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!