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.

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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.

Hexcrafting Part II – Deck Creation

And for today it’s another Hexcrafting question…

Do you have any advice for creating Hexcrafter decks from scratch? How does the broadness of say, a hexcrafting card called ‘psychokinesis’, a rune magic skill called psychokinesis, and the telekinetic dweomer skill?

-Jirachi

Well, to cover the simplest bits first… if you want an actual deck, there are plenty of decks of medicine cards, tarot cards, oracle cards, and RPG whimsy cards out there (one player even used the I-Ching, but he got quite creative with his interpretations). You can also use some old Magic cards, or borrow some cards from various games, such as Everway. It would be nice if the backs all matched, but it isn’t really required. We’re playing d20, not engaging in high-stakes gambling.

If you want to make your own physical deck there are several free programs (Nandeck, Strange Eons, Cardmaker, Magic Set Editor) made just for that, or you can use Inkscape or GIMP. For that matter, our own Runecards can be printed out and work just fine (that is, of course, a shameless plug).

Now, I’m presuming that you’re more interested in what goes into a deck – and for that, it’s best to start with some examples and comparisons.

To compare with Thaumaturgy and Dweomer…

For a psychically-oriented Dweomer Hexcrafting Deck, you could easily construct a forty-eight card deck by simply using one card to represent each of the eight skills for each Dweomer field. That’s a bit dull, and a bit below the recommended 60+ cards – but Dweomer is an efficiently organized set of abilities with relatively little overlap between the various skills. That does have it’s downside though. Unlike, say, using Tarot Cards for a Hexcrafting Deck you will often find that only one specific card of your Dweomer Deck will do what want at the moment – and if you do not have it in your hand, then you are out of luck. A Dweomer deck would be effective, but it would also be kind of dull. Given that this deck would cover an extremely broad range of abilities, it would obviously be a “broad” deck.

For an arcanely-oriented Thaumaturgy Hexcrafting Deck, we have an example – “Necromancy”. One of the eight classical schools that contain almost all magic. So a broad Arcane Deck might well contain sixty-four cards – eight each for Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutation. Such a deck would probably cover a bit more than the Dweomer Deck, but then the odds of pulling the cards you wanted would be slightly smaller – the usual tradeoff for a larger, and thus more versatile, deck.

Unfortunately, comparisons with Rune Magic skills tend to be a bit misleading.

  • Hexcrafting offers access to spells of all kinds from the very start, at high power levels for any given level. The breadth of an individual card is far less important than the theme of the deck. On the other hand, access to those spells is somewhat random and it is very difficult to rebuild the user’s magical reserves.
  • Thaumaturgy and Dweomer offer in-depth access to a limited magical field at high power levels, use easily-renewed Power and/or Spell Levels, and can both offer and gain bonuses from other skills and rolls.
  • Rune Magic offers considerable flexibility within a narrow field, but relies on hard-to-renew Mana for power, offers considerably slower access to high-end spells, basically requires buying a caster level for each skill (equivalent to a Specialized and Corrupted caster level and lagging well behind other magical systems) instead of allowing the use of an overall caster level, and – since it’s a skill-based system – nerfs the most common methods of gaining bonuses. The far superior flexibility of Rune Magic skills comes at a notable cost.

Regardless of all of that, the Thaumaturgy and Dweomer decks obviously aren’t especially original – and they don’t cover much about creating your own deck. Ergo, so some further examples are required.

For a Narrow “Animal Spirit” or “Nature Spirit” deck, pretty much all of the animal cards may be used to summon, influence, banish, communicate with, and otherwise manipulate animals of the appropriate types. Almost all of them can be usede to take on animal powers of to shapeshift into appropriate animals. For some more individual effects…

  1. Ant grants strength, wall-walking, scent, acid, and organizational powers with minor access to spells that get large quantities of work done.
  2. Bat grants flight, echolocation, speed, and agility, with minor access to fireworks magic.
  3. Bear spells involve size and strength, claws, natural toughness, hibernation, and – traditionally – minor healing effects.
  4. Beaver is a woodcrafter, builder, hydraulic engineer, and swimmer. Beaver magic generally involves crafting and building things.
  5. Bee can provide flight, envenom blades, allow one to peer into the ultraviolet, communicate through dance, and summon and direct swarms.
  6. Butterfly grants metamorphosis, transformation, and beauty, although it’s stronger on personal than on external effects. It is, in fact, one of the more powerful and versatile animal cards.
  7. Caribou grants speedy and enduring travel, adaptability, and attunement to nature.
  8. Cheetah grants great bursts of speed, communicating with big cats, and taking on cheetah features.
  9. Coral can create walls, traps, and shelters, as well as some stinging and toxic touch attacks, but is considerably more fragile than just using stone.
  10. Electric Eel offers electrical senses and discharges, water breathing, slipping through narrow places, and biting.
  11. Frog can grant a deadly toxic touch, amphibious abilities, hibernation, a long, sticky, tongue, and jumping abilities.
  12. Goat grants climbing ability, agility, the ability to digest almost everything, and enhanced virility.
  13. Honey Badger grants claws, toughness, strength, burrowing, immunity to poison, and immunity to fear.
  14. Jellyfish can grant reaching tendrils, some rather nasty toxic touch attacks, water breathing, and the ability to regenerate from almost any injury,
  15. Octopus provides spells involving tentacles, clouds of darkness, poisonous touches, water breathing, and completing many tasks at once.
  16. Owl grants flight, night sight, enhanced hearing, taking on owl features (like talons), seeing through the eyes of owls, and perhaps some secret wisdom – such as you get from first and second level “Detect” spells.
  17. Parrot can be used to send messages, speak various languages, imitate sounds, gain winged flight, and bite.
  18. Serpent grants poison effects (some ranged), constriction, entrapment, infravision, stealth, and minor hypnotic effects.
  19. Tardigrade (Water Bear) can provide long-term hibernation and resistance to radiation, extremes of temperature, lack of food and water, and lack of atmosphere, as well as boosts to hit points and damage reduction.
  20. Wolf can summon packs of wolves, gain scent, claim territory, run a long way, and (traditionally) grant minor hunting magics.

And so on for Komodo Dragon, Shark, Turtle, Buffalo, Skunk, Rotifer, Amoeba, Bombardier Beetle, Spider, Cobra, Python, Starfish, Elephant, Hummingbird, Snapping Shrimp, Sponges, and the rest of the animal kingdom, both large and small. A few hours at the library, on the internet, or watching nature documentaries should provide plenty of inspiration for an Animal deck.

Still, while Shark may grant scent, electrical senses, massive bite attacks (Manyjaws anyone?), swimming, water breathing, and epic-level Sharknado’s, it is still an animal powers card in the end, like all the others. You can do a lot of things with animal cards – call up stampedes, destroy vegetation, spray acid, boiling clouds, or ink, produce toxins, undermine hills, and so much more – but there are also plenty of things that animals simply do not do. You won’t be using this deck to summon demons, or teleport, or program computers (Save, possibly, with an epic level “infinite number of monkeys” spell), or raise the dead, or generate hard radiation, or bind an army into a trance – and the list goes on. Even if you persuade the game master to let you throw in a few “plant” cards, the options there are fairly limited as well (not regarding the utility of a Tree Feather Token) and this will almost certainly remain a narrow deck. Real animals and plants simply aren’t very versatile compared to d20’s vast array of magical spells even if you throw in low-level access to a few mythic properties.

Now if you start throwing in mythical totems… Thunderbird may grant access to lightning and weather magic, Cave Bear to powerful healing magic, Cerberus to the Underworld, and so on – but this is no longer a Narrow Animal Powers Deck. It’s a broad Totem Spirit Deck.

You could also make a deck of Elemental Powers (could be Narrow or Broad depending on whether you include elemental associations), or Gods (usually Broad) – although the game master will probably limit you to the most direct aspects of their portfolios to keep this from being an “anything” deck.

And I hope that helps!

For next time on this topic, a complete “elemental” deck.

Eclipse, Entreaty Magic II, and Magical “Feats”

The article on Entreaty Magic presented a way to build yet another magic system – in this case a freeform system of calling on forces or entities that relied on earning the help of those entities. It offered an option to buy that system in eleven eight-point “installments”, rather than as a series of varyingly-sized chunks. That led to a question…

If you are going to have the ‘8 cp per level’ as a way to purchase the progression, is there any reason why you couldn’t just keep buying it past level 11? If so, what would that look like?

-Jirachi

Now that would be mildly awkward, since, while the parts of the Entreaty Magic package which use level-based formula continue to increase with higher levels, once you buy all 87 points worth of the package, you’ve bought all there is to buy. There isn’t any more because some of the basic powers it’s built on have hit their maximum at that point and they’re already Specialized and Corrupted to increase their effects. If you wanted to continue from there, you’d need to either buy secondary abilities that enhance your magical powers or persuade your game master to invent new rules to cover it.

I’d recommend the secondary powers personally. They’re easier and more interesting, and usually a lot less subject to breaking the game. After all, most of the upper limits on abilities in Eclipse are in there for a reason.

So lets extend that progression, spending eight character points per level.

First up, spend two per level on…

L12-L20: Archmagic. Extremely skilled and experienced Entreators may learn to channel brief bursts of even greater power from their patrons, achieving results far beyond the reach of lesser adepts. Unfortunately, they still cannot do so very often. Buy:

  • 3d6 (9) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Natural Magic Option, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for spell enhancement, only for use with Entreaties, effects so enhanced can have a maximum effective level of 6 at level 12 or less, 7 at level 13+, 8 at level 15+, and 9 at level 17+ (9 CP).
  • Rite Of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to refill the spell enhancement pool above, requires a nights rest (9 CP).
    • Split up over nine levels this basically provides a pool of (Level – 11) Mana that renews itself each day. This will allow the Entreator to cast a few higher level spells each day or to enhance them in various other ways.

To make up the rest of the 8 CP/Level you can take one magic-boosting Feat / 6 CP effect per level. Some possibilities here include:

L12) Patronic Panoply: This trick allows the user to channel his patrons energies manifesting as solid, physical, items – often magical items. This will require the investment of some skill points to make it really worthwhile, but will be an increasingly powerful option as the user goes up in levels. Buy:

  • Access to the Occult Skill Dream-Binding (3 CP), at normal cost (3 CP). As a rule, the items will be related to one or more of the user’s Patrons somehow. Many Entreaters will even develop one load-out for each patron, allowing them to chose a package to suit a given mission.

L13) Grand Petition: This trick briefly enhances the user’s ability to channel his or her patron’s powers. Activated as a part of using an Entreaty, it allows for a mighty surge of supernatural force, allowing the user to amplify the effects of some spells and overcome resistant creatures defenses. Buy:

  • Berserker (+10 to Caster Level, -2 to Reflex Saves) with Enduring (no fatigue afterwards), Corrupted / only allows the casting of a single spell per use. This trick will function (1 + Level/3) times daily (6 CP).

L14) The Forge Arcane: This trick allows the user to create three minor relics – one for him or herself and two for friends. While these invariably have drawbacks, they each offer the equivalent of two bonus Feats. Buy:

  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable to make one-point relics, only usable with points from Enthusiast, only relics related to one of the user’s patrons, all relics carry a disadvantage – although this does help reduce their cost (2 CP).
  • Enthusiast with Adaption, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (a total of three “floating” character points)/points may only be used to create relics (known as “conjures”), relics have a maximum cost of one point and no one can use more than one at any one time (4 CP for the ability to create up to three one-point relics. +1 Relic may be added per additional CP spent. The relics and rituals for the Houngan Conjurer may be helpful).

L15) Ward Of The Principalities: This trick invokes the user’s patrons to look after their agent – channeling in protective effects just when they are needed, although this still counts against their pool of obligations. Buy:

  • Reflex Training (Three extra actions per day variety) with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for defensive actions, only for Entreaties. The “user’s patrons” will obligingly, and instantly, erect mystical defenses for the user (6 CP).

L16) Summons From Beyond: This trick allows the user to summon a familiar, mystic mount, or other form of companion creature – or to either upgrade an existing companion or summon another. (It’s usually well worth investing some more Feats in your companions). Buy:

  • Companion (6 CP).

L17) A Patron’s Glance: This trick allows an Entreator to briefly turn a spell effect that requires concentration over to his or her patrons to sustain while he or she does something else, picking up maintaining the spell again later if he or she wishes to. Buy:

  • Harnessed Intellect (6 CP).

L18) Agent of the Powers: This trick allows the user to invoke the indirect aid of his or her patrons to bend fortune in his or her favor when necessary – a subtle, but powerful effect. Buy:

  • Karma (6 CP).

L19) Hand Of The Divine Craftsman:

This trick allows the user to create powerful, unique, magical devices through quests and deeds, some of them of potentially worldshaking power. (Alternatively, the character can be boring and take any one Create Item feat). Buy:

  • Create Artifact (6 CP).

L20) Citadel Of Magic: This trick allows the user to establish a Place of Power, Magical Sanctum, or similar location, enjoying various special abilities, the support of allies, and more while there. Buy:

  • Sanctum (as per THIS article).

There are, of course, thousands of other possible “progressions” – you could focus on combat casting, or ritual magic, or using Leadership to bind various sorts of outsiders to your service – but this is Eclipse. There are always thousands of ways that you could take a character.

Now if you’re wanting to expand on a more conventional progression, such as the Wizard… you can use Invocation with the Mighty modifier to gain access to spells of level ten and beyond, buy additional caster levels normally, and/or buy Mana as Generic Spell Levels (Specialized for Increased Effect / only acts as spell slots that expand an existing spell progression. With that, each 6 CP expended on expanding a progression provides 10 spell levels worth of additional spell slots.

D20, Ninja, and Eclipse, Part I – the Rokugan and Mystic Eye Ninjas

For today, it’s part one of “how to build a ninja, with particular reference to some of the past “ninja” classes” – another offline query.

The first official Ninja for d20 was the classical Oriental Adventures Rokugan Ninja (3.0, from 2001). D20 Rokugan got quite a lot of stuff published for it, but it never really took off. After all, most of the people who wanted to adventure in Rokugan, and deal with it’s deadly political and social mazes, were already playing Legend of the Five Rings and didn’t really need a d20 version.

It looked like this:

  • D6 HD (40 CP).
  • +20 BAB (120 CP).
  • Saves +24 (72 CP).
  • 4 SP/Level (92 CP originally, current builds take Fast Learner Specialized in Skills and Adept, 12 CP).
  • Proficient with All Simple and Ninja Weapons (9 CP).
  • Augment Attack – 10d6 Sneak Attack (30 CP).
  • Defender with +1 AC Bonus/Specialized/the bonus must be divided between attackers each turn (6 CP). (Honestly, a little armor is better).
  • Poison Use (6 CP).
  • Awareness with Flankless (12 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to Dex Mod for Initiative Checks, 6 CP)
  • +30 Movement/Corrupted for Increased Effect (also applies to any other movement modes you happen to pick up, but limited to +5 x Con Mod, 12 CP).
  • Blind-Fight (6 CP).
  • Block (Missiles, 6 CP)

That’s 423 CP for a purely classical build, but only 343 CP as a modern (using Adept and Fast Learner to deal with the devaluation of Skill Points) build – out of the 504 CP a twentieth level character normally gets.

Honestly, that is a spectacularly poor build, placing even below the basic 3.0 fighter in terms of spending it’s points. All it’s really got going for it is full BAB and Sneak Attack, which is why it’s down on Tier 5. Still, it wouldn’t make a bad basis for a partial, or even (throwing in a few limitations and a modern build) a full caster build. An extra 81 to 161 character points leaves plenty of room for that even before throwing in feats and other boosts. For example, figuring on a “modern” build…

You could make a Hexcrafter, and appear from the shadows to shift the tide of battle with a well-chosen invocation of your dark and mysterious powers. Throw in:

  • Twenty-one (to get access to epic effects) Specialized Caster Levels (63 CP).
  • Nine Spell Cards (72 CP)
  • And seven Free Invocations (21 CP).

A decent casting attribute – most likely Intelligence as you’re going to need skill points – can get you a couple more Spell Cards, so this revised build winds up as a fair rogue-style fighter with per-session access to seven freeform spells of up to level six (from Free Invocations) and ten or eleven spells of up to level nine – with an option to sacrifice three of those level nine effects to jump up to epic magic. You won’t get nearly as many spells as a classical Wizard or Sorcerer, but with freeform magic you can tailor your spells as precisely as you need to – so what you’re aiming for is to never need more than one in any given situation.

Or you could buy…

  • Twenty levels of Bard or Druid spellcasting (160 CP). A simple and powerful option, Twenty levels of Psychic Warrior is only 120 CP, but is probably worth considering here – and would leave you with 40 CP to spend elsewhere anyway.
  • Full access to both Assassin and Ranger spellcasting (20 Corrupted Caster Levels for 80 CP and two sets of Paladin / Ranger Spellcasting, 40 CP each). They won’t be that powerful, but you will have quite a lot of spells to cast.
  • The Bokor Package. Since this is only about 60 CP it’s suitable for even a classical build. In a modern build… it leaves room for another entire package.
  • The Classical Illusionist package. That’s about 160 CP depending on the options you take – and it’s very thematic. An excellent option. Not the most powerful casting package, but incredibly versatile.
  • The Entreaty Magic Package (87 CP), allowing you to mix some comic-book style sorcery into your stealth. A powerful option if you’ve got the Charisma to pull it off. /
  • The Nymic Magic Package (54 CP for the Casting, 69 CP for Specialized Caster Levels, and 36 CP on another 6 feats to boost it). This is fast and versatile, but calls for some extensive investment in knowledge skills. Still, if you want to be a magical know-it-all…
  • Skill-Based Partial Casting. This is a rather limited spellcasting package, and calls for some investment of skill points, but allows an enormous number of variations at assorted costs.

Of you could buy plenty of other stuff. Eighty one or (especially!) a hundred and sixty points is enough to pay for quite a lot of goodies.

The Rokugan Ninja failed because it was – ultimately – an inferior rogue with a mild case of multiple attribute dependency thrown in just to make things worse. To add to the problem they got very little prestige class, feat, or equipment support. And even where they outshone the rogue (BAB), a rogue with a dip or two – Monk, or Ranger, or perhaps (later on) Beguiler – made a better “Ninja” then a Rokugan Ninja anyway.

The primary reason for that was simply that Rokugan was a much more “realistic” setting than d20 was really designed for, with a heavy emphasis on social interaction and politics instead of dungeon crawls and loot. So it’s ninja were based on real-world ninja – in d20 terms reasonably clever and well-trained rogue-style characters of levels 1-3 with no magic. They were characters who might play message-runner between two warlords for months in hopes of getting some information on their plans, or try to stealthily slip poison into someone’s food. They definitely were not one-man armies empowered by TV Tropes.

Not too surprisingly, the result would fit in with a “Wizard” based on Oz, the Great And Powerful (and his sleight of hand and minor stage tricks), a “Cleric” who performed ceremonies, offered wise advice, and had various social benefits, and a “Fighter” based on any generic special-forces type you would care to pick – but high-level d20 fighters can readily tank one-megaton city-killer bombs (16d8 damage per d20 Future), With the right options (a way to get a save and Evasion) they may even be able to shrug off a direct hit with no damage. Similarly, d20 has (quite manageable) Fortitude Saves and Neutralize Poison spells. It has magical guard-beasts and enhanced senses that can easily penetrate Stealth. It has telepathy and magical messaging. It has Scrying and Commune.

It was like having James Bond team up with Iron Man, the Mighty Thor, Doctor Strange, and The Black Widow to battle some power-armor cultist goons and a couple of shoggoths while the dread Elder Ones attempt to force their way into the world to destroy humanity. Sure, Bond can try to set up a trap or crash a vehicle into the monsters – but that doesn’t have much to do with HIS abilities and it will be a lot of time and effort spent on the equivalent of one shot from most of the others involved.

It’s much more likely that he’s going to take Nick Fury’s role and provide the mission briefing and exposition – and even THAT is only by author fiat, since any of the other characters could get the information. There’s Iron Man’s many contacts and computer expertise. Thor could get the word from Odin, or Heimdall, or just get called in. Strange could look into the Orb of Agamotto -and the Black Widow has at least as many contacts and sources as Bond does.

You could drop Bond from this story without any real effect – and the same went for the Rokugan Ninja in most d20 games.

Next up (well, after a thousand homebrews and with a pack of less notable versions), we have the Player’s Advantage: Rogue Ninja (Mystic Eye Games, 2004). This one was a partial caster, and it looked like this:

  • d6 HD (40 CP).
  • 8 SP/Level (184 CP, for a modern build presume Fast Learner and Adept for 92+12 CP).
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 Saves (72 CP).
  • Fast Movement (+10, 6 CP).
  • Martial Arts (1d6 lethal or nonlethal “unarmed” damage, always considered armed, 9 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP)
  • Awareness with Flankless (12 CP).
  • Evasion (6 CP)
  • 10d6 Sneak Attack (30 CP)
  • 17 Levels of Spontaneous Style Ranger/Paladin Spellcasting (34 CP) with 10 Specialized Caster Levels (30 CP). The available spells include:
  • 1st Level: Disguise Self, Detect Poison, Feather Fall, Ghost Sound, Jump, Obscuring Mist, Sleep, True Strike.
  • 2nd Level: Alter Self, Backstab, Cat’s Grace, Darkness, Fox’s Cunning, Illusory Script, Invisibility, Pass Without Trace, Spider Climb, Undetectable Alignment.
  • 3rd Level: Deep Slumber, Deeper Darkness, False Life, Magic Circle Against Good, Misdirection, Nondetection.
  • 4th Level: Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Dimension Door, Freedom of Movement, Glibness, Greater Invisibility, Locate Creature, Modify Memory, Poison.
  • Personally, I’d at least open this up to anything on the Assassin spell list as well. It might well have been if there had been much further support for the class.
  • Proficient with All Simple and Ninja Weapons (9 CP).
  • Proficient with Light Armor with the Smooth modifier (6 CP)

That’s a total of 534 CP – or only 500 with either Adept OR Fast Learner, or 454 CP as a modern build with both.

The build suffers from “monk syndrome” – having a bunch of not-particularly well organized individual powers thrown together with little focus or synergy between them – but it’s not too bad. If you need a stealthy type, this Ninja will do – but they don’t have a lot to offer elsewhere. I’d peg them around Tier 4, with the basic Rogue.

What to do with the other 50+ points in a modern-style build? Well, you could upgrade with a second set of minor spells (+10 CP to get the Caster Levels to “Corrupted” so they can cover multiple forms of minor magic, +34 CP for another seventeen levels of a minor progression – perhaps Alchemical Magic – and throw in a bonus feat), or upgrade their basic spellcasting package to a full Psychic Warrior or Wilder casting package.

Personally I’d probably go with the Psychic Warrior package. A couple of tweaks here and there and that would give you the full “mystic ninja” routine, make you more effective in a fight, and give you some additional options out of combat.

This version of the Ninja provided a (much needed) step into the fantastical – but it was a rather half-hearted step, never got much further support, and still left the Ninja as “the sneaky guy” in a game system where they’d almost always be in the middle of a group that was focused on combat and throwing lightning bolts at things. There is a reason why Godzilla versus The Ninja is not really a thing (despite this bit with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I found on Youtube). Still, if you had a game master and party that was willing to incorporate some stealth into the game, this Ninja was reasonably functional though the mid-levels – at least until high-end magic made stealth (and most other skills) utterly irrelevant.

Next time around on this it will be the Complete Adventurer Ninja (from 2005) and the (current) Pathfinder Ninja.

Hexcrafting, Eclipse, and Magical Design

And for today, it’s another question…

There’s a bit of a lack of builds for Hexcraft, and it does seem like you could totally use it as a base system for spellcasting. (The ‘Class build’ style stuff I find especially helpful).

I’m writing a fanfic that use some concepts from Eclipse to provide additional setting flavor, and I’m not sure how to translate the ‘per session’ limitations into something I can use. The chapters are ~1000 words, often cover small bits, so there is not any super obvious things I can use as reference.

Any thoughts?

-Jirachi

Well, to go in reverse order…

Hexcraft functions on a “Per Session” basis for several reasons.

  • The system allows fairly low level characters to cast powerful spells – but ensures that they won’t be casting very many of them in any one session. That makes it easy for the mage to shine while still leaving plenty for the other characters to do.
  • It simulates the “My magic is not to be wasted on trivial things!” school of fantasy, where spellcasting is reserved for important things instead of everyone having a batch of trivial spells that allow them to get along without matches, avoid washing dishes, and handle minor opponents.
  • It makes resource management important again. The players can’t simply announce that the characters are resting to get the Hexcrafter’s spells back, so if the Hexcrafter player blows them all in the first hour of the session they won’t be doing any spellcasting for the rest of the evening.
  • The limited numbers and themes of spells makes it much easier for the game master to manage a freeform system – while also ensuring that a clever hexcrafter will never be unable to come up with an appropriate spell.
  • The cards a Hexcrafter draws at the start of a session are also an easy bit of foreshadowing. All you have to do is fan them out and everyone will have some idea of what kind of spells will be available and how much power a Hexcrafter has left – unless they are, quite literally, holding a few cards in reserve.

It’s less obvious how “per session” translates into the setting outside of the gamist prospective though. It’s not like “the beginning of the session” has any effect on the setting.

  • The most direct interpretation is simply that Hexcrafting is literally powered by narrative. Dramatic events, the moments when the gods / mysterious higher powers (players/readers) are paying attention, or the moments on which destiny turns, have their own magic that a hexcrafter taps into to recharge their reserves. A long, dull, sea voyage (that gets skipped over in a few sentences in the game or story)? There’s no magic in THAT. You have defeated the lesser minions and broken into the throne room for (next chapter or sessions) epic confrontation with the big bad guy? That’s definitely a dramatic moment for a hexcrafter to draw power from.
  • Slightly less directly (if more suited to short chapters) you can presume that a Hexcrafter draws power from rare mystical events – celestial conjunctions, when some entity channels it’s power into the material world, whenever there is a nova in the galaxy, when exotic meteorites fall, whenever the ley lines flare up, whenever a great wizard dies and releases their power back into the world, or whatever suits the story. Under this kind of assumption the rule is basically “when you want it to happen” – which can be a bit heavy-handed in a game if you’re not careful but is just the way things are when you’re writing something.
    • If you want story inspiration… you can always make a quick little chart for your story – for short chapters perhaps 1d10: 1) The Hexcrafters Power is Renewed. 2) An event other mystical heroes can tap into occurs, 3-9) Nothing happens, and 10) The Villain gets a sudden power boost for a bit.
  • You could Corrupt or Specialize Hexcrafting to make it require specific deeds to “recharge”. Perhaps it requires visiting a great nexus of power, conducting an elaborate ritual, making great offerings to mystical beings, or undertaking some quest. That would probably work best for a hybrid caster – someone who would be buying Specialized caster levels anyway, and so would only need to spend a little more to gain occasional access to much greater spells. It could be awfully limiting for a primary caster though. Still, visiting the Great Fane of your God, and there being granted a mighty power to call forth when the time is right, is very classical. If you want to make it Corrupted (takes several turns to cast) AND Specialized… You can have the occasional mighty spell rather cheaply. It’s just that it WILL be an occasional thing.
    • If you happen to have some second edition sources for things like Quest Spells (Tome of Magic), or Netheril’s Super-Spells, or Dark Sun’s Psionic Enchantments (Mostly Dragon Kings), or Elven High Magic from the Forgotten Realms sourcebooks… well, here’s an easy way to put those sources to use while keeping them rare and special.

On the social side… In a lot of ways, Hexcrafting is a thematic return to earlier editions. Once upon a time, back when First and Second Edition quarreled over who would dominate the kingdom and the Grognards roamed wild and free, casting a powerful spell was a really big deal.

Powerful spells had long casting times, any interruption at all would ruin them, it required an hour or two of downtime to prepare just one of them, and defending the caster long enough to get one successfully cast in the chaos of battle was a tricky project for the entire party that often failed. Parties worked hard to make it happen anyway for the same reason that they shepherded the Wizard through those vulnerable early levels. It was because those big spells could turn the tides of major battles. They were Dramatic, they were Important, and they were Rare. Even when they didn’t seem relevant, a clever mage could often use them. Sword Of Ogre Decapitation anyone?

“You have delayed too long Foul One! My companions have bought the time I needed to call forth the favor of the Ones Beyond! A power great enough to end your dark menace FOREVER!”

Now I hope that helps!

Secondarily, and just for Jirachi… do let me know if and when you publish. That sort of thing is always of interest – even if I keep winding up putting off reading Alzrius’s Lateral Movement. (While I do read quickly I’m almost always badly pressed for time these days, and 650,000+ words will likely take a while).

Eclipse d20 and the Classical Illusionist

Alzrius has put up a very nice little Eclipse Package Deal for making Illusions a bit more effective in d20 games – and it’s reminded me of the old days. Back in first edition when a pure “Illusionist” was a viable – and fairly important! – class. I had a lot of fun with illusions back then.

Of course, D&D games were very different then. These days the game often revolves around fighting, loot from fighting gets spent on buying magic items to make you more likely to win more fights, treasure-free random encounters are almost a thing of the past, and most encounters are “Balanced”. You usually don’t WANT to evade encounters now unless you’re trying to sneak past the guards or something.

Back in the old days you might well encounter creatures far beyond your ability to handle, killing things brought in a little XP, but stealing treasure brought in a LOT, and you couldn’t spend loot to make yourself more powerful (after all, just getting it had done THAT). Loot got spent on things like building castles or mansions, buying land, funding charities, paying troops, educating your kids, and living a life of indulgence and luxury – and so adventuring parties often wanted to avoid encounters in favor of stealing that loot.

And even a first level Illusionist could REALLY help with that. An illusion of an open door (and empty room) covering a closed one, or a bramble-thicket covering where the characters were hiding, or some such could let that dragon, or group of ogres, or other powerful creature go right on by. This sort of thing was very limited – at fifteen minutes per spell level to memorize EACH spell it could take a high-level mage a week to fill up his or her spell slots – so they couldn’t use many illusions per day and would need to be carefully guarded while they cast them to keep from having them disrupted and spoiled – but Illusionists were VERY useful.

When it came to a fight, it was hard to tell what spell someone was casting and illusions could actually defeat opponents – and that made them very much worth supporting. You might toss out that flask of self-igniting oil and start chanting – producing real flames, real smoke, real heat, and possibly even a few real burns – to help convince your targets of the “reality” of the illusory fire elemental, wall of fire, or swiftly-spreading blaze that you then “conjured” from it.

When it came to designing 3.0 however, the problem was that illusions were EXTREMELY “swingy”. Did the Illusionist “collapse the cavern roof” over a group of opponents? If they failed to disbelieve, or save… the entire group might be rendered unconscious and easy prey. On the other hand, if they saved, all you’d done was hide them from the rest of the party until they charged – and once the cries of “It’s an illusion!” started up, your illusionist lost a lot of effectiveness and didn’t have that much to fall back on. He or she simply had to hide behind the fighters and wait for the next encounter.

Just as bad… one game master might note the lack of dust in the air and sound of impact (at least with the first level Phantasmal Forces spell) and thus have the victims automatically attempt to disbelieve, while another might not think of that or feel that – what with the exigencies of battle to keep track of – they probably wouldn’t notice in time, and so would have only a few attempt to disbelieve.

Still, “Swingy” was much less of a problem back then because – if an encounter was going badly – it was quite normal to break it off and run away. Illusions could be really helpful there too. If you could just get out of sight for a few moments, a well-chosen illusion gave you a pretty good chance to evade any pursuit.

So lets say we want some of that old functionality back, over and above Alzrius’s very handy package.

First up…

  • We want out illusions to be able to knock people out, but never to do any more than that.
  • We want them to be interesting and interactive. A rain of boulders is one thing, but an illusory “Fireball” is basically just a flash of bright light. How would they even know what it’s supposed to be?
  • We want to avoid “I Win!” buttons. Damage is one thing, but simply taking opponents out of the fight is not very interesting.

So purchase Shadowmaster, Corrupted for Increased Effect (gives a bit of reality to a limited set of illusion spells that normally have none at all – Trifling Image, Silent Image, Minor Image, Major Image, Hallucinatory Terrain, Persistent Image, Permanent Image, and Programmed Image) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / only applies to those eight spells or variants thereof, only inflicts nonlethal damage and minor related effects, cannot inflict further damage after the victims go unconscious, disbelief and a successful save provides complete protection, even without disbelief the damage is determined by comparison to a similar spell effect of equal or lesser level to the illusion used and may allow saves for reduced effect, and the damage is limited by the targets expectations and experience – and so instant effects are rarely very effective and no effects will work on mindless targets or objects (3 CP).

Using this ability…

  • A Silent Image spell COULD be used to “collapse the ceiling”, but the (nonlethal) damage is not going to exceed the 1d4/Level (5d4 Maximum) that you could get with “Hail Of Stone” – and trying to affect a larger area is likely to bring that down to 2d6.
  • A Minor Image spell could be used to simulate a Fireball, but the actual results are likely to be a blinding flash and a momentary feeling of heat – likely resulting in victims taking two or three d6 of damage and being briefly dazzled. Turning the room into a “raging inferno” will probably be more effective, since that can be maintained over several rounds, even if it will only be 2d6 per round.
  • Using a Major Image to “bring down the ceiling” might well get you up to Fireball damage – but a reflex save to “dodge the boulders” will apply to halve that damage, even if they fail to disbelieve.

That makes illusions versatile and somewhat effective attacks – but certainly not overwhelmingly powerful ones.

  • To fit the theme, I’m going to make Light and Darkness effects reversible. In Pathfinder you can do that with the Eclipsed Spell (+0) Metamagic. In Eclipse, you’ll want the Elemental Manipulation Metamagical Theorm, Specialized and Corrupted / only applicable to spells that affect the level of illumination, only to apply the +0 “change the elemental effect” modifier to switch between versions that provide light and versions that make it darker (2 CP).
  • And we’ll want Specialist (Illusion Spells), Corrupted / only for Trifling Image, Silent Image, Minor Image, and Major Image. The first casting of each of these spells in a day does not count against the user’s available spell slots (2 CP).

So how should we build the actual spellcasting? Taking a look at the original Illusionist Spell List we have…

  • L0) None. This was before L0 spells were introduced.
  • L1) Audible Glamour, Change Self, Color Spray, Dancing Lights, Darkness, Detect Illusion, Detect Invisibility, Gaze Reflection, Hypnotism, Light, Phantasmal Force, Wall Of Fog.
  • L2) Blindness, Blur, Deafness, Detect Magic, Fog Cloud, Hypnotic Pattern, Improved Phantasmal Force, Invisibility, Magic Mouth, Mirror Image, Misdirection, Ventriloquism.
  • L3) Continual Darkness, Continual Light, Dispel Illusion, Fear, Hallucinatory Terrain, Illusory Script, Invisibility 10′ Radius, Non-Detection, Paralyzation, Rope Trick, Spectral Force, and Suggestion.
  • L4) Confusion, Dispel Exhaustion, Emotion, Improved Invisibility, Massomorph, Minor Creation, Phantasmal Killer, Shadow Monsters.
  • L5) Chaos, Demi-Shadow Monsters, Major Creation, Maze, Projected Image, Shadow Door, Shadow Magic, Summon Shadow.
  • L6) Conjure Animals, Demi-Shadow Magic, Mass Suggestion, Permanent Illusion, Programmed Illusion, Shades, True Sight, Veil.
  • L7) Alter Reality, Astral Spell, Prismatic Spray, Prismatic Wall, Vision, First Level Magic User Spells (you could take several of them in one seventh level spell slot).

Most of this was actually folded into the Bard list in 3.0, but an Illusionist was a subtype of Wizard, so we’ll take…

  • Wizard Spellcasting (Spontaneous Variant), Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for the following list of “Illusionist” (mostly Bardic) spells, maxes out at level seven spells (7 CP per level).
    • L0: Dancing Lights, Decrypt, Detect Magic, Encrypt, Ghost Sound, Light, Signal, Trifling Image
    • L1): Color Spray, Disguise Self, Dispel Illusion (as per Dispel Magic, but Illusions only), Hideous Laughter, Hypnotism, Magic Mouth, Silent Image, and Ventriloquism.
    • L2): Blindness/Deafness, Blur, Hypnotic Pattern, Invisibility, Minor Image, Mirror Image, Rope Trick, Suggestion.
    • L3: Confusion, Daylight, Fear, Invisibility Sphere, Major Image, Mass Invigorate, Nondetection, Secret Page.
    • L4: Greater Invisibility, Hallucinatory Terrain, Minor Creation, Mirror Image (Greater), Phantasmal Killer, Shadow Conjuration, Shadow Jaunt, Weave Emotion* (Greater Invocation, creates any emotion-influencing effect of up to L3).
    • L5: Chains Of Light, Major Creation, Mislead, Persistent Image, Plane Shift, Shadow Evocation,
      Shadow Walk, Suggestion (Mass).
    • L6: Dirge Of The Victorious Knights, Maze, Permanent Image, Programmed Image, Project Image, True Seeing, Veil, Wizardly Pretense (prepare any five first level wizard spells, although these cannot be transferred to others or put into scrolls).
    • L7: False Vision (Greater), Invisibility (Mass), Limited Wish, Prismatic Spray, Prismatic Wall, Shadow Conjuration (Greater), Shadow Necromancy (Greater), Shadow Terrain.

Sample emotion-influencing effects of L3 include Crushing Despair, Fear, Good Hope, Heroism (one hour per level), Malicious Spite, Rage, Overwhelming Grief, Smug Narcissism, and Terrible Remorse.

Finally, we’ll want to be able to run more than one illusion at a time – so we’ll want…

  • Persistent Illusions: Streamline x 2, Metamagical Theorem/Stabilize, both Specialized and Corrupted /only to give Silent Image, Hypnotic Pattern, Minor Image, and Major Image durations of one minute per caster level past concentration and extend Veil to 2 hours per caster level with no concentration (6 CP).

So our first-level Illusionist trades out Wizard Spellcasting (14 CP) and a Familiar (or Arcane Bond) (6 CP) for Illusionist Spellcasting (7 CP), Damaging Illusions (3 CP), Reversible Light and Darkness (2 CP), Bonus Illusions (Specialist I, 2 CP), and Persistent Illusions (6 CP). That’s an even trade, so they can otherwise be built like any other Wizard – which fits nicely. Since their spellcasting will continue at only 7 CP per level, they can either continue to spend the extra CP on further improvements to their illusions or they can invest in other abilities.

If they want some other boosts to their illusory talents they may want to consider…

  • Ability Focus (Illusion Spells): Increase the DC of saving against the user’s illusions by +2 (6 CP). For another +6 CP you may increase the bonus to +4.
  • Augmented Magic (+1 Caster Level on Illusion Spells) (3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating the DC of saves against their spells, Specialized/only for spells from the Illusion school (3 CP). Charismatic and persuasive Illusionists have quite an edge.
  • Improved Specialist (Illusion Spells), Corrupted / only for Hallucinatory Terrain, Persistent Image, and Permanent Image. The first casting of each of these spells in a day does not count against the user’s available spell slots (2 CP)
  • Occult Sense / Detect Illusions (including invisibility), Corrupted / this ability must be actively used to function (4 CP).
  • Power Words (6+ CP) will let them keep some very fast spells ready to go.
  • Shadowmaster (6 CP) will increase the reality of Shadow Conjuration, Shadow Evocation, Shadow Conjuration (Greater), Shadow Necromancy (Greater), and Shadow Terrain when the character gets them.
  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / can only produce effects on the user’s list of known cantrips but can produce those cantrips, user must be free to gesture and speak (4 CP) will give them unlimited use of their cantrip slots.
  • Visions, bought as Inherent Spell, Specialized for Increased Effect (Contact Other Plane) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / Requires an occult laboratory and a variety of special props, plus Luck, Specialized and Corrupted / only for the check to avoid a reduction in Intelligence and Charisma (2 CP). (The original Illusionist got the “Visions” spell, which was pretty cruddy. This is, in fact, much better – even if it does cost a little more than a spell slot).

This version of the Illusionist has several major boosts over the original, but they’re mostly built into the current d20 game system. For example, they get concentration checks instead of any interruption automatically ruining their spellcasting and they get individual turns and standard-action spellcasting rather than having to deal with enemies with simultaneous actions getting to ruin their spells. Both of those are very big advantages indeed – but they’re a normal part of d20 spellcasting these days.

And now I want to play one again. Oh well, maybe one of these days.