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.

d20 – Tomes Of Distant Lore and Remote Tominals

And for today, it’s another question…

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

-Chrislanak

Well, there are a number of ways.

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

Book Of Shadows Of (Library).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scholar’s Tome:

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

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

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

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

Grand Scholar’s Tome:

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

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

The Akhasic Library:

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

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

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

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

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

The Willful Tomes:

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

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

Journeyman’s Eldritch Libram:

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

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

The Grand Grimoire:

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

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

The Scroll Of Blood

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

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse And the Sha’ir

And for today it’s another question…

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

-Alzrius

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

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

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

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

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

So what were the writers thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classical Sha’ir Gen Template:

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

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

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

For a modern Sha’ir?

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

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

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

The 3.5 / Pathfinder Sha’ir:

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

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

Modern Sha’ir Gen Template:

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

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

So:

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

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

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

 

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

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

Adventures in Familiars II – Master And Commander

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

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

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

Alzrius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To look at these…

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

That leaves…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample Soul-Forged Item – A Wizards Staff:

Dreambinding Total:

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

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

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

Dreambinding Total:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse And Nobilis – Aspect and Destiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aspect (36 CP):

So to buy an “Aspect” Attribute in Eclipse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heroic Durability (12 CP).

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

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

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

Destiny (30 CP):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hexcrafting Part III – The Elemental Powers Deck

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

Suit Of Flames:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suite Of Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suit Of Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suit Of Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suit Of Wood:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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