Eclipse – Elder Eidolons And Accursed Priesthood

Today it’s a query about setting up a fairly modest Cult with the power to change the world – albeit only very slowly and gradually. That’s pretty classic; the dreadful cult may not be very large, but over the years it’s terrible ceremonies slowly twist a substantial area towards becoming a realm of Lovecraftian horror, accomplishing some mighty summoning, or something similar.

Obviously, some heroes will just have to intervene at the last minute. Sadly, however, that may not be enough. If it’s a genuine Lovecraftian cult… any “victory” against it is always purely temporary. For some day the Elder Ones will reign once more – and that day may be delayed somewhat, but never stopped entirely.

Of course, in Eclipse, there are several ways to do this.

The idea is that a town worshiping Father Dagon would use a Magic Item in conjunction with Power Amplification Circles (from The Practical Enchanter) to be able to achieve together and over time what they couldn’t do alone in the here and now. They set up two Power Amplification Circles (one boosting a specific Greater Invocation and one boosting a Spell Group). The Magic Item would be casting a Greater Invocation with a Very Broad Range of Effects (+3 Levels) with Metamagic Modifiers of elaborate Component (-2), specific place (-1) and of course the circle (-4) making it a total -7 reduction). The Greater Invocation would only produce long-term Cantrip effects, with the duration further boosted by the second circle (-4), elaborate component (-2), specific place (-1), 10x casting time (-1) and the reduction for having lots of built-in metamagic (-3) for a total reduction of -11 and a final level of 6 – rendering the final Greater Invocation (Dagon’s Blessings) a level 2 spell (6 Base + 3 for Very Broad Theme – 3 for Metamagic -4 for Power Amplification Circle = 6+3-4-3 = 2).

Now that would mean it’d take days working in shifts to make sure anything gets done and requiring possibly months of continuous activation, but technically they could do everything nature magic would allow for if they were just competent, patient and smart enough to figure out how to craft those high-level spells from lower-level ones.

Now my question is: As ridiculous as the setup is (probably requiring a lot of people to basically just kill themselves irreversibly while casting to get it going in the first place), is it technically possible to stack it up like this?

-krackothunder

Well, lets take a look!

The basic spell is Greater Invocation (from The Practical Enchanter, Any Nature Magic Cantrip Effect, a very broad range of effects and so level three – although I’d probably let someone get away with taking it as level two since it IS only cantrips). On top of that, we’re throwing in +16 levels of the Persistent Metamagic to make the results permanent – reducing the level of the resulting spell with an elaborate component (a dedicated temple of Dagon, -2), a specific place (built on an ancient site holy to Dagon, -1), ten times the usual casting time (-1), the credit for having lots of built-in metamagic (-3) and a maxed-out Power Amplification Circle (-4) for a final spell level of seven.

We can squeeze another (-2) levels out of the Compaction metamagical theorem, so I’d throw in having a few of the worshipers take some attribute damage (-1) and beginning or progressing their slow transformations into Deep One s(-1) to get it down to level five.

So far, that works just fine. Unfortunately, throwing in another Circle runs afoul of the general rules on bonus stacking. A Greater Invocation can produce the effects of a wide variety of spells but doesn’t actually produce those spells; it just mimics them. The Greater Invocation is producing a permanent cantrip-level effect, but it isn’t actually creating permanent cantrips – and so another circle won’t help; it hasn’t actually got a fresh spell to start with.

Still, you don’t actually need another circle to pull off this trick. A Dread Relic Of The Elder Ones (an item) capable of casting that spell as a Unlimited-Use Command-Word item has a cost of (Spell Level 5 x Caster Level 9 x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command Word x .6 (only for members of the Church of Dagon) x .8 (requires at least some ability to cast clerical spells calling on Dagon) x .5 (Immobile, so it can’t be hidden for later if adventurers find you) x .6 (requires a congregation and regular religious services in honor of Dagon to keep activated) x .6 (effects are always twisted towards the purposes of Dagon, regardless of the user’s intent) = 6998.4 GP. (Call it 7000). Lets say that it requires the sacrifice of two first level spell slots daily as well (using the Dedicated Item) modifier, for a net cost of 5000 GP – and our cultists can now chain together masses of those cantrips to produce higher-level effects, all of which will be permanent because the Cantrips making them up are permanent.

The two major remaining problems are that chaining together that many cantrips is likely to go horribly wrong every so often (which, to be fair, is as expected for a Lovecraftian cult) and that – since this relies on tying together a lot of permanent cantrips – messing up a few of them is likely to ruin the effect – and cantrips are fairly easy to break. This means that some pesky adventurers could all too easily ruin everything!

To get around the “easy to ruin” problem we’ll want something with an instantaneous effect.

To get that start with Limited Wish instead. Add (+2) spell levels to get rid of the component requirement, then throw in some of the modifiers from earlier – requires an elaborate temple (-2), ten times the usual casting time (-1), and only works using a +4 level amplification circle (-4), for a net level of two.

As an item this will require (Spell Level 2 x Caster Level 3 x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command Word Activated x .6 (three uses per day) x .6 (requires holding a religious service with at least a dozen other cultists in honor of Dagon to activate) x .6 (effects – and side effects – are always twisted towards the terrible purposes of Dagon, regardless of the user’s intent) = 2333 GP.

Admittedly our nifty item – call it an Elder Eidolon (Of Dagon, although presumably other Elder Ones use the same basic design) – has to be installed in the center of a intricate magic circle in a temple of Dagon and be the center of worship by a Cult of Dagon to work – but three Limited Wishes per day can quite reasonably be used to gradually cause all sorts of effects, Even better, the effect of any given Limited Wish or chain thereof can probably be taken as Instantaneous and hence non-dispellable.

It will take quite a while to build up to really high-end effects – whether using one “limited wish” to hold the next one ready to go in a chain to exploit Lerandors Rule or simply stacking up small and gradual changes. Either way will probably result in it taking ten days to reach a ninth-level effect (such as cursing an area), a year for a fourteenth level effect, a century for a twentieth level effect, and perhaps two thousand years for a twenty-fourth level effect – but that actually seems fairly reasonable. and allows plenty of time to figure out the next step as you go. Even better, using instantaneous effects allows for interruptions. If the cult is driven off for a decade or so, they can just pick up where they left off when they manage to take their temple back.

And if the rest of the world is stupid enough to let the Cult of Dagon just do what it wants for two thousand years while the side effects and intermediate effects build up all around them… well, if the planetary population is THAT stupid than SOMETHING is going to get them anyway, and it might as well be the Elder Ones, who will at least appreciate the snack.

Worse, even if someone simply exploits the cult and the Limited Wishes for their own ends, the side effects will accumulate. It might take ten or fifty times as long for major effects to build up – but it will still happen. As long as people fall to the seductive lure of easy power, the countdown to doom will continue.

For even more fun have the high priest take…

  • Three Specific Knowledges: the required runic circle, how to make proper temples to Dagon, and the theology of the Elder Ones (3 CP in total),
  • Innate Enchantment: an Elder Edolion (as above) and (Skill) Mastery (Spellcraft, L2, +20 Bonus to one roll for creating Circles, 1 Use/Day (x.2), only for the circle for the Elder Eidolon (x.3) = 720 GP) for a net value of 3050 GP or 4 CP.
  • Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to pass on this package to a successor when slain, the user (or perhaps “host”) has no control over whether or not to do so; it will happen (2 CP)

All Corrupted (again, for the blessing, but this is Cthulhu Mythos stuff and it only saves 1 CP) / the user will find himself or herself creating a temple and gathering a cult to serve Dagon even if he or she has to sleepwalk to do it

This results in a net “cost” of 6 CP – but it was paid long ago by the first Priest of Dagon to develop this infectious accursed feat to empower himself and his successors – driving them to both service and madness whether the unfortunate priest-victims like it or not.

They might like it. There are always some people who would do anything for that kind of power.

So you have slain the high priest? Then the curse is upon you! You have done us a great service, but we must cast you out! Perhaps your friends can restrain you – but if not, it might be best to kill yourself. The curse would still return eventually – but if it inflicts itself upon an infant it may require many years.

Or you could just give your high priest the Ritual Magic ability for (6 CP) and let the cult work on gathering the components for some horrific ritual. That’s a good deal simpler, and will almost certainly take a lot less time – but if it gets interrupted by adventurers the cult will usually need to start over from scratch. That’s good for a mystery scenario though, where the characters find out a few of the things the cult is after, and must stop them from obtaining them, trace them to their base, derail whatever ritual they’ve managed to scrape together, and then deal with whatever lesser horror the disrupted ritual managed to produce.

And I hope that covers what you wanted to know!

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Eclipse – Nightmare Rituals

And for today, it’s another much-too-long for a comment reply to a question in response to these two articles – Avrinthos and its Birthrights and The Gathri, Suugken, and Gaunthounds – with include the information that a Guanthound is actually a member of a normal race who’s been transformed with the Nightmare Binding and Dream-Binding Rituals. .

Well now I have to ask for stats for the Nightmare Binding ritual and the Dream Binding ritual.

-Alzrius

Well, that’s simple enough. Since our ritualists are generally using rituals for common, relatively simple, purposes, their magic could readily be built using either Legends of High Fantasy-style rituals or straight Eclipse style rituals. So I’ll do it both ways for comparison.

The Ritual Of Dream-Binding.

This ritual allows the target/victim to bond with a Dream-Spirit, trading in mental attribute points for additional character points worth of powers. The exchange rate is, however, extremely bad. The victim gains only one-half the cost of buying the lost attribute points back up in new powers. Thus Attributes of 12+ yield 6 CP per point given up, those of 10-11 yield 6 CP for being reduced by two, and those of 7-9 can be reduced by three to gain 6 CP. Attributes already at six or below cannot be further reduced to any profit. Most victims wind up sterile, but that is not guaranteed (or intentional) – it’s just that being bonded with a nightmare is not good for a Fetus.

  • For Legends of High Fantasy we’re looking at Area: Living Target (Base DC 0), Duration: Instantaneous (+10 DC) and Effect: Notable (you may be granting someone a template of sorts, but it’s one with a negative value, containing no abilities that they could not fairly easily buy anyway, and that they probably didn’t want, +0 DC) for a Base DC of 10.
  • The usual modifiers are a form of Investment – after all, half the attribute points spent in the ritual are lost for no benefit – for (+10), being Rushed to an hour for (-5), and being Memorized (+5) – for a net bonus of +10.
  • Presuming that the ritualist has at least a +1 in Knowledge/Arcana to avoid taking a penalty, the ritual has a 95% chance of success. Anyone who makes a habit of using rituals will generally have a bit of Luck too, just in case that one-in-twenty chance of getting a natural 1 comes up.

So: One hour, creates magical disturbances within a fifty foot radius, requires a small silver mirror which will be severely tarnished (requiring some vigorous cleaning) at the end of the ritual, a selection of incense and herbs, and at least a pint of fresh blood. Obviously it must be performed at night, by a ritualist attuned to the realms of dream.

The target/victim must be stripped and placed in the midst of a circle of magical symbols, have more magical symbols daubed across him or her with the blood, and must be made to gaze into the mirror – which will tarnish to an impenetrable blackness as much of their mind is lost forever to the realm of dreams while a formless hunting horror flows forth from the mirror and into their flesh, mind, and soul, becoming one with them to grant them the powers of dream-monster. The victims can, in theory, resist (Will DC 18) – but given that they tend to be restrained slaves they normally do not try.

  • Using Eclipse Style Rituals… well, according to Savage Species, major transformations take a seventh level caster. Psychic Reformation does a similar job as a level four effect – which is saying “seventh level caster” again. On the other hand, this transformation isn’t really beneficial or even neutral – and so dropping it to a level five caster seems reasonable. So the ritual magic guidelines in Eclipse give this a base Spellcraft (or other ritual skill) DC of 20.
  • Of course, in Eclipse you still get the +5 for having it memorized and you can add up to seven additional components – such as the recipient / victim sacrificing a bunch of attribute points over and above what’s necessary to pay for the transformation (+4), requiring that the ritualist be attuned to the realms of dream (+3), calling upon the Dream Hunters (+2), a silver mirror (+1), a restrained target (+1), only working at night, when others dream nearby (+1), and blood (+1) – for a net total of +18, Once again, any ritualist who isn’t taking penalties should succeed barring a “natural one”.

Now, admittedly, I’ve made a modest effort to wind up with “about the same” for a result, but it didn’t take much of one – mostly because “be afflicted by a magical transformation that inflicts massive penalties in exchange for a modest amount of power” and “helpless victim transformed into a minor monster” are both very classic and really quite minor in game terms.

The Dreambinding Ritual:

This ritual lets you take a fully-restrained victim and use an hour-long ritual to inflict a Greater Curse effect on them – inflicting the equivalent of a repeating dream, strange inability, near-paralysis and inability to flee, strange compulsion, or many other dreamlike afflictions, in the real world. That’s simple, straightforward, and unpleasant.

  • For Legends of High Fantasy we’re looking at Area: Living Target (Base DC 0), Duration: Years (+10 DC) and Effect: Notable/+0 DC (a Greater Curse can indeed make the victims life pretty miserable – but once you have a victim tied down and are free to do what you wish to them you can make their lives very, VERY, bad without any magic at all. You don’t need to calculate the caster level for “Cause Blindness”, “Cause Deafness”, “Mute Victim”, “Amputate / Mangle Limb(s)”, “Leave Victim Horribly Scarred And Maimed”, and “Desex Victim” when you have a helpless victim, a knife, and time for a little sadism). So, a Base DC of 15 again.
  • The modifiers for a Rushed (one hour) ritual (-5) and Memorization (+5) remain the same. For components… a restrained victim amd an iron knife dipped into their blood and used to inscribe curse-symbols into their skin, perhaps with some mildly toxic graveyard mold to make sure that it will scar is probably worth a +5 when it comes to making life suck.
  • Ergo, this comes out a bit harder – DC 5 – but really, no practicing ritualist should have any real problem with that (save for rolling a natural one), even at first level. It does say that an enduring curse is a little bit more difficult than summoning a nightmare spirit – but we all know that having a recurring nightmare is much easier (it happens in the real world quite often) than working an effective curse (which, at least in the real world, are primarily legendary).

So: One hour, creates magical disturbances within a fifty foot radius, requires an iron knife dipped into the blood of the restrained victim of the ritual, mildly toxic mold, and a selection of incense and herbs, causes 2d4 damage to the victim, and – once again – must be performed at night, by a ritualist attuned to the realms of dream and nightmare.

  • Using Eclipse… in Eclipse you could call this a ritual to let you cause spiritual injuries with your knife, or take it as a specialized version of Bestow Curse (Double Effect, only works on a restrained victim, caster level seven required) – which gives us a base DC of about 24. So +5 for memorization and up to seven additional components – a restrained victim to be tortured is worth a +5 for a ritual designed to harm said victim, requiring that the ritualist be attuned to the realms of dream (+3) is the same, you will doubtless be calling on the powers of Nightmare (+2), you need an iron blade and toxic mold (+1), only working at night, when others dream nearby is the same (+1), and damaging the victim is probably worth +2. So… +19, trying to hit DC 24.

That’s exactly the same and I wasn’t even trying for that this time.

Overall, both of these are simple-and-easy rituals because – in game terms – they aren’t actually accomplishing very much; if you want some (rather stupid) hound-minions you can get some easily enough – and if you want to do horrible things to helpless people all you really need is an evil alignment (or not using an alignment system at all). They’re “major” rituals because they do have game effects beyond simple convenience, but they’re certainly not on the scale of banishing an archdemon, raising an army of the dead, or cleansing a city of plague. They’re “major” for folk who are trying to go about their lives – not for adventurers who are out to change the world.

Stealth and Safehouses

And today it’s another question…

I am curious how you might create subtler stealth / warding effects. For example, what would a spell look like that made people around you find you unimportant or beneath consideration or whoever they expect to see most? Or warding a building so that only people who don’t wish the residents harm can find it?

-Jirachi

There are a lot of different ways to accomplish such things – some effective, and others less so.

A spell that convinces people looking at you that you aren’t important could be a mind-affecting effect (allowing a save), or a complex illusion, or a way to extend the Bluff skill. It has an advantage over Invisibility in that you won’t give away your presence by opening doors and such.

Using Bluff:

Extending the Bluff skill is slightly tricky. There aren’t any existing spells that work this way that I’m aware of, but you can build it using Eclipse and The Practical Enchanter. The basic effect is simply “You get to make a Bluff check when people see you to make them think that you’re harmless and too unimportant to pay attention to”. That’s equivalent to the Eclipse Opportunist ability – a Complex Mental Feat. The Surprising Mastery spell template in The Practical Enchanter can be set up to bestow that; the base will be level three, for one minute per level. Getting a nice big bonus on that specific check is basically the Glibness spell, also at level three. So this spell will be level four (likely for a Bard) or five (Likely for a Sorcerer/Wizard), depending on how well your game master thinks that the effects go together. Both base spells are Transmutation, so it will be too, it will last one minute per level, it will take a Standard Action to cast, and it will have Verbal and Somatic Components. Since it only directly affects the caster, Saves and Spell Resistance don’t apply – but all the usual methods of dealing with someone Bluffing will.

This general spell build is interestingly versatile. Go ahead; build a similar spell that uses Disable Device, or which fires every Wand in the area with Use Magic Device (although attended ones will get a save), or some such. I usually use Specialized Witchcraft to build effects like that, since they’re best for skillmasters who aren’t entirely focused on magic – but there’s no reason why you can’t build them with standard spells.

Using Disguise:

When it comes to disguises… there are a lot of easy ways to craft an actual disguise, but the problem here is that you’ll need to make one that every observer you encounter will consider unimportant – and while a generic servant or bum will pass in a LOT of places, you never quite know what exactly you will need to be disguising yourself AS.

The game master may let you get away with imitating Terry Pratchett and disguising yourself as a “Sweeper” or “Mendicant Monk” or “Bum” (which only works when people expect to see such types around; if it’s a top secret lab cleaned by Roombas, a “Janitor” will be VERY suspicious) or (if you are INCREDIBLY lucky) as “someone of no importance” – but there are likely to be really big penalties on that last check if you don’t have some detailed inside information on just what, in your current situation, is going to be considered “unimportant” by the people who are going to see you.

So there are at least two approaches here are 1) coming up with enough bonuses to overcome whatever absurd penalty the game master applies (a job for stacking different types of bonuses or a specific skill enhancing spell of whatever level turns out to be necessary) and 2) finding out what disguise is appropriate – which strikes me as a job for a level six to level seven specialized version of the Metafaculty effect. It may not sound all that tricky – but it’s still determining who you are likely to meet, what each of them is likely to dismiss at a glance, and how to disguise yourself in a way that simultaneously satisfies each such set of conditions.

Using Mind-Affecting Powers:

The mind-affecting version already exists as a level two Psionic Power. It’s called Cloud Mind, and is more or less exactly what you’re looking for. The problem here is that it only has close range, starts at level two, and has to be bumped up to level six to hit one target per level. I probably wouldn’t bother imposing a penalty for converting the effect to a spell; the fixed, and rather limited, nature of the effect seems like enough of a penalty compared to the original power. That would give us a level six Illusion (Phantasm, Mind-Affecting) spell – but it would only affect the original targets, not anyone who came near you. That’s a major vulnerability.

A simpler version – basically a specialized and shorter-term version of Mass Suggestion (“There’s nothing of interest about these people or going on here”) might be only level three or four depending on the spell list. It would be handy for – say – getting your party versus a group of guards. The problem here is that every one of them gets a save, and that your range and number affected is still pretty limited. Secondarily, of course, spending a fourth level spell slot on this is usually not a good investment unless you’ve restricted your spellcasting a lot to make it cheaper.

Safehouses:

Using spells to protect an area or structure is tricky because you want the effect to last. When it comes to spells, that generally means either a cheap spell with a long duration, a permanent (or “instantaneous”) effect, or a magical item using such spells. There are a few decent ones for that – most notably Anticipate Teleportation (L4, 1 Hour/Level), Mages Private Sanctum (L5, one day), and Psychic Poison (L4, one hour/level). Honorable mentions go to Detect Scrying (L4, one day, good to let you know you’re being watched but does nothing to actually prevent it), Scry Trap (the damaging version, L5, one hour/level. I personally would encourage the use of Scrying Guardians – on the theory that, Scry Trap can do 15d6 damage – the cap for a fourth level single target damaging spell. Ergo, add +1 level to a spell and you can cast it as a trap that will affect anyone who scrys on you. Go ahead; have some summoned monsters show them the error of their ways or something), Teleport Trap (L7, one day per level, may be made permanent, but is somewhat expensive) and Dimensional Lock (L8, but lasts for one day/level), all of which are good but situational and – at least for Teleport Trap and Dimensional Lock – rather high level. False Vision (only l5, but expensive and may be vulnerable to True Seeing) generally isn’t worth bothering with. Guards and Wards (L6) can annoy intruders, but usually annoys defenders just as much and does nothing for privacy or to stop teleportation. Hallow can have some good defensive options attached, but using dedicating the place to a particular god as a security system may be a bit off-color. Screen lasts for a full day and isn’t expensive – but it’s eighth level, takes ten minutes to cast, and may still be penetrated by True Seeing. Again, it’s probably not worth it. Some of the spells from the “City On A Hill” article might help as well.

The trouble here is that all of these – and most other methods – are vulnerable to effects like Commune, Contact Other Plane, Hypercognition, and Metafaculty. There isn’t anything below the epic level which will completely frustrate information-gathering effects – and for good reason; since the player characters are usually on the offensive, they’re usually the ones trying to figure out where to attack. Putting in a way to completely block that off simply stops the game until they come up with something else or get frustrated.

Overall, if you just want a reasonably well concealed spot… Mages Private Sanctum is your best bet. If you want to hide from unwanted visitors, Mirage Arcana (L5, one hour/level) works for a building – although it’s probably easier to just build underground and hide the entrance. To be cheap, “lead sheeting” blocks scrying and some other divinatory effects, and thick stone walls block some other effects – so simply tacking up sheets of lead all over the walls, floors, doors, and ceilings (and then I would hope adding paneling or paint) would work against many divinations. It doesn’t help with too much else though.

A character could buy the ability to boost the duration of a few such spells very easily, since it is a highly specialized field – but if you’re going to spend character points, you might just as well invest a few points in a Sanctum, or Ritual Magic (specialized and corrupted in privacy rituals only), or Cloaking a radius, or something similar,

On the “Item” front, a Ward Major (from The Practical Enchanter) is expensive – but if you want to protect a large area, powers like Forgotten, Veiled, and Otherworldly are just the ticket.

On a smaller scale, given that d20 makes it very easy to create extradimensional spaces, the simplest way to set up a short-term “safehouse” is to use Rope Trick at level two – or the “Mirror Hideaway” variant (also at level two), or just use the Spacewarp Spell Template from The Practical Enchanter to design your own space – and there you are; you’re immune to anything that doesn’t cross planes and have an invisible door. Go ahead. Add Hide Campsite (Ranger 2) and add another huge margin of safety.

For a longer-term effect… use Spacewarp with Barriers (allowing you to close the portal) and a duration of one day per level is merely level four. Go ahead; add some more options at +1 spell level each (Supplies, Furnished, or Hidden are all very good choices for a safehouse). In theory you could make an item capable of casting the fourth level version once a week after being given a command word at a cost of a mere 5000 GP.

For an all-in-one solution you can use either a Rod Of Residence (39,000 GP) or a Rod Of Security (61,000 GP).

For a lower-level, and more versatile, solution you could try the Panic Rune:

Panic Rune:

This simple bronze doorknocker portrays a sleeping gargoyle. It is only when it is pressed against a surface (a wall, tree, or similar) that it awakens – sinking into the surface and, after a minute or two, creating an invisible secret door with no magical aura (Spacewarp, Create Door on the inside of the portal, Magic Aura to conceal the magical aura of the portal, Arcane Lock to improve its security). Spotting it without the aid of the Panic Rune requires Detect Invisibility (to perceive the door at all) and then a DC 24 Perception check. The door itself has a Break DC of 35 and the Lock is DC 35. Neither Dispel Magic nor Knock nor ordinary magical methods of detecting secret doors will have any effect, since the door is just beyond a dimensional portal that such spells will not cross.

Beyond the door is a spacious hall, with private nooks, tables, comfortable furnishings, enough decent-quality food and drink for eight medium-sized creatures (renewed daily), and plenty of blankets and cushions. Sadly, the various furnishings vanish if they are taken out of the hall and no more than 120 pounds of additional material may be stored in the hall when the Panic Rune is inactive. As the hall is an extradimensional space, it is secure against divinations and other effects that do not cross the dimensions. The hall will always remain pleasantly scented, neat and clean, and well-organized (courtesy of Prestidigitation and the Handy Haversacks organizational effects). Residents will also be cleaned up within the limits of Prestidigitation. While there is a peephole to look out of in the door, the knocker itself maintains a tireless watch and will warn those inside of disturbances or creatures outside (while it’s Perception Roll is only +0, it does have 60′ senses and Darkvision). A Panic Rune can function up to twice a day, each activation lasting for up to 18 hours – a duration which it will simply overlap if left active for longer periods. When it deactivates, everything taken inside over the 120 pound weight limit, and any living creatures left inside, will be dumped into the area around where the portal was.

Obviously enough, the Panic Rune is generally a party item; whoever is carrying it slaps it onto a surface and everyone takes advantage of a place to rest that may not be absolutely safe, but is about as safe as you’re going to get for a few thousand gold per character until much higher levels. It’s Alignment and Ego are generally irrelevant given that it’s only active when no one is actually carrying it and it’s major interest is in keeping whoever is using it (and their friends) safe while they’re inside.

The Panic Rune is built as an Intelligent (+500 GP) Handy Haversack (2000 GP, caster level nine, holds up to 12 cubic feet or 120 pounds of material). Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10, Ego 13 (0 GP), Speech (500 GP), 60′ Senses and Darksight (1000 GP), (Basic) Spacewarp 2/Day (4800 GP; items inside the Haversack wind up on shelves inside the warp when this function is used), Prestidigitation at Will, Only inside the Spacewarp (x.5) = 500 GP), Magic Aura 2/Day (Only to conceal the spacewarp doors aura, x.5 = 400 GP). Create Door (2/Day, Only to install a door on the Spacewarp x.5 = 400 GP), Arcane Lock 2/Day (Only on the conjured door on the Spacewarp x,5 = 400 GP), plus Field Provisions Box function (minor variant: provides food for eight instead of fifteen, but it’s much tastier and you get juice and beer instead of water, 2000 GP) – for a Grand Total of 12,500 GP.

  • If you want an immobile version to use as secret headquarters or some such you can slap the “Immobile, x.5) modifier on the entire thing – taking the cost down to a mere 6250 GP.

Luxury versions add more functions.

  • A Hearth (as per a Fireblock with the Immobile Modifier) adds a happy little smokeless fire to cook or otherwise work on for a mere 90 GP.
  • Add a quartet of Ioun Torches, for Light (+300 GP. These can be taken outside if necessary).
  • Upgrade the Sensory Range to 120 feet (+500 GP).
  • Give it a +5 on it’s Perception Rolls (+2500 GP, +1 Ego).
  • Add Hide Campsite 2/Day (+4800 GP, +2 Ego). Now no one is likely to get close enough to try and spot your invisible door when you’re camping in the wilderness.
  • Give it a Healing Belt (+750 GP) function.
  • Add a Stable Annex (A Supply Pouch, +3300 GP, +1 Ego).
  • Give it more 3/Day first level spells at 1200 GP and +1 Ego each. Alarm, Ventriloquism, and Restoration – among many others – all have obvious uses.
  • Or just add Mages Private Sanctum on a command word once per day (+16,200 GP, +2 Ego) and move every few days and it will be very hard for anyone to pop in on you.

New Spells:

Mage’s Comfort (Bard I, Sorcerer/Wizard I, Illusion (Shadow), Casting Time 1 Minute, Components V, S, Area: Special, Duration Two Hours Per Level, Saving Throw None (Harmless), Spell Resistance No).

  • Mages Comfort makes an area (campsite, apartment, extradimensional space, etc) pleasant to stay in – with blankets, cushions, comfortable chairs, endtables, beds with nice mattresses, and other “real enough” furnishings. Anything removed from the area will, however, vanish instantly and none of the items can be effectively used as weapons, restraints, or for purposes other than comfort.

Create Door (Cleric 1, Sorcerer/Wizard II). Conjuration (Creation), Casting Time: One Minute, Components V, S, M (a model door), Area: One arch, doorway, or portal, up to 3 feet x 6 feet, Duration: Instantaneous, Saving Throw None (Harmless), Spell Resistance (No).

  • Creates a strong wooden door with a lock and a wooden bar up to fill a space of up to 18 square feet. AC 3; hardness 5; hit points 22; Break DC 25 when barred or locked (Lock: Disable DC 25, Hardness 15, 30 HP). The caster may opt to make it a Secret Door, with a perception DC of (15 + Level, to a maximum of 25).

Eclipse – Distant Divination or Spooky Action At A Distance

And this time around it’s a question…

Are there any ways to engage in long-range detection, communication, information-gathering in Fantasy d20, ideally on a (semi-)perpetual basis without having to layer on heaping helpings of metamagic? I ask because the tactical nature of most d20 magic means that you’re typically limited to, at most, a few hundred feet for the (typically short-term) duration of the spell(s) in question.

The result is that any sort of magical “alert” system is either limited to small-scale things like alarm spells, or being able to throw around epic-level effects in order to cover a kingdom. There’s no other way to, for example, instantly be aware when demons intrude upon the realm, or when an army marches across the border, or when a town is razed to the ground. Meanwhile, d20 Future allows for starship sensors to work at “battlefield range” (which for starships is something like 500 ft. per square, which is easily a few miles at the very least) for the equivalent of a few hundred gp. The best Fantasy d20 can seem to do is an item that perpetually casts animal messenger.

Notwithstanding taking Dominion, what’s a good answer for something like this?

-Alzrius

Good communications runs directly counter to several classic fantasy tropes – the messenger making a heroic effort to get a vital message through, the city or fortress which has not been heard from in weeks (and has probably fallen to some horror), the first news of the dragon attack being carried by exhausted refugees, and many more. If there are good communications, you’re going to miss out on having the Beacons of Gondor lit in warning or finding the lost journal chronicling the fate of the expedition and it’s final, dreadful, warning.

Similarly, despite Dr. Strange and the Orb of Agamotto, fantasy heroes generally don’t hear about an intrusion by elder horrors or the opening of some terrible gate until it’s done a lot of damage. Showing up carrying a load of gear specifically designed to banish the horror and doing so before it’s had a chance to do anything much takes most of the drama out of it.

That’s not to say that you can’t have such things – this IS Eclipse after all – but it’s important to note that they’re going to have quite an impact on the setting and on the kind of adventures that will work in it.

So here are some things you could buy!

Omen Mastery:

On the personal scale, continuous detections are mostly used to avoid being surprised. That one is fairly easy: just buy:

  • Occult Sense / Attackers. You are always at least vaguely aware of when something is coming to attack you. When actually attacked you cannot be caught flat-footed and are always considered to have just had three rounds to prepare (6 CP).

If you add a bit of specialized Blessing – or just take a free action to yell a warning – and you can probably alert your entire party in time to avoid any unpleasant surprises such as scry-and-die tactics. It’s important to note that – unless you spend another 6 CP on “Improved” – this doesn’t tell you much of anything about what’s coming. That didn’t matter much for Granny – who had a fairly limited set of preparations for meeting attacks – but it might matter a lot to characters with more combat flexibility.

For Those With Eyes To See:

There are plenty of other possible Occult Senses of course – you could be sensitive to pollution, or to demonic incursions, or to threats to the realm. The tradeoff is generally that they aren’t all that useful in combat. Do you live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of radioactive dust? Well, “Sense Radiation” will be a lot of help – and most of the time you won’t care if it’s a relatively minor source nearby or a major source further away; you don’t want to go that way in either case.

  • As an example, if you buy Occult Sense / Unnatural Disturbances (perhaps you “hear” the complaints of the natural world at such intrusions) or some such, you can opt to have it work like hearing; the greater the disturbance or “louder the noise”, the further away you can “hear” it. Someone summoning a minor demon? You might hear strange whispers from a few blocks away. Someone opening the Greater Gates of the Abyss to let an infernal invasion ravage the nine lands of the world and usher in ten thousand years of darkness? That’s more like Krakatoa going off – a noise that was clearly heard three thousand miles away and was still detectable on it’s fourth trip around the world.

You’ll still want to add “Improved” if you want a little more detail though.

Heart Of The Realm:

On the scale of a city-state, but still on a purely personal level, you just need to be able to make instant “Gather Information” checks. There are several characters on the list – Granny (who uses a third level telepathic effect) and Cable (who uses a bit of reality editing on his own timeline) who already do that – but if you want to do it a LOT, you will want something like…

  • Immunity/the time normally required to make Gather Information checks. (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP). (This could also be done with Opportunist or even with Occult Sense (Detect what information I would have gotten if I’d actually had time to make the skill check normally) for the same cost).

That will allow you to find out quite a lot of stuff – at least as long as it’s more or less public events. You’ll miss out on the deep secrets, and that some long-forgotten gate to the underworld is opening, and so on though. On the other hand, this is entirely under your control; you can make a quick check to determine what you’ve been able to find out about someone whenever you want to – or at least until the game master throws a book at you.

The Rite Of Askente:

For a general-purpose way to get some questions answered – finding out if the Tomb of the Arch-Lich remains sealed, or where the original Necronomicon is hidden, or some such – you can go with…

  • Inherent Spell, Specialized for Increased Effect (Contact Other Plane) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / Requires an occult laboratory and a variety of special props, plus Luck, Specialized and Corrupted / only for the check to avoid a reduction in Intelligence and Charisma (2 CP).

Now, while Contact Other Plane is normally a pretty lousy spell (just get the Cleric to use Commune if it’s worth 500 GP or you actually want to be sure), this package does let you pull out all kinds of exotic information. It’s not exactly unlimited use or ideal for asking about current events, but it IS a great way to prepare for adventures. Do you need the secret rituals contained in the Lindhorm Manuscript? “Where is the Lindhorm Manuscript?” “Waterdeep”. “What guards it?” “Dragons”. “What kind of dragons”? “Blue”…

Even if you’re now out of questions for the day – and won’t really be sure you got the right answers (there’s only an 88% chance per question) until you ask confirming questions and cross-check them – that’s STILL an enormous advantage. Information really is power.

Rulership By Divine Right:

For a god-king or priest-king it’s hard to get too much more classical than having supernatural powers advising you. To get that, just take…

  • Favors (The Local Gods), Corrupted for Increased Effect (the Gods provide you a daily briefing on upcoming major events that will affect the realm you live in – or, for that matter, your life) and will only ask for things in return that a powerful mortal might reasonably do – having a temple built, supporting the state religion, routing out a heretical cult, driving off that demonic invasion they warned you about, and so on. Unfortunately, they will make such demands quite regularly and will never take any actual action on your behalf – limiting themselves to sending you daily prophetic dreams / messengers / scrolls to read at breakfast or whatever other form they opt to provide the information in (3 CP). This could also fit in as a minor privilege (also 3 CP).

I’m not so sure that this is a good power for a non-adventurer – for THEM I might count it as the “Accursed” disadvantage since they will often have no use for such information and will find the “requests” near-impossible – but for an adventurer it basically amounts to “I get a daily newspaper and an advance briefing on my next adventure”.

Intelligence Services (A.K.A. the Royal Collegium Of Astrologers, the Diviner’s Guild, or any of many other names):

To be entirely classical on a larger scale buy…

  • Leadership, Specialized and Corrupted / Only to provide operatives who provide information about what is going on in the realm and quick and easy communications between their posts and with a small number of VIP’s. They do NOT provide other magical services or go on adventures. As relatively low-level mortals, however, they have a hard time dealing with impulsive actions by individual powerful entities (3 CP, but often taken as part of a Sanctum package).

Now this presumes a lot of NPC hustle and bustle behind the scenes, but it’s not like that’s particularly unreasonable – and “has good communications and knows what is going on” is a pretty reasonable use of Leadership. Of course, this also takes the setting from a medevial fantasy basis, where towns may be out of contact for weeks, massacres pass unreported, and where you may attempt to outflank an attacking army only to find that a secondary force has occupied the towns you’d hoped to warn, to a Victorian level – where you may get hourly reports on the progress of a siege and a final message telling you that the attackers have brought in a dragon, the defenses are collapsing, and “this may be my last report”.

Now there are several ways to set up quick communications between individual characters, but for a really general system you’ll want a Heartstone from The Practical Enchanter and to set up an agent Package Deal (probably a bit of Witchcraft Training focused on investigative powers and a version of the Heartstone Attunement feat that skips “Scribe Scroll” in favor of reduced requirements). That lets even a low-level Stone serve as a communications hub and provide some special benefits for your agents. Go ahead; put it in your Sanctum too.

Alternatively, you can use a Magical Business (taking the x.5 modifier for an immobile magic item) – lets call it a Network Hub – using Mindlink (the L1 Psionic Power) with the Renewal option. You’ll have to make it an intelligent item, since the link will be between it and everyone else – but that’s useful in it’s own way; it will have no need to sleep. There will have to be schedules and emergency protocols since the Network Hub will be sustaining hundreds of links and won’t be able to talk to everyone at once – but this setup can maintain one hundred links per caster level and can be thrown together for less than 10,000 GP. The major limitation is that the links are very vulnerable to being dispelled, while a Heartstone Attunement is an undispellable feat. Still, a Network Hub provides a fair approximation of a telegraph or very limited phone network.

That can get you an excellent intelligence and communications network for a few points and some gold. Of course, you are now essentially running a sub-campaign of “Her Majesties Secret Service” or “The Great Game” – but it can be left in the background of a more traditional game easily enough. Just as importantly, while Intelligence Services are most often seen as the province of governments, you can use exactly the same setup to run a network of underworld informants and contacts, magical researchers, or whatever suits your interests.

Mastermind:

Of course, mere information isn’t enough to run a realm. You need to make sure that your orders make it to threatened areas in good time to actually help. For that you will want…

  • Access to the Occult Skill of Foresight (3 CP plus some skill points, once again often taken as a part of a Sanctum package), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (can take realm-scale actions) / ONLY for realm-scale actions, only with access to Intelligence Services (as above), points are only recovered on a weekly or monthly basis, even if the passage of that much time requires several sessions.

With this talent you can decide that you “had done” something retroactively. Did the game master just inform you that some fool has opened a gateway to the lower planes in the peaceful little town of Stavropoleos? Then you can knock down your current Foresight skill by two or three points and announce “But fortunately, I had the 7’th division and the anti-demon specialists moved to that city just last week! They should be able to maintain the defenses long enough for us to get there!” (The realm-scale equivalent to having a squad of bodyguards just where you need them). This, of course, is in many ways BETTER than good communications. You not only react to the news quickly and effectively, but you started doing it a week before you even got the news. You’re just THAT good.

The Daily Briefing:

This is a secular and personal version of Rulership By Divine Right. It’s more expensive, but you don’t get all those bothersome demands with it. Just buy:

  • Deep Sleep, Specialized / only as a prerequisite (3 CP) and Cosmic Awareness, Specialized for Increased Effect (provides a daily briefing on major events for the day) / Cannot be voluntarily activated and only tracks major events (6 CP). Once again, both are often taken as part of a Sanctum package.

The Daily Briefing provides you with a list of the major events of the day – often somewhat in advance. You will be warned of declarations of war, major supernatural incursions, the reappearance of a Dark God, a major Dragon and some lesser minions moving in, and so on. On the upside, this isn’t too likely to miss anything major; prophetic cosmic awareness usually doesn’t. On the downside, it isn’t too likely to pick up on anything of minor importance. A nearby supernova? Definitely. A border skirmish or a bridge collapsing? Not likely.

It’s worth noting that – like the political influence system and most of the other “half the players aren’t going to be interested in this” items – the “run a realm efficiently” stuff is relatively cheap.

There are other ways of course – these are just the first set that came to mind – but hopefully that will be enough to get you started. Do let me know if you had something more specific in mind; questions are an excellent diversion from being stuck on something (or short of time).

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

Shadowed Galaxy – Second Stage Vampire Template

Second Stage Vampire (Acquired Template, +32 CP / +1 ECL, requires First Stage Vampire):

The trouble with the Second Stage Vampire template is that – at least for any individual Vampire Core – either a good deal of it isn’t working any longer or there were different designs in the first place. While it is possible for a Vampire to upgrade – either being granted or absorbing a missing subfunction of -functions from another Vampire or Vampire Core – this can cause serious programming conflicts, strange power malfunctions, and even temporary (or permanent) madness.

In any case, a when one Vampire creates a new one, the new one gets its sire’s version. Of course, mutations can occur, and be passed on – meaning that various competing evolutionary lines of the basic template exist across the galaxy. Fortunately for other life forms, however, Vampire evolution tends to be a bit slow.

Temporal Selection: The flow of time charts the course of entropy cascading towards timelike infinity. But where energy vanishes, entropy flows briefly backwards, where it appears, it may spin into a whirlpool of closed loops, the future echoing into the past. And anchored as they are in the steady flow of time in the middle realms, a Vampire may extend it’s reach into subspace and find a handful of moments and echoes out of time to turn to it’s own purposes.

  • Adept (Bullet Time, Logistics, Networking, and Tough It Out), Specialized for Double Effect / only applies to Racial Bonuses (6 CP). Skill Boosts: Bullet Time +10 (2 CP), Logistics +10 (2 CP), Networking +10 (2 CP), and Tough It Out +10 (2 CP).
    • So far, this seems to be a foundational ability; appearing in every second stage vampire as yet observed.

Entropic Scrutiny (Witchcraft, The Secret Order, 6 CP). The second-stage Vampire Template builds on whatever affinity the user / victim has for informational effects. This seems to be a basic requirement (minimum of class D); creatures with no ability to access Informational effects at all (class E) cannot become second stage Vampires. Each line possesses five of the following possible abilities:

All of these abilities are, of course, Specialized and/or Corrupted versions of basic Witchcraft abilities.

  • Cyberwarp (Elfshot): You may briefly disrupt (2d6 Rounds or one minor long term malfunction for 1 Power), damage or slightly modify (2d6 damage per Power), or even usurp control of or perform minor repairs (3d6 rounds, 3 Power) microtronic systems. Individual systems may be targeted at a range of 60 feet or the user may spend +1 power to affect everything within thirty feet. The first seven Power points worth of effects generated in a day do not count against the user’s power reserves.
    • It is believed that this effect is a precursor to the effects that a “Spacefield Mine” uses to bring spaceships under it’s control – unless it’s sufficiently “stackable” to simply be applied over and over again across many years, in which case nothing else may be needed.
  • Element (Specify) Master (Witchfire, specialized in manipulating a particular elemental force for double effect). Known variants include Ice, Fire, Electricity, Radiation, Water, Blood, Earth and Stone, Chemical Catalysis, and even “Darkness”. The affinity is apparently informationally based, as conventional physics seems to have little bearing.
    • A fairly powerful, but rapidly draining effect, often serving as a sort of hold-out weapon or as a tool. Each branch of Element Mastery is a separate ability, making it possible for occasional vampires to have more than one elemental affinity.
  • Entropic Will (Elfshot): The ability to cause minor disruptions and malfunctions in informational effects, damaging creatures that exist primarily on that level and warping effects. This is Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (The first seven power worth of effects used each day do not count against the user’s power reserves) points. Unfortunately, this can only be used against Informational Beings and simply damages such beings, rather than causing specific effects.
    • This is a very common ability. While not as useful as a proper informational weapon, it is one of the few other ways to readily inflict long-term harm on many informational entities given that – for most such beings – any “physical form” they may take is merely being puppeted.
  • Entropic Blast (Infliction, Corrupted for increased effect (may be employed once per round as a defensive reflex)/ negative energy effects only): This ability drains energy into subspace – aging larger targets, disintegrating smaller ones, and negating energy.
    • An expensive, but useful, way to open sealed doors, get rid of evidence, and counter incoming energy attacks. Interestingly, it can also provide the negative energy “spark” needed to activate a warp drive or subspace portal swiftly.
  • Eyes Of The Night (The Inner Eye): You may see through the eyes of animals in a 120′ radius – and even understand and influence them very slightly, gaining a +6 bonus on relevant rolls to understand or manage them. In general, no roll is required to get them to glance at something they normally would not care about, or peek at something before hiding – but asking them to go much beyond that point will require appropriate skill checks.
    • While classic tales of Vampires commanding swarms of beasts exist, Vampires with such talents are probably supplementing this ability in other ways. At its base, this is most useful for short-range spying and may explain why so many tales mention heavy infestations of rats, spiders, bats, and similar creatures in Vampire strongholds.
  • Informational Perception (Dreamfaring): Specialized in detecting informational creatures and effects and allowing the user to intuitively grasp some basic information about their nature. This is a continuous ability with no cost.
    • Another very common ability, this is a considerable aid in combating informational entities and the various weapons they littered the galaxy with.
  • Masque of Life (The Adamant Will): lower-grade Informational effects will not reveal that the user is a Vampire. This has no cost and is a constant effect.
    • A rare, and fairly highly specialized, ability, but very useful when it does happen to come up. . Many vampire lines with this ability are hardly even aware of it.
  • N-Space Adaption (Hyloka): You may make the necessary adjustments to survive hyperspace and subspace travel. This is a constant effect with no cost.
    • Normally Hyperspace and Subspace travel are dangerous, damaging, and potentially fatal for creatures with hyperspace and/or subspace templates. Simple objects and even most devices with such extensions can handle the shifting energy levels, but living creatures have much more delicate metabolisms and systems. This is most often seen linked with the Subspace Piloting ability (below).
  • Plague Carrier (Hyloka): The Vampire may virtually wipe out a victims immune system with a touch and the expenditure of 3 Power. While their bodies will recover given time, few survive long enough to do so. An inverse form – helping the target throw off diseases and bestowing a copy of the user’s own immunities – exists, but is even rarer.
    • A subtle but powerful weapon of assassination and terror, the fabled “Death Touch” can leave a victim apparently unharmed, only to see them sicken and die days or even weeks later.
  • Predatory Gaze: You may spend 2 Power to generate Fear in a 30′ cone, a 60′ line, or a 20′ radius. While a standard Witchcraft save (Will, DC 13 + Cha Mod) applies, success only reduces the effect to Shaken and the Duration from 2d6 rounds to one round.
    • While blatantly overt, and easily resisted by those with strong wills, the ability to terrorize a nearby group with a mere glance can be very useful in more primitive settings. Modern weapons, however, greatly outrange this ability – and even at close range, frightening people equipped with modern weapons is not always a good idea.
  • Sense Life (The Inner Eye): You may detect the presence, and general health level, of unshielded living creatures within 60 feet. In general, “signal strength” is determined by the size and metabolic rate of the organism in question. Slimes are barely detectable with concentration, grass can be “seen” as a vague carpet, trees are translucent phantoms at best (wrapped around black cores), and animals “glow” more or less brightly. Individuals can be identified, but it usually takes some practice.
    • While modern sensors can do much the same thing, this is a marvelous ability to have in close combat, in the dark, underwater, or in a primitive setting, where it can usually compensate for lack og sight in a fight. Sadly, while this will negate the effects of soft cover, hard cover works better than ever since it usually has no life of its own to let it be “seen”.
  • Stalking Death (The Adamant Will): If a Vampire with this ability is placed under a compulsion or similar effect from something other than a higher-stage Vampire it will simply make whatever is attempting to use such an effect the Vampires top-priority target.
    • While this is a specialized defense mechanism, so far nine out of ten groups of adventurers agree that – when some mind-manipulating menace has frozen everyone in place or something – seeing the look on it’s face as one of its “hypnotized” victims goes berserk, shoves a hand grenade into its mouth, and starts unloading every weapon in the party into it, is well worth putting up with the group vampire.
  • Subspace Piloting (Witchsight): You may spend 2 Power to gain a +18 bonus on a Subspace Piloting check. You may also automatically sense the presence of major subspace creatures, if a vehicle is currently “haunted”, and serious subspace disturbances.
    • While this is usually a marginal ability, it becomes far more useful in combination with N-Space Adaption and a starfaring civilization.
  • The Dark Hand (The Inner Eye): You may share the senses of your subordinate vampires as needed and are automatically aware of their status and locations as long as they remain within a radius of (Cha/3) miles. If they are destroyed, you may sense that from hundreds of miles away.
    • While awareness of your troops locations and activities is useful, this does not automatically provide a communications link – unless it is selected twice, to add a Glamour component.
  • Transfusion (Healing, Specialized for Double Effect / only usable on others, produces various addictive effects, long term applications cause psychological disturbances).
    • While infusing others with a portion of a Vampires pool of stored life-energies is a useful talent in emergencies or on the battlefield, long-term applications tend to cause slowly cumulative distortions in the recipients mind and body.

Finally, second stage vampires may select any two abilities from among those available to first stage vampires (The Dark Flame, Voice of the Dead, Venomed Touch, Breath of Puruza, Wrath of the Sea, Bones of Iron, Dance of Flames, and Darksense) or from the following list:

  • Blood Draught: Some second stage vampires can imitate the abilities of those they drain energy from. That’s Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect: / can only mimic the abilities of creatures they’ve drained energy from, can only mimic supernatural or extraordinary abilities as selected by the game master, may only mimic one ability per creature (6 CP for 6 CP worth of mimicking). The changeover can be near-instant when they have just drained someone, otherwise it will require the usual amount of time to get an imprint out of their ‘library”. Imprints do fade eventually, but it usually requires several years.
  • Cloaking: May vary how old and powerful a vampire they seem to be (6 CP). This is a pretty specialized talent, but is occasionally useful for impressing other vampires and various creatures. It can also be ueed to simulate the presence of a Haunt or Vampire Core in an area or aboard a ship, warding off Subspace Mines and other vampires.
  • Deathly Armor: DR 3/-, versus both physical and energy damage. A simple application of negative energy to negate kinetic and other energies, this is a powerful advantage in more primitive settings, but modern weapons and armor often surpass it handily.
  • Ghula: Second stage vampires can control a limited number of the first stage vampires they create and a selection of servants infused with a small portion of their own energies. That’s Witchcraft, Lure of Darkness, Specialized for Increased Effect / Subspace-tainted servants and Lesser Vampires only (6 CP).
  • Night Terrors (Witchcraft / Birth of Flames): The user can project a portion of his or her own mind into a minor subspace entity, creating a deadly entity at his or her beck and call. Such entities most often manifest as a quasi-“demonic” companion or familiar, but fearsome steeds and such are also fairly common.
  • Subspace Shroud / Costly: Complex effects directed at the user often fail as their energies are shunted away into subspace.
  • Umbral Draught (Witchcraft / Grounding). The user may shunt nearby energies into subspace.
  • Vigor of the Night: Add +4d6+2 Vitality / Power, Corrupted/only to power Vampire abilities (6 CP). This is straightforward, simple, and virtually always useful.
  • Wraith Step: The ability to briefly draw their material forms partway into subspace can render a second-stage vampire shadowy and immaterial and allow them to use that realms distorted space-time to shift from place to place or to provide brief bursts of incredible speed – but that realms energy drain, distortions of entropy and probability, and apparently-malevolent nature render such tricks somewhat dangerous. Ashen Rebirth (Shadow/Negative Energy variant) with Dimension Door (9 CP) and Leaping Fire (Corrupted; cannot heal damage, remove fatigue, or remove exhaustion, 4 CP), both Specialized / moving partially into subspace can have all kinds of negative consequences besides the basic vitality drain of powering the ability (6 CP in total).

In general, it’s safe to use Wraith Step up to (Con Mod +1, 1 minimum, use Cha Mod +1 if no Constitution score) times per session. After that… roll a DC 20 Fortitude save. On a failure, roll 1d4 plus the number of such saves failed so far in the session.

2) Drained. The user is drained of 2d6 power. If the user lacks sufficient power, take damage instead.
3) Touch of Decay: Some of your items carried suffer the ravages of time and decay; Lose 1d6 points worth of game-master selected equipment (usually the most sensitive high-energy stuff) from whatever you carry.
4) Energy Cascade. Lights dim or go out, energy cells are drained, and systems fail in a wide radius. Sadly, this includes the user’s own weapons and equipment.
5) Entropic Cascade: Equipment, vehicles, and materials are destroyed in a wide radius. Sadly, this focuses on those the user has a personal connection to.
6) Dark Mutation: One or more creatures nearby becomes a twisted and malevolent monster.This may also result in a creeping mutation to a character.
7) Entity: Something gets loose from subspace. Depending on their level of materiality, these may be known as haunts, demons, possessing spirits, or even result in the creation of quasi-vampires (although such creatures are unstable and rarely survive for long).
8) Twisted Realm: Inanimate objects in a wide radius become hostile, computers develop malevolent programming, and robots start trying to kill people.
9) Time Shift. The user vanishes, to reappear weeks (or occasionally much longer) later.
10) The user ages 1d4 x 10 years.
11+) Spontaneous Existence Failure: The user falls fully into subspace, and probably ceases to exist.

While this is obviously less a “template” and more of a grab bag of thematically-related abilities, Vampires can fill a wide variety of roles in society beyond “monster” or even “super-soldier” – if they happen to belong to a “bloodline” with the appropriate abilities.

Gaming Harry Potter III – Blood And Fire

For today, it’s an offline question, summarized as “are there any more really problematic pieces of magic in the Potterverse outside of the “Deathly Hallows” themselves?”

Yes indeed, there is at least one more really major problematic magical effect or spell in the Harry Potter universe – but I didn’t see much point in addressing it the last time around since you have to replace it to make the story work. The series just… kind of falls apart without it. Now I’m hardly the first to point it out, and there are doubtless some in-depth analysis of the problem out there – but here we go anyway.

The problem lies in the (nameless) blood protection effect that protects Harry through his childhood and which and forces him to keep going back to the Dursleys.

“While you can still call home the place where your mother’s blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort. He shed her blood, but it lives on in you and her sister. Her blood became your refuge. You need return there only once a year, but as long as you can still call it home, there he cannot hurt you. Your aunt knows this. I explained what I had done in the letter I left, with you, on her doorstep. She knows that allowing you houseroom may well have kept you alive for the past fifteen years.”

-Dumbledore, in The Order Of The Pheonix.

It is this mysterious force that keeps Harry Potter safe as long as he lives with Petunia occasionally.

What’s problematic there?

Well… do those forces keep the rest of the household safe when they’re away from home? If not… why not just eliminate Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley? They go to work, shopping, and school don’t they? Kill them – or even just Petunia – and the protection soon ends. It’s not like Harry’s location, or the existence of the Dursleys, is a well-protected secret either. The sheer number of people who were hanging around when Harry was brought to the Dursleys tells us that.

They definitely don’t stop muggle aggression or non-magical forces or monsters. Otherwise other kids couldn’t join Dudley in “Harry Hunting”, the Dementor couldn’t have attacked, and Harry would be immune to household accidents (and to Dudley repeatedly punching him in the nose). So why not hire a muggle hit squad, or load a truck with something explosive and blow up the entire block, or drop a plane on the house, or send some monsters, or any of a million other ploys?

There are supposed to be LOTS of magical families which fell victim to the war. Was Harry’s mother the ONLY parent or grandparent or other relative who sacrificed themselves to try to save someone when they could have escaped? Why isn’t this kind of protection a reasonably common thing? Even if the activation spell Dumbledore used was rare (acceptance by a relative is not going to be all that hard to come by), why aren’t there plenty of related charms? Since reflecting the Killing Curse (and apparently a variety of lesser curses) and destroying the user didn’t call for anything but the sacrifice… why isn’t the death curse known for occasionally backfiring?

What kind of relationship is sufficiently close for the general protection spell anyway? Isn’t everyone in the world related? Why wasn’t a blood relationship and an activating spell and acceptance into a household required when Harry made a personal sacrifice to protect the other students at Hogwarts? After all, that apparently worked just fine and he didn’t even have to actually die. He just had to offer himself.

These mysterious forces suddenly stop working when Harry “comes of age”. But isn’t “coming of age” a legal fiction that varies between cultures and times? Why does the magic of love and sacrifice pay down-to-the-minute attention to a technicality?

According to some sources, the effect only protects Harry, and only while he’s actually at the house. That just makes it worse. Harry went to school before Hogwarts and surely spent as much time as possible away from the Dursleys. Of what use was this much-vaunted protection then? Why was having it worth a childhood full of abuse if there were other ways to provide a safehouse?

If visiting “home” briefly once a year is enough to recharge these mysterious forces… why not board Harry at Hogwarts for most of the year much earlier? After all, acceptance letters came addressed to the “Cupboard Under The Stairs” so they KNEW that Harry was being mistreated and – at the least – had intentionally avoided looking into it. What makes “growing up famous” more problematic than growing up “being physically (at the least we have in-book confirmation for Dudley beating him, pretty much necessarily with Vernon and Petunias approval – and abuse from them is very strongly implied) and emotionally abused and being chronically malnourished?” Why not at least pay the Dursleys to treat Harry better? Are they incorruptibly above bribes but not above mistreating a child?

Of course, this also allows Harry to unquestioningly turn his back on the “muggle” world – allowing him to (among many similar items) ignore the moral problems of actively erasing awareness of magic among muggles – thus preventing them from taking any measures to protect themselves against magical conflicts and monsters, treating them as second-class citizens at best (and as chattel at worst), and condemning people to death rather than sharing those fabulous magical cures with them – without bringing his “noble good guy” status into question.

Like it or not, those mysterious forces are a pretty basic part of the series setup and drive a number of major plot points down the line – and they don’t make a lot of sense. While the target audience will probably never notice the problem, gamers tend to want a lot more detail. Unfortunately, given that this bit of magic reeks of “poorly thought out plot device” there really isn’t one to give them.

Is there anything which works better?

Perhaps. Let us start from the beginning. We’re outright told that no one knows what happened the night that Harry’s parents died. Even Voldemort apparently didn’t fully understand and he didn’t seem all that interested in explaining what he did know anyway – and there were no other witnesses who were willing to talk about it. (Voldemort might have had an aide or something along – but if he did, and Harry was actually the target, then disposing of an injured baby doesn’t call for magic. Babies are fragile).

What was known to the magical authorities of the time was that Voldemort personally attacked two other high-powered magic users and – at the end – a baby who was in the house had suffered a non-lethal magical injury and all three of the people fighting were apparently dead.

So… like it or not, the “innocent baby survives a terrible magical attack and defeats the dark lord!” story was invented for public consumption, whether by the magical authorities or by someone at the Daily Prophet. The fact that authorial fiat made that story turn out to be more or less correct doesn’t change the fact that it was invented out of whole cloth.

Given the evidence they actually had… any sane investigator would have concluded that “Voldemort and the Potters took each other out and the baby was bloody lucky that he only got grazed by some nasty magic – likely a rebounding spell, corona effect, something that got interrupted during casting, or a part of a disrupted spell – instead of being killed”.

After all, “the power of love” would have done !@#$ all against the ceiling falling in, or the house burning down, or some such.

So why didn’t the surviving Death Eaters go after Harry as a small child?

Because the surviving Death Eaters were not outrageously stupid (that sort of goes along with “surviving” part) and were not inclined to accept the statements of the authorities or the newspapers at face value or they wouldn’t have been Death Eaters in the first place. They looked at the actual evidence… and concluded that the baby was a completely unimportant bystander, and had possibly been set up as a trap. Sure, killing the kid might have been satisfying – but they didn’t know that Voldemort would be coming back or that he would care.

Letting the public have their charming little story cost them nothing at all. It might even benefit them; having the public put their faith in miraculous child-saviors meant fewer calls for actual effective investigations and precautions.

And so they did not give a damn about Harry until Voldemort returned and started issuing orders again.

Oh, the prophecy?

Well, first up… Prophecies are kept secret. So nobody except a few individuals with high ranks in the government and an interest are going to know about it. Secondarily, that “prophecy”… is pretty vague.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not. And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.

Couldn’t anyone vanquish a Dark Lord if they just got REALLY lucky? Which Dark Lord? Approaches in time, in space, or from another dimension? What does it take to defy him? What calendar? What kind of mark? Maybe on a magic test? What power? Is “the other” a third party? Why not? Neither can live while the other survives? Doesn’t that let out anyone who is alive?

So… Dumbledore, with a war to finish, a country to rebuild, Death Eaters to catch, a school and a government to run, and a thousand other tasks… schluffed off Harry on his relatives (as he was probably legally required to do anyway) using “otherwise he will die!” as a reason to get them to take the unwanted kid. The Death Eaters stayed away because there was no reason for them to bother – and if there WAS, the prophecy implied that they’d be unable to do anything anyway, as it wasn’t their destiny. And so Harry was neglected, and fell through the cracks, and the story could pretty much proceed as written whether those mysterious forces beyond his Mothers blessing ever actually existed or not.

Explaining “He turned seventeen and was suddenly attacked”? Well… Voldemort was back and “The Order got wind of an upcoming attack and decided to move him” actually covers that well enough.

If I ever run a Potterverse game… I think that I’ll just go with that. It will make things SO much simpler.

Eclipse d20 – Dweomer, Thaumaturgy, and Wizardry

I was playing around with ‘what would a high level dweomer based primary caster look like and blanked. I was able to maybe get something somewhat workable by multiplying what the Karthos build had but…

I generally understand how the system is supposed to work, but what a ‘dweomer wizard’ looks like is something that I don’t really know. I feel that I could probably design a specific character, but would likely require frustrating fiddling around with no real ‘baseline’ for how much mana to buy etc.

Could a dweomer based caster do something similar to what the Runesmith does with making Lerandors Rule spells just based off a single skill (since the descriptions for making a fireball with Lerandor’s Rule seem to indicate that there are a number of essentially “metamagic adding effects”) and what skill a dweomer user would use for that (spellcraft, the relevant dweomer skill?)?

-Jirachi

The most basic question here is what should a high level Dweomer-based caster look like if they spend about what a Wizard does on spellcasting?

Well, the Wizard spends 286 CP on Spellcasting over twenty levels – gaining a Wizard Caster Level of Twenty, a total of 180 spell levels plus 34 spell levels for having a high Intelligence (assuming a “24″, which is likely enough for a straight wizard at level twenty) plus cantrips worth of magic to use each day and a selection of spell formula. They have access to an extremely wide array of spells of levels one through nine. On the other hand…

  • They have to prepare their spells in advance, and so can only equip themselves with a limited selection of them at the same time.
  • They are limited by spell levels, rather than just having a pool of magic to work with.
  • They have to maintain and back up their spell books – an expensive proposition.
  • They have to find or research and record their spells. This also gets expensive.
  • They require components. Dweomerists do to of course, but it’s not so strict.

A moderately optimized twentieth level Dweormist might look something like this:

  • 20 Caster Levels, Specialized in Dweomer = 60 CP. Basic, straightforward, and required. It is important to remember that the rule on page ten – “Casting a spell or using a power normally requires a minimum Caster Level equal to (twice its level -1). The Game Master may or may not enforce this. If not, it may be possible to cast very powerful spells with very low Caster Levels and spells with fixed, rather than per-level, effects become far more valuable.” still applies; simply being capable of producing an effect does not guarantee full control or being able to do so safely.
  • Rite of Chi with 8 instances of Bonus Uses = 56 CP. That allows the user to recover an average of 115.5 Mana (+1 for natural recovery) each day – enough for a Dweomerist to match the Wizards daily spell allotment.
  • 16d6 (52.5) Mana = 90 CP. This is a bit different from a Wizard. Our Dweomerist has just as many spell levels available daily as the Wizard (even more if he or she starts off well-rested), but only has about half of those spell levels available at any given moment; then they’ll have to spend a little time recovering. On the other hand, they won’t have any slots full of spells that aren’t currently useful or which aren’t of high enough level to be useful. This also has a subtle advantage; Mana can be used to power Hysteria or a lot of other special abilities, and so can provide a useful power-up. Having a lot of Mana available is a good thing.
  • Dweomer x 2 (12 CP). Select two fields.
  • Adept x 2 (12 CP). Select eight of your sixteen available Dweomer skills.
  • Mastery (6 CP): May “Take 10” while under pressure for (3 x Int Mod) skills.
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP).
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Use Int Mod as a base for your Dweomer skills) 18 CP:
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Add (Another Attribute Modifier) to (Int Mod) when computing skills points, Specialized for Reduced Cost / the extra skill points may only be used to buy Dweomer skills (9 CP).
  • Luck with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for Dweomer (12 CP). The makes sure that your upper-end spells work reliably. That’s more important at low levels than high ones, but will remain reasonably useful. It’s even better if you later buy off the limitation and start using it to make critical saves and such.

That comes out to 281 CP rather than 286 – but that’s quite close enough. Buy a few more skill points or something.

OK: Presuming that same 24 Int and a chosen secondary attribute (probably constitution) boosted to 18, this means 12 “free” skill points per level – with Adept, enough to keep all sixteen available Dweomer skills maxed out. In practice, there will probably be a few that any given character doesn’t use very much, so there will be at least a few skill points left for buying other things, even before buying any. In any case… our twentieth level Dweomerist has a +29 and can “take 10” under pressure for all of his or her Dweomer skills.

So, the Dweomerist can reliably produce “Grandiose” effects in his or her two Dweomer fields at a cost of 5 Mana. They can’t find ways to stack on “free” metamagic like a Wizard, but they’re free to invent their effects on the fly – albeit only within the limits of their skills. They also get first level effects for free at level 16+ – not that huge a benefit at that level, but still pretty convenient.

There are plenty of ways to optimize further of course; even just working with this build. You can Specialize the Mana and Rite of Chi so that they can only be used for Dweomer – but then you miss out on whatever form of natural magic you would have selected and lose all of the versatility that comes of working with a Mana pool. Of course, once you go that far… you might as well go with TommyNihil’s suggestion and use the Wilder progression to power things – although the actual savings aren’t that large in the long run simply because Mana is a very efficient power source for the Dweomer/Thaumaturgy system. You can even use skill boosters to pump up a particular Dweomer skill or two – likely whatever you usually use to attack or defend.

Still, in general, a Wizard has a much wider range of effects available than a Dweomerist, and – given time to prepare – may use metamagic and other boosting effects to prepare far more highly-optimized special tricks. On the other hand, a Dweomerist is using a freeform system. While he or she is admittedly focused on immediate effects and can’t play with metamagic beyond simply making higher-level spells, within his or her fields he or she is free to come up with just the effect needed – often allowing them to get along with clever use of lower-powered magic.

Overall, a Dweomerist is roughly equivalent to a Wizard of similar levels of optimization – but requires more coming-up-with-clever-stuff-on-the-fly than research and pre-planning to play well. On the game masters side, a Dweomerist (unlike a Thaumaturgist using the same mechanics) calls for some pre-planning. After all, if you let a character mess around with – say – nucleokinesis, you’ll need to have a fair idea of how atoms, radiation, and atomic nuclei work in your setting to decide what happens.

Now in actual play, the fields such a character selects are far more important than most of the details of the build. A little more mana? A little less? That kind of thing pales before the differences between a character who’s using Forest Mastery and Weather Control (probably with Leadership to command a force of Ents and forest beasts, a wilderness sanctum, and a few forest-themed tricks) and a Lensman using Psychokinesis, Telepathy, and the Pulp Hero Template to get his own starship in which to bring justice to the galaxy and fight the evil Empire of Boskone – and neither of them will much resemble the often-incorporeal Planewalker who uses Warping and Mysticism as he walks the dimensions in search of the fabled pan-dimensional city of Cynosure.

From my point of view… that’s one of the major advantages of Thaumaturgy and Dweomer. It’s so EASY to build a unique character with highly distinctive abilities that way.

As for Lerandors Rule? Well… according to that, a higher level effect can be built up from lower level ones with the number required being 2 to the (Level to be accomplished – Level of spells being used) power.

So it’s perfectly possible to – say – string together a mere 256 first level spells to duplicate a ninth level effect (presuming 100% efficiency. You might need quite a few more than that if your sequence is less than optimal). Of course, the effect produced by each such spell must be stable enough so that you can build on it with the next spell, must be within the power of a first level effect, must be in an appropriate order, and must fit under one or more of your skills.

Presuming that the player can figure out a sequence of low level spells to accomplish his or her goal… it shouldn’t be more than a ten to twenty page writeup. Once they’ve come up with it, and you’ve had time to go over it, and see what you think what they’ve come up with will actually do… then they can start casting!

I have had players do that – one healer / spiritualist came up with a series of eighteen well-chosen first level spells (as I recall it went something like re-assemble body, preserve body, repair body, restore blood, freshen body (getting to very freshly dead with several repetitions), clear lungs, remove bacteria, oxygenate, feed (adding cellular nutrients), transfuse life force, remove preservation, start heart, restart respiration, contact spirit, let spirit speak through body, enhance body-spirit link (repeated several times), ease spirit travel, and anchor spirit) to push his freeform first level spells up to the equivalent of a fifth level “raise dead” – but that was really quite exceptional. Most players simply do not want to bother with that sort of thing.

Equally unfortunately, you need the proper skill for each individual subspell. You could do a straight Fireball with just the Pyrotics skill. To do one from string of first level spells… you’d probably want something like Summon Fire (Pyrotics), Project Fire (Telekinesis), Boost Spell (Amplification, from Mysticism), and Expand Effect (Spatial Warping, under Warping). There are other sequences that could do the same thing of course – but it’s going to be difficult to squeeze everything together under a single skill.

And I hope that helps!