow and arrows on you or a supply of entirely mundane composite bows and ordinary arrows to boost. Sure, the total is going to be 24 CP for each full incidence of Imbuement – but you’ll effectively be getting your Bow and/or Arrows for free. That’s a pretty big benefit when it saves you 200,000 GP on the Bow and 4000 GP per individual Arrow. And you can’t lose your investment. There will be no worries about having your horrendously expensive bow Sundered or otherwise destroyed.

What to Imbue your weapons with?

For the Bow, I’d probably go for +1 (+1), Splitting (+3), Force (+2), Distance (+1), Collision (+2), and 38,000 GP worth of priced abilities (equivalent to the last +1 in value), such as Dragonbone (+100 GP) and Elvencraft (+300 GP), Strength Adjusting (+1000 GP), maybe Aquatic (2000 GP), and making it Sentient with some handy minor effects. Buy a few Weapon Crystals for when you’re fighting incorporeal creatures, constructs, fiends, and undead. The full set is a tiny fraction of the money you’re saving on the bow. Buy them through Siddhisyoga if you wish; that way they can never be taken away from you.

For the Arrows? If you don’t want to invest another (6 CP) in the ability to vary what enhancements you’re imbuing them with between adventures… Holy or Unholy (as suits you, +2), Banishing (+2 – skip if the GM says this won’t work in Ammunition), Seeking (+1, negates miss chances), Corrosive (+1), Lightning (+1), Frost (+1), and Sonic (+1).

  • If you have a poor BAB you may want to substitute Skillful (+2, gives you a minimum of 3/4 BAB and proficiency with the weapon) for something or other. This might be well worthwhile if you’ve got your BAB heavily specialized in melee or some such though.
  • If the game master is willing to consider Razorfeather Arrows (MMV, Pg 169) For 50 GP for the Razorfeather and a DC 30 Craft check you get a Mundane, Masterwork, Keen, Adamantine Arrow. And since those are nonmagical properties, they stack with magical enhancements.

Put that all together… and you can effectively be wielding a weapon with a +5 Enhancement Bonus, +19 worth of special weapon powers (+8 Bow, +9 Arrow, +1 Weapon Crystal, mundane “+1″ Keen). Admittedly, that’s at Level 19+ – but you’ll be using a weapon that’s much more powerful than anyone else’s in the party throughout your entire career at no cost. I’d say that it’s well worth it.

For your Martial Art… you’ll want the Basic Techniques of Power II (increasing your damage to either 1d12 or 2d6), Attack IV (adding +4 to your attack rolls) and perhaps some Defenses. For Advanced and Master Techniques you’ll want: Rapid Shot, Precise Shot (needed to make Splitting work), and Piercing Shot I and II (Augment Attack, +2d6 or 4d6 Damage, Specialized and Corrupted / only to overcome Damage Reduction) – although you may want something different if you’ve bought some of those already. For Occult Techniques you’ll want Inner Strength x2, Wrath, and Vanishing.

For your other archery-related abilities?

Whether or not you’ve opted to pay for your Arrows and Bow with Imbuement, you WILL want Siddhisyoga (6 CP) for an Archer build, simply because you’ll want more inherent enhancements than you can afford with Innate Enchantment even if the game master doesn’t limit you to 12 CP worth of Innate Enchantment like I do. Among the abilities you will almost certainly want to buy are…

  • Animate Arrows: You may expend a Swift Action to animate your arrows for the next (Cha Mod +1, 1 Minimum) rounds. While they are so animated you may use them to perform ranged combat maneuvers when you attack with them (2000 GP).
  • Arrow Mind: You threaten squares within your normal reach with your bow and may fire arrows without provoking AOO (2000 GP).
  • Enhance Attribute (All of them are useful. Usually Personal-Only, so 1400 GP for +2, 8400 GP for +4, 21,000 GP for +6
  • Gravity Bow: Your arrows do damage as if they were one size larger (2000 GP). That will usually be 2d6 for a medium-sized archer.
  • Guided Shot: Your ranged attacks do not take range penalties and ignore the AC bonus granted by anything less than total cover. This does, however, require a Swift Action on each turn that you use it (2000 GP).
  • Personal Haste: +30′ Movement and +1 Attack at your full BAB when making a full attack (2000 GP).
  • Weapon Mastery/Composite Longbow: +4 Competence Bonus to BAB with Composite Longbow (Personal-Only, 1400 GP). Yes, this will add to iterative attacks.

You may want to buy an immunity to having these powers Dispelled or negated by Antimagic as well, but it’s not really required.

After that, pick a few things from among…

  • Master Archer / Augmented Bonus: Usually you’ll want to add your Dex Mod to your Str Mod for Damage with Bows and vice versa for your Attacks (2 x 6 CP) – but you can also do something like adding your Wis Mod to both with Improved Augmented Bonus (12 CP).
  • Aggressive Focus / Expertise (Trade up to +5 AC for Damage, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only with ranged weapons, only with bows, 6 CP) works just the same for an Archer build as it does for a melee build. The basic level is still usually quite enough.
  • Lightning Archery / Reflex Training, Specialized in Attack Actions for Increased Effect (provides a full attack) and Corrupted (only with the user’s chosen weapon) for an Increased Number Of Uses (5) (6 CP) will – up to once per round five times per day – allow the user to take a full attack as an immediate action. When you REALLY need to stop that mage from casting something, or have to make sure that some creature on the edge goes down… this is the talent for you.
  • Gambler’s Fortune / Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for attacks, only with Bows (6 CP). This will let you automatically hit – and automatically critical – when you really need to do so or make a trick shot or some such.
  • Wrath Of The Gods / Rapid Strike I/II/III for a total cost of 6/18/36 CP changes your iterative attacks to every 4/3/2 counts – and it’s already limited to a particular weapon type, so coming up with a Corruption or Specialization to make it cheaper will be just a bit tricky. Still, this can effectively turn the character into a machine gunner and is probably well worth it once your Base Attack Bonus is getting up there.

You will want to avoid some of the traditional silliness associated with maximizing your number of attacks. Sure, there are (rather dubious) classical builds that can fire off a hundred arrows in a round at level twenty. You could do something very similar in Eclipse (albeit at much lower levels) using Improved Reflex Training (Specialized in firing arrows to allow repeated full attacks when you trigger it, 12 CP) – but this is just another way to create a character that’s pretty much unplayable.

  • Expert Aim: Immunity / circumstantial penalties to attacks, such as fog, cover, shooting into melee, shooting while riding a moving mount, etc. (Common, Minor, Minor, 4 CP). This reduces the penalties for such attacks by up to four. This can be increased to up to six for 6 CP or up to eight for 12 CP. As usual, Specialization and Corruption (likely to a single type of weapon) may be applied to reduce the costs.
  • Agile Archer / Evasive/Using Projectile Weapons while Threatened, Specialized / only with Bows (this avoids provoking Attacks of Opportunity when using a bow in melee – presuming that you don’t want to buy an equivalent via Siddhisyoga).

At higher levels, when sniping, and to deal with targets who are relying excessively on Damage Reduction or “Block” (which stops 60 damage from an attack), you may want to buy:

  • Enhanced Strike (Crushing, Focused, and Hammer), +2 Bonus Uses for each form of Augmented Attack, and Opportunist / May activate multiple forms of Enhanced Strike at the same time, all Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only with ranged weapons, only with your favorite type of bow (11 CP). This combination can be used three times per minute – and allows you to fire one arrow as a +5 Touch Attack inflicting maximum damage and multiplying the total damage by the number of arrows you would get to fire in a normal full attack.

Go ahead. Add Enhanced Strike/Whirlwind (Corrupted for Increased Effect instead of Reduced Cost: affects a 10′ radius of where the weapon strikes, but cannot distinguish between friend and foe; everyone just takes the damage) with +2 Bonus Uses (3 CP) and – when you want to – fire off a radius-effect shot that does more damage than a fusion bomb. On the other hand… if you aren’t very cautious in using this sort of trick you can tip your character over the “unwelcome in the game” line with this sort of ability very very easily. Unless the game is getting pretty ridiculous to start with you should not really need to be able to shoot a hole straight through the Death Star.

For a rather absurd notion left over from Legend Of The Five Rings (and the animal archery school that turned up there)… There are weapons that can be used to summon Elementals – normally as a Standard Action. Those weapons also allow the user to communicate with the entity thus summoned, so they can perform more complicated tasks than “attack the enemy”. Those are Synergy Abilities (requiring a +1 base ability to build on), so weapons with a total of a +3/4/5/6 effective level can summon Large/Huge/Greater/Elder Elementals to help their user’s out. And there’s nothing (unless some errata that I haven’t seen says something) that says that you can’t put that ability on Ammunition (which is a pretty silly oversight to start with, but there you go). Generalizing that ability a bit gives us…

  • Planar Power: Synergy ability with Dispelling. +1/2/3/4 enhancement that allows the weapon to cast Summon Monster 5/6/7/8 once per day as a standard action. The user may communicate with the creature summoned. If used with a ranged weapon the Summons can be released where the projectile impacts for an additional +1. Add +1 level to the effective level of the Summons if the weapon can only summon a particular type of creature. CL 17, Aura Moderate Conjuration, Activation Standard or Free for an additional +1. The creature summoned will remain for 17 rounds.

And

  • Totemic Power: Synergy ability with Magebane. +1/2/3/4 enhancement that allows the weapon to cast Summon Nature’s Ally 5/6/7/8 once per day as a standard action. The user may communicate with the creature summoned. If used with a ranged weapon the Summons can be released where the projectile impacts for an additional +1. Add +1 level to the effective level of the Summons if the weapon can only summon a particular type of creature. CL 17, Aura Moderate Conjuration, Activation Standard or Free for an additional +1. The creature summoned will remain for 17 rounds.

So: To fire arrows that turn into creatures after they hit… you’ll want them to be +1, Dispelling or Magebane (as appropriate, +1), Goes off where the Projectile hits (+1), Free Action Activation (+1), and then +1 to +4 of Totemic Power or Planar Power – for a final total of +5 to +8. So you’ll want Improved, Superior, Focused, Imbuement (Arrows*) (24 CP). For that… at L9 you can fire arrows that have a Summon V effect – or VI if you limit yourself to a single type of creature, such as a Dire Bear. At L11 you could fire a Summon VI effect, at L13 a Summon VII effect, and at L15 a Summon VIII effect – albeit only fifty times a day. Go ahead. Hit Level 13 and fire arrows that each turn into 1d4+1 Dire Bears on impact. Hit Level 15 and fire arrows that each turn into 1d4+1 Mastodons on impact. Go ahead. You KNOW that you want to shoot bears at people.

I’d probably limit this a bit more –  but I’d probably also allow it. It’s not like I haven’t had plenty of players design characters with even more ridiculous talents and the imagery of having a character rapid-firing angry bears is irresistible.

*Alternatively, you can go the Throwing Master route and Imbue knives or javelins or something and throw bears at people. That works too.

Archers are pretty iconic and have a lot of options. It would take ten or twelve levels to buy all of the stuff on this list – but there’s a trick to that; no playable archer is going to have all of the stuff on this list. They don’t need even half the stuff on this list (five or six levels worth) to be extremely effective combatants. And they’ll have almost all of their wealth-by-level left over to invest in other toys.

The next article or two in this series will probably wind things up – covering Cyborg Street Samurai, Power Armor Troopers, Skillmaster Fighters, Spellslayers, “Drawing Aggro”, Warrior Magics, and the Multi-talented Warrior.

Valdemar D20 – Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I usually say that…

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

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

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

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

So what do we know about Companions?

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

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

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

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

Eclipse and Skill-Based Partial Casters II

And for today, it’s another offline question…

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

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

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

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

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

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

So first up…

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

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

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

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

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

Unskilled Magic:

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

 

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

Just for fun, you can give these individual names:

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

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

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

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

Lets now throw in…

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

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

After that, they’ll need…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming Harry Potters World IV – Demographics Of Wizarding Great Britain

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

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

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

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

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

-Jirachi386

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets look at Hogwarts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the rest of the country?

Great Britain’s magical community has…

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an example…

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

-JK Rowling on Twitter

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

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

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

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

Infusions Of Curses in Eclipse

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

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

-Alzrius

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

-Jirachi386

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I hope that helps!

D20 – The Feather Pouch

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

-Alzrius

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

The Seafarers Tokens:

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

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

Primary Tactical Tools:

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

Just Interesting:

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

Lesser Tactical Tools:

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

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

Useful Once In A Blue Moon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personally, you could also take:

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

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse D20, Townsaver, and Urbs Vigilis

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

                                              -Saberhagen, the “Song Of Swords”.

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

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

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

But THIS IS SPARTA D20!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skill Stunts And Epic Skill Stunts X – Survival

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

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

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

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

Sample Stunts for Survival:

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

Epic Skill Stunts:

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

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

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

Mystic Links and Sympathetic Magic, Part I

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

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

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

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

-Alzrius

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

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

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

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

Class-0 Links:

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

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

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

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

Class-1 Links:

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

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

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

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

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

Class-2 Links:

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

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

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

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

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

Class-3 Links:

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

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

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

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