Shadowed Galaxy – Second Stage Vampire Template

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gaming Harry Potter III – Blood And Fire

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

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

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

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

-Dumbledore, in The Order Of The Pheonix.

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

What’s problematic there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything which works better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, the prophecy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse d20 – Dweomer, Thaumaturgy, and Wizardry

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

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

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

-Jirachi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I hope that helps!

Channeling Mysterious Spirits – The Discordant Powers and the Seven Deadly Sins Part II – Pride/Cruelty, Sloth, Deception, Envy/Treachery, and Chance.

And for today (and Halloween) it’s the second half of the Seven Deadly Sins and Discordant Powers – a set of spirits/forces which can be channeled by Bokors / Binders and Equestarian Dragons. As usual, these spirits / forces build on the basic Bokor package.

If you haven’t looked at Part I (Gluttony, Lust, Greed, and Wrath) it’s over HERE.

Pride / Cruelty:

Pride and Cruelty are two faces of a single thing – placing oneself above others and believing that that self-appointed placement gives you the right to use, abuse, and torment those “beneath you”, displaying your “superiority” for your own amusement. Classically, Pride was often considered the fundamental sin, the gateway through which corruption entered the soul. It was the updated version of Hubris – taking credit for the gifts that god had given, as Satan had tried to do at the beginning. And given how little of life was under human control at the time… there was some truth to that. One might more or less rightfully take credit for working hard with what you had, but birth rank, inheritance, health, strength, dexterity, and many other factors depended a great deal on your heritage and circumstance.

D20 kind of limits the possibilities here. The d20 system doesn’t really acknowledge “pain” (or hunger, or thirst, or much of any other bodily need), damage, injury, and illness are totally abstract, and attitude problems are pretty common for adventurers even when they aren’t simply murder hobos (homeless wanderers with little personality or motivation other than greed who kill everything and everyone who gets in their way and then loot the corpses). That really takes a lot of the point out of classical cruelty. Egotism? These characters battle dragons and rule nations. Gluttony already covered dark arts and “perfection” (using Luck to “take 20”). Actual personal godhood is a bit much for a spirit to bestow. Something could be done with Augmented Bonus – perhaps using Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for increased Effect (only for Augmented Bonus, 6 floating CP, five or six times) to justify incredible pride by simply getting a bunch of statistical bonuses, but that’s boring. Innate Enchantment could stack up a whole slew of minor enhancements, but that’s both boring and involves massive checking for stacking issues each and every time.

No, in this case we’ll lean towards Hubris – setting yourself above the very gods.

  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (each mana spent counts as three) / only for Reality Editing, blatantly calls on unholy and blasphemous forces (12 CP). There are few things more arrogant than to simply bend reality to your will.
    • Note that those channeling Pride usually like to pretend that they’re using their personal power, rather than just bending reality. It’s cheaper too; bringing that sixty-ton stone idol to life as an oversided Stone Golem and sending it out to crush your foes is a Grandiose (4 Mana) Edit, picking it up and hurling it down the steps is pretty Major (3 Mana) Edit – but making a mighty effort and toppling it down the temple steps in an avalanche of rubble that sweeps away your foes? That’s actually somewhat plausible, and so counts as a mere Notable (2 Mana) Edit. Go ahead, when the very gods have stacked the deck against you… demonstrate that the will of the gods themselves is no match for your defiance!
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore Mana for Reality Editing, user must demonstrate his or her superiority, be a sneering bastard, or indulge in a cruel and vicious act to activate it (8 CP).
  • Dark Words: Innate Enchantment, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command Word Activated). Doom, Wrack (like Doom, but the target becomes Sickened, Fortitude Negates), Thorn (like Doom, but target takes 1 Damage per Round and a -2 penalty on attack rolls, skill checks, and ability checks as magical needles agonizingly stab into his or her joints, Reflex Negates). Total: 5400 GP (6 CP).
    • Yes, this lets someone channeling Pride be an obnoxious bastard for free all the time. What did you expect?
  • Opportunist: The channeler may use the powers of Pride once per round as a free action (6 CP).
  • Privilege: The channeler is always treated as at least minor nobility, everywhere that he or she may go (3 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Someone channeling Pride can never admit to being in the wrong or apologize. He or she will, at most, offer justifications (no matter how insane) for his or her actions.

Sloth:

Sloth goes beyond simple laziness. It is a lack of interest, it is despair, and it is what we would now classify as clinical depression – the belief that all that awaits you in life is misery and that nothing is worth attempting. It is a lack of feeling and empathy, it is the refusal of joy and grace. It is turning away from life and the divine to embrace the void.

Unfortunately, unlike most of the other Deadly Sins or Discordant Powers… The standard notion of Sloth does anything BUT drive you to action. That’s spectacularly uninteresting in terms of the game. On the other hand, the desire to embrace the void is something that I can work with.

To a channeler of Sloth… reality is pain. All of life and consciousness is but the drawn-out scream of the universe uselessly protesting it’s inevitable slide down the entropic slope into the endless, futile, void. That Void is the only true surcease, the only true panacea. To help others pass into the void is the only true kindness.

  • Channeling: 1 + (3 x Cha Mod) uses, Specialized / only for Conversion (9 CP).
  • Conversion to a set of four sixth level spells (9 CP):
    • Entropic Caress (as per Bestow Greater Curse).
    • Entropic Cone (Short Range Cone effect, otherwise as per Bestow Curse).
    • Inevitable Night: As per Call The Void, but affects up to (Level) creatures of the user’s choice who are within short range of the user each round.
    • Welcoming Void (as per Disintegrate).
  • Access to an Occult Skill (Dream-Binding, 3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus, Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating first level skill points, Specialized for Increased Effect / the skill points go exclusively into Dream-Binding (6 CP).
  • This gives the channeler an effective Dream-Binding Skill Bonus of (Cha Mod x 9) – in effect allowing him to pull three items, each with an effective value of up to (Cha Mod x Cha Mod x 900 GP) back from the edge of the void to use during each summoning. Sadly, only permanent items are eligible.
  • “It really doesn’t matter” Damage Reduction 8, Specialized and Corrupted / Physical Damage Only, can be negated by hitting the user with “good hope” or similar morale-boosting effects (8 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Those channeling Sloth simply do not care. They receive no save against effects that produce morale penalties.

Sloth… is sort of a casual, generic, impersonal evil. It isn’t that it CARES, it’s just vaguely of the opinion that both you and the universe would be better off if you were ground down into a fine powder and annihilated – and if there’s nothing more interesting (not that ANYTHING is very interesting) going on it might as well take care of that. Someone channeling Sloth will kill a small child just as casually as you might straighten up a crooked picture and for much the same reason; it’s untidy, it’s vaguely annoying, and it’s very little trouble to fix that situation.

Deception:

Deception is – to no one’s surprise – one of the most subtle sins or “Discordant Powers”, and creeps in everywhere – from the stealthy tendrils of falsehood that slip in when one exasperatedly fails to correct some minor misapprehension to the grand deceptions that send myriads off to die. Perhaps worse… the bitter venom of falsity can spread itself, reaching out across time and space through the veins and arteries of news, rumor, and gossip to infect, to fester, and to corrupt persons far beyond the original deceivers reach. There is a REASON why so many dark and malevolent powers have borne the title of “Lord of Lies”.

The Serpents Tongue:

  • Augmented Bonus, Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating first level skill points, Specialized for Reduced Cost / the skill points go exclusively into Bluff (3 CP).
  • Mystic Artist, Specialized for Increased Effect (Double skill level for acquiring abilities) / the user can only purchase Manipulation abilities, and Corrupted for Modified Effect (Greater Summoning is replaced by Deceive Reality – a version of Bestow Greater Curse with Medium Range and Puppet Master is replaced by LieSmith – the ability to spread rumors, slanders, and baseless accusations which will rapidly spread through the target population, gaining a great deal of credence as they go) / only usable for malevolent purposes (6 CP).
  • +4 Bonus Uses of Mystic Artist, above (6 CP).

With this combination you gain you gain Fascinate and Hold Audience at (Cha Mod +1), Suggestion, Emotional Auras, and Freedom at (+2), Mass Suggestion at (+3), Deceive Reality at (+4), Alter Attitudes at (+5), and Liesmith at (+6 or more).

Gluttony grants personal power. Lust grants powerful agents. Greed grants items, or the equivalent. Wrath destroys everything nearby. Pride twists the world to demonstrate personal superiority. Sloth brings the final silence. But Deception… Deception shatters the bonds of faith, of friendship, and of alliance. It breaks down the trust which is the foundation of society. The other Sins and Discordant Powers may inflict horrors on those in the immediate vicinity and taint areas – but only Deception will leave a trail of cities in chaos, countries at war, and once-friends and allies at each others throats – and the Serpents Tongue, the terrible power of subtly twisted words lies at the core of that power. You do not need powerful magic, or combat prowess, or great authority, or an army, to destroy.

  • Witchcraft III (6 CP):
  • The Adamant Will, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to resist or present false results to mind-reading, detection, and “truth” effects at no cost. There is no simple and reliable way to determine if the user is lying or twisting the truth.
  • Shadowweave, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / May spend two power to create a Major Image effect.
  • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: Only to imbue papers and related items with an aura of authenticity and authority. The user may spend one power to gain a +20 bonus on a Forgery check and a second to reduce the time required to a single action.
  • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: You may spend two power to create a Glibness effect.
  • Master of the Sabbat: Corrupted for Increased Effect (Can lay curses without the Elfshot ability), Specialized for Reduced Cost / Only works for laying curses, user must gather at least seven foul and suspicious ingredients (things like graveyard mold, toxic fungi, the tongue of a hanged man, blood from a virgin child, whatever) and brew them together to create the curse and apply the mixture to the target to complete it. All in all, you can generate a level 3 Curse for 12 Power, level 4 curses for 24, level 5 for 48, 6 for 96, 7 for 192, 8 for 384, and 9 for 768 (and so on if even greater curses are allowed). Fortunately, you do have up to 28 days to provide the required Power total (4 CP). Equivalents of the various “Curse Terrain” Pathfinder spells are favorites.
  • False Flesh: Apparition, Corrupted for Increased Effect, Specialized for Reduced Cost: the user must design a single, specific, psychic construct, specify its general appearance, and can only summon it around himself or herself, but it automatically has the Class-C “Enveloping” ability (3 CP).
  • Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive (and thus limited by wealth and lifestyle) and take some time to attune for use (6 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge: How to create foci for Black Magic Charms and Talismans (1 CP). Charms and Talismans – including those of black magic – are discussed in The Practical Enchanter.
  • Disadvantage: Deceivers cannot help but spread misinformation, gossip, misery, and deceptions, slowly twisting any realm they visit towards darkness.

Envy and Treachery

Envy… is not so much wanting something for yourself. It is the little whispering voice that says “Why should they have what I do not?”. It is a jealous desire to deprive others of happiness in an attempt to fill your own misery and emptiness. When active it directs it’s greatest malice at those about you – your family, friends, and neighbors whom you can easily reach – and becomes Treachery. The desire to betray and to thus share your misery.

Treachery is perhaps the most feared of the Sins and Discordant Powers. Wrath? Greed? Lust? For all the evil that such powers can unleash, they are but natural, necessary, things expressed without Temperance. But to betray… to betray is always personal. To betray you must first gain trust – and then shatter that precious gift. No simple failure of control will easily lead to the outer darkness; but to truly embody Treachery… you must cast out the light from your heart.

Surprisingly enough though… Treachery is one of the least interesting sins. It takes real talent to Deceive well, skill, wealth, and fame or power to make the most of Lust, a willingness to abuse yourself and wealth to make the most of Gluttony, and so on… but for Treachery all you need to do is go behind the backs of people who (foolishly) trusted you and attempt to screw them over. Half your coworkers in any office job are usually doing THAT.

Even worse, when it comes to d20, basic Treachery is really pretty pointless. Like it or not, the characters are generally the functional equivalent of a small army. They may go back on deals, or backstab their patron – but they tend to define “subtle” as “single target spells and the Barbarian not using rage”. When it comes to NPC’s betraying each other the details are going to be up to the game master’s plot and don’t need game statistics. When it comes to NPC’s betraying PC’s… well, many PC’s don’t really trust anybody anyway, will automatically assume that they’re going to be betrayed if there is the slightest sign of it, and – if there isn’t – the players will get pretty cross about it, which is no good for the game.

Like it or not, the only form of treachery that will both work and be any fun when it comes to player characters is the flamboyantly treacherous kind – the sort of “treachery” you get from a villain who twirls his fu-manchu mustache, strokes his villainous goatee, and tells one and all that they would be fools to trust him and that he is a master of poisons – and then offers them tea and snacks.

And as long as they are useful to him… drinking the tea and eating the snacks will be entirely safe. Betraying people at random simply isn’t conducive to future operations.

The Dark Chancellor

  • Access to an Occult Skill (Foresight, 3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus, Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating first level skill points, Specialized for Reduced Cost / the skill points go exclusively into Foresight, providing an effective base of (4 x Cha Mod + Int Mod -3) in the skill (3 CP).
  • Witchcraft III (6 CP).
    • Hyloka, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user is immune to poisons. This is a constant effect with no cost.
    • Witchfire, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may spend 3 power to make an immediate Craft / Alchemy check.
    • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Aura of Honesty. The user may (in fact must) be an blatantly obvious villain, but no one with a base Will save below +6 will recognize this and he or she may spend 2 power actively to get a +10 Sacred (OK, Unholy) bonus to Diplomacy and Bluff for the next hour – as long as he or she makes it obvious that they cannot be trusted. After all, “only a fundamentally honest man would tell people the limits of his trustworthiness up front!”.
    • The Inner Eye, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may spend 2 Power to make a Gather Information check with a +10 bonus as a Standard Action.
  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (each Mana point spent counts as three) / only for use with Reality Editing, only for a specific set of edits (12 CP):
    • Quickly Producing poisons (1), drugs (2), “scrolls” of dark magic (1 for spell levels 1-2, 2 for 3-4, and 3 for 5-6. Uncopyable, but always usable by the summoner), suitable bribes (3), or various potions (2) – all of which must be used fairly quickly or they will lose their power.
    • Ritually Summoning dark spirits, undead, and demonic aides – although such entities will never have s CR of more than one-half the user’s level or serve for more than twenty-four hours unless the Mana used to summon them is left committed to them (usually 1/2/3 for minor/notable/major creatures).
  • Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the Reality Editing pool above, requires at least ten minutes of meditation and/or relative inactivity per die (3 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP). Points may only be used in conjunction with Create Relic, below, all relics created are products of dark magic, are limited to two points, must be approved by the game master, and carry at least one three-point disadvantage – although this does add to their point totals.
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with points from Double Enthusiast (above), all relics created are products of dark magic, are limited to two points, must be approved by the game master, and carry at least one three-point disadvantage – although this does add to their point totals (2 CP)
  • Specific Knowledge: Handbook of Poisons (1 CP).
  • +3 Specialty in Craft: Alchemy (see Haagenti, the Five Alchemical Catalysts, 1 CP).
  • Disadvantage: The channeler must be flamboyantly and blatantly criminal and untrustworthy, even if few others will ever notice this (-3 CP).

It’s boring, but if you really want classic simple-and-functional treachery instead, take…

  • Traceless Treachery (6 CP): When you send vital information to the enemy, open the gates to assassins in the night, or slip poison into a child’s supper… no evidence can be found, and no one will ever be able to prove that it was you.
  • Double Damage, when striking from behind or in treacherous attack (6 CP).
  • Cloaking (6 CP): Any form of magical or psychic detection will not reveal the user’s treachery.
  • Presence (Charm Person) (6 CP). Anyone who comes near a channeler of Treachery will find themselves trusting and liking them, regardless of how irrational that may be. (Alternatively, the user may radiate a mono-suggestion – “you want to take whatever bribe I’m offering” – but that overlaps with the Witchcraft functions below).
  • Witchcraft III (6 CP).
    • Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may spend 1 Power to generate a Suggestion Effect.
    • Dreamfaring, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may store his or her gear in his or her dreams – duplicating the effect of a Handy Haversack without cost or the Call Item psionic power by expending power.
    • The Inner Eye, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may spend 2 Power to make a Gather Information check with a +10 bonus as a Standard Action.
    • Hyloka, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user is immune to poisons. This is a constant effect with no cost.
  • Grant of Aid with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / can only be recovered when the user commits some major act of treachery (5 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Those channeling Treachery are unable to stop scheming to advance themselves at the expense of others. While useful companions may be bypassed in the interests of using them in the future, everyone else they interact with for long is likely to suffer.

 

Chance:

Chance – or Chaos – differs from the other Discordant Powers. It isn’t really regarded as a “Sin”. It’s a FEAR. Civilization, and even simple survival are, ultimately, utterly dependent on the patterns of nature. Did the caribou take a different route in their migration? Did the rains not come and the crops fail? Did the river flood and sweep away your village in the night? Any little disruption of the pattern may spell doom. All of civilization… represents little more than a long struggle against the vagaries of chance.

And always… a fault in a dam, a wave from the depths, a shaking of the earth, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, or any other chance bit of bad luck that you weren’t prepared for (and no one can prepare for EVERYTHING) – may being it all tumbling down.

Even those who channel chaos do not wish to be consumed by it. They too are seeking some measure of control – to harness and ride what they see as an unstoppable tide, the deep currents of chaos that life and civilization rides atop of like a raft of soap-bubbles drifting on an ocean. Beautiful perhaps, and seemingly stable – but ultimately effervescent and doomed.

And there is more than a bit of uncomfortable truth to that vision.

Those who channel chaos really have only two abilities – to twist what is happening NOW and to shift the probabilities of the future.

A Fortunate Twist:

  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized for Increased Effect (each points spent counts as two, points may be spent at any time without requiring an action, the user is automatically aware of what events are reasonably likely and their costs (IE: the user may consult the game master at any time) / only for Reality Editing, only to affect the environment, only for triggering reasonably likely events or affecting the outcome of events that occur naturally (12 CP).

For example… if a roof is caving in, manipulating who it hits is a minor (1 Mana) edit. Causing an old, unmaintained, roof to cave in where you need it right NOW is a notable (2 Mana) edit. Causing a solid roof to cave in is a major (4 Mana) edit IF the game master thinks it’s likely enough to allow at all. Steering a lightning bolt from a storm? 1 Mana. Having a gust blow down a house? 2 Mana. Steering the storm to destroy the business district? 4 Mana IF possible at all (and it probably won’t be). Need a sudden gust of wind to deflect an incoming flight of arrows? 1 Mana if there is already wind to work with, 2 if there isn’t – because there always could easily be a little wind.

  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Unskilled Magic, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Effects cost only one point per level with the side effects subsumed into the effect, the Caster Level is equal to the User’s Level. Maximum level of effect = (User’s Base Will Save Bonus) or (Wis/3), whichever is less) / only for Destiny Magic (12 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / Onlyto recharge the fate-twisting pools above, recharges a maximum of one die per minute, user must behave in a throughly chaotic manner (5 CP).

Twisting Fate:

Destiny Magic manipulates the probabilities of the future. The level of destiny magic spells depends on two basic factors: the level of effect you want and how much you want the spell to consider your desires. This can be very, VERY, dangerous. For some samples:

  • “We will have good luck in this battle”. This one is safe enough; you and your friends get some luck bonuses. You can simply use some of the appropriate spells.
  • “She will look over this way and notice me”. Also pretty safe unless you’re a wanted criminal, or a werewolf who will start her screaming or some such. People look around and notice things all the time. There probably won’t even be a save.
  • “They will drop the charges and let me out of jail in the morning”. Less safe, but unlikely to get you really hurt. One character tried this with a low-level spell; the locals concluded that he was mad – or “god-touched” – and shipped him off to an asylum where the monks would listen to his ravings in search of prophecy. This was awkward, but he WAS out of jail with the charges dropped.
  • “A diversion will come up during the trip that will give me a chance to escape”. This turned out a lot better; a diversion wasn’t unlikely and the destiny mage made it a higher level spell to avoid the diversion turning out to be a major monster attack or something and wound up with a few falling rocks, one of which knocked the transport wagon open. He then made his escape under his own power.
    • He didn’t even consider trying “The Daimyo will pass by along the way, recognize me as foreign but not mad, and give me an excellent job!”. THAT would call for a very high level spell indeed unless events along those lines were already in the works.
  • Thus “You will soon be badly injured” is pretty easy. “You will be hit by a runaway cart tomorrow and badly injured” is harder, but still plausible. “You will be hit and badly injured tomorrow by a runaway cart driven by your drunken son who will be crippled in the accident” is WAY up there, and may well be effectively impossible – if, say, the kid is currently several hundred miles away. Trying to force an event that unlikely into existence is also likely to have all kinds of unlikely side effects which may well endanger the caster and his or her party. Worse, it usually allows a save.
  • For an example from the more disastrous side… The party was hunting a colossal river serpent. They obtained flying steeds and attacked it at long range. The serpent promptly dove to the bottom of the river and burrowed into the mud where they could not reach it. One of the characters then tried to use first level Destiny Magic to make the serpent to come back up and fight. What was easiest? A lure. Where was he? Hovering directly over the river where the serpent was. He’d used a spell of such low level that it didn’t consider anything but what he’d asked for. Ergo… a biting bug bit his steed in a sensitive spot, he got bucked off, he landed in the river, and the serpent came back up to eat him – instigating the desired fight, but at close range rather than the desired sniping contest. He asked for a specific, and not unreasonable, event – but lacked the power to constrain his spell to more acceptable methods. A slightly higher level spell might have brought a cow by to drink and had it fall in.
  • If you try to directly affect someone else… they get a save. So “May your bowstring break!” is simple, and not implausible (bowstrings do break) – but it allows a save, and if the save is made normal probabilities continue in their course. Of course, twisting destiny to tell an Orphan that “you will soon be adopted by a fine set of parents!” is not too likely to provoke a save, even if the easiest way to arrange that does affect the kid. He or she won’t WANT to resist that destiny.

 

The deadly sins provide a great deal of power for little more than behaving very badly indeed. Sadly, that is – perhaps – appropriate enough. Chance is an interesting choice for a player character though.

Banishing The Darkness

And for today it’s a bonus post – responding to a question from Alzrius

One thing I’ve noticed in most d20 games is that banishing – as in, sending a creature from another plane of existence back to its realm of origin (or at least, removing it from the plane it’s currently on) – has no ability to enforce the banishment after the initial act of removal.

Spells like dismissal or banishment will send a creature back to its home plane, but most such creatures that warrant that level of magic being thrown at them have the ability to plane shift and greater teleport, meaning that if they want to come back, it will take them 2 rounds to do so (one to plane shift back, with the 5d100 off-target roll, and then one to greater teleport back to the exact place they were before).

Given that there’s no standard metric (other than local world laws) that formalizes the whole “demons and devils cannot enter the mortal world unless called by local residents,” this really seems to leave banishment options without any teeth. Even most exorcism options (which are a variation, to my mind, of banishment) simply expel the possessing spirit; they don’t stop it from simply trying again (e.g. a ghost can just use malevolence again). Since summoned creatures go back to their realm of origin anyway when “slain,” and called outsiders apparently die permanently when slain regardless of where they are when killed, it seems like it’s always going to be a better idea to just go ahead and kill extraplanar enemies, unless they’re summoned (not called) creatures of extraordinary power and are there for a long duration (such as a Pathfinder summoner’s eidolon).

To bring this to a question: how would you fix this? Adjust local world laws to change how extraplanar creatures can get to a particular world? Or come up with better banishing spells and effects? Or something else entirely?

-Alzrius

Well, in the wild days of first edition, putting together some widely scattered bits, it looked like an outsider who was forcibly cast out of the material planes could not return for a year and a day, while one that was slain on the material planes took a very long time (normally a century, although it was shorter for really powerful creatures) to reform on their home plane (often including a temporary or permanent demotion to a lesser form). One slain on it’s home plane was gone for good. Still… first edition; there were plenty of special exceptions and even likely some contradictory rules.

Third edition was originally pretty straightforward; if a creature was actually there and was killed, it was dead. If it was summoned, and was thus basically a copy, puppet, or construct, then no matter what happened to it there was no effect on the original creature (if there even was one). If it was Dismissed or Banished… It was sent home if it was really there while a summoning simply ceased to exist. Speculatively, perhaps you used a spark or your own vitality to help maintain the effect – and that linking to extraplanar energies was what gave those spells an alignment and potentially affected yours.

Then, of course, the Fiendish Codex I turned up. It focused on Demons, but I’d assume that the same general ideas applied to most outsiders.

According to it, if a demon was killed outside the Abyss, it’s body would dissolve in spectacular and horrific fashion and return to the abyss (unless magically restrained) while its “essence” fell back into the raw chaos of the Abyss, there (barring the direct intervention of a a god-tier entity) to be reformed as a new, and generally much lesser, demon.

Summoned demons, of course, weren’t really there, and couldn’t actually die; they were just spiritual puppets (barring the use of optional rules), so the demonic essence just come unanchored when the construct-body was “slain” and returned home to it’s real, undamaged, body if they were even real creatures in the first place.

If a demon was killed within the Abyss it was annihilated, both body and essence. Divine intervention could restore such a demon, but nothing else could. Thus most demons were FAR more cautious on their home plane.

In Pathfinder this sort of thing was addressed in Pyramid Of The Sky Pharaoh, according to which a dead Outsider either merges with its plane or has its essence escape into the planes. In either case it’s eventually drawn into the Maelstrom and wiped clean, to be born again at some point in the future – which is pretty much the eventual fate for everybody else too.

Unlike Death, Dismissal and Banishment do seem to be strictly temporary inconveniences. Of course, they are only 4’th and 6’th level spells respectively. They’re also potential one-shot encounter enders, given that an awful lot of Outsiders do not have the ability to plane shift on their own.

One-shot encounter enders are usually targeted for easy encounters, simply because the baseline “encounter” is supposed to use up about 25% of a parties resources. If an encounter is reasonably likely to be ended by one character with a single spell… it probably isn’t much of a challenge. Ergo, Dismissal (becoming available at level seven) is probably balanced for use against creatures of around challenge rating six or less. Banishment, which becomes available at level eleven and can handle multiple targets, is probably balanced for use against creatures with an individual challenge rating of eight or less.

Are creatures combining Plane Shift and Teleport to come right back after being Dismissed or Banished a common problem? Well… searching the Monster Manual turns up only seventeen creatures with access to Plane Shift as a standard thing. Those are:

  • Angels (Astral Deva, Planetar, and Solar), none of whom have Teleport – although a few have a once a day Wish. They probably have better things to do with it though.
  • Genies (Djinni, Efreeti, and Janni* (Janni are listed as having a Plane Shift special quality, but that is apparently referreing to Ethereal Jaunt. As natives, they’re not appropriate targets anyway)) have Plane Shift, but – once again – not Teleport.
  • Nightshades (Nightcrawler, Nightwalker, and Nightwing) also have Plane Shift but not Teleport.
  • A few individual creatures also have access to Plane Shift. These include the Trumpet Archon (which also has teleport! We have a winner!), Couatl* (no teleport and native anyway, so not a valid target), Bebilith (no teleport), Githyanki (1/day Plane Shift at at ninth level or higher, but no innate Teleport), Githzerai (1/day Plane Shift at eleventh level or higher but no innate teleport), Marut (Plane Shift 1/Week, but no Teleport), and Mind Flayers (Not generally appropriate targets, no innate teleport).

That leaves the Trumpet Archon (CR 14) as the only creature in the Monster Manual that can just pop back after being Dismissed or Banished.

The Monster Manual II only provides four creatures with Plane Shift – Ethereal Doppelganger, Ethereal Slayer, Glimmerskin, and Spell Weaver – none of whom normally teleport.

So against the intended targets, and most of the more powerful targets if they work, both Dismissal and Banishment are pretty much “out of the game” buttons. Evidently third edition pretty much handled the problem by making most creatures that you had any reasonable expectation of being able to handle with a mid-level spell unable to come back – and handled the “dimensional invasion” problem by simply not giving most of the more obnoxious creatures direct access to the material planes. I’m not sure if Pathfinder continued that offhand, but it seems fairly likely.

Now if you are plagued by evil spirits that keep returning… that’s likely to be a homebrew or third party rules problem, and so homebrew and third party rules solutions are in order.

  • In Eclipse the simplest thing to do is to build a little Metamagic into the spell formulas – most likely Compact (Using an expensive focus, taking 1d4 points of attribute damage from the casting (most likely Charisma) on the grounds that exorcising dark spirits is not easy) and +2 levels of Infliction (Ignorance: victims will remain unaware of the specific plane from which they were banished for a century to come. A fairly trivial effect really, given that there are myriads of prime material planes. I could easily justify cutting it down to +1 level of infliction).

World laws are more interesting though. “Extraplanar creatures must be summoned by natives of the plane they’re summoned to” puts an interesting limit on Conjuration, as well as preventing most demonic invasions. It does keep extra-dimensional beings from summoning allies though, unless you refluff that ability as “splitting off bits of their own essence”. Similarly, “Once banished, an outsider may not return to the plane of banishment for a hundred years” would work well. That might cripple a Summoner of course, but I rather suspect that Eidolons are constructs anyway, and not really subject to being Dismissed or Banished for very long.

For an interesting change of pace, take a leaf from “A Personal Demon”; In that book summoning demons was actually quite easy, and they didn’t really want your soul – but when one failed to come when called, you had to ritually bar it from again entering your world to keep it from using the portal later, Over the millennia… demons had failed to answer because they had currently been summoned by someone else – and so when they returned to the Abyss, they could not return. Over thousands of years… the supply of demons had been exhausted until no one believed that they existed any longer.

And then one middle-aged professor did his demon-summoning routine at a party, using the name of a trivial lust-demon from a newly translated clay tablet from a recent dig – a demon that no one had ever heard of because the ancient priests had noted her existence, but had ignored her and failed to pass on her name because she was too trivial to bother with.

And thus the Professor became “Master” of the last summonable demon on earth – basically “I Dream of Jeanie” long before that show came along. In a world similar to that… magicians might command the services of a single demon, with a very specific set of powers, and be frantically trying to steal other mages demons and searching for lost names.

And I hope that helps with the question!

Eclipse – The Golden Ones

The “Priests” of “Uncle Richie” (also known as King Midas, The Almighty Dolla, The Golden One Who’s Hands Drip With Jewels, He Who Teaches Men To Fish, God of Wealth and Self Help Books, The One Who’s Infallible System Will Start You On The Way To Prosperity) are often known as “Favored Nephews”.

Uncle Richie doesn’t grant his priests / salesmen SPELLS. Spells are expensive! They cost a lot of magical power! Instead he grants them self-help books.

And, at least for his “priests”… they work.

Disregarding economic consequences that d20 generally ignores anyway, the major problem with characters who start off with lots of money and have ways to readily get more is pretty simple; why are they risking life and limb in reckless adventuring? You CAN get experience points in other ways too. There are ways to do it with schools, and bards, and even by hiring some ex-adventurer who has defined “leadership” as “teaching” and is gradually leveling up his or her students by releasing their higher-level followers and promoting lower-level ones (at whatever rate the game master is willing to accept as reasonable) – so what is your motive for becoming a long-term adventurer?

Really, I suspect that such characters work best in fairly limited scenarios – the cultists have snatched your young granddaughter to sacrifice, and there is no TIME to hire reputable professional adventurers, so you grab a pile of equipment and go yourself – but if you want to keep playing the character you’ll soon have to find another reason.

That’s not all that difficult (after all, Batman is simply out to stop evildoers and comes fairly close to this style of character) but it may not fit into the standard party very well. It may be best to get a little help from the game master and be destined to go on a mighty quest to save the world or some such.

The best example of this sort of character that comes to mind was an elderly elven Jeweler / Gemcutter who, after hundreds of years of business success, wanted to shake things up in his final years and go out with a bang – so he pulled out his collection of dangerously-enchanted jewelry and unstable magical gems that it would have been grossly unethical to sell, bought some books that promised quick (if insanely dangerous and erratic) magical power, and went forth in search of near-terminal levels of excitement. “Heh-Heh-Heh! BY THE ACCURSED SAPPHIRE SEAL OF FALLEN RIOCHA COME FORTH SPAWN OF THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS!!!!… (to the party) “Command them? I can’t do THAT! WHY AREN’T YOU RUNNING LIKE ME?!?!”.

For this “build”… think Yuppie, Junior Aristocrat, Rich Kid – or even Rich Old Man.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) +6 (First Level Bonus Feat) +10 (Disadvantages of choice) = 64 CP.

Package Deal: Usually the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Basic Attributes: Int, Con, and Chr 12+ is recommended. Str is usually unimportant.

Basics (22 CP): d8 HD (4 CP), +6 Skill Points (6 CP), +2 Will (6 CP), Proficiency with Simple Weapons and Light Armor (6 CP).

Other Abilities:

  • Adept, Corrupted for Increased Effect / At least three skills of the six selected must be practical, non-adventuring skills – Appraise, Craft, Profession, Etc (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (+3 CP/Level) / Only for Skills, only to keep Adept skills maxed out (6 CP).

That covers being reasonably competent and having some useful skills and still leaves 30 CP with which to buy stuff. For this theme… we’ll want Wealth, Equipment, and Skill Enhancements.

So here’s a selection of things you could buy.

Among The 1% (6+ CP):

  • Create Item, Specialized and Corrupted/only as a prerequisite (2 CP)
  • Harvest of Artifice, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with Transmutation, only provides cash, user must specify plot-hook sources for his or her funding (2 CP). This provides 100 XP a month that can only be used for “transmutation”. (+1 CP per +50 XP)
    Transmutation, Specialized and Corrupted/only to produce money, never actually occurs on screen (2 CP).
  • Net Result: 6 CP: 200 GP/Month for 6 CP, 400 for 8 CP, 800 for 10 CP, 1200 for 12 CP, 1800 for 14 CP. and +300/Month per additional CP. A character who starts with this ability (whether at level one or not) adds ten times his or her monthly income to his or her starting cash. (If you want to convert to dollars, multiply by twenty – so this starts off at about $50,000 per year).
  • I wouldn’t really recommend going above 12 CP worth of income for a first level character, but there’s no actual upper limit. This is also pretty basic for this kind of character; they’ve ALL got money.

The Keys To Heaven’s Vault (6 CP):

  • Access to the Occult Skill Dream-Binding (3 CP) at normal cost (3 CP).
  • This is less useful at low levels, but can rapidly build up to cover some very handy gear.

Great Tracts Of Land (3 or 6 CP, best at higher level):

  • Privilege / Landlord: You have assorted local, non-liquid assets – ownership of, or shares in mundane or magical businesses, lands, or structures with a net value of one-half/three-quarters of the base wealth of a PC of the your level for 3/6 CP. Sadly, these cannot (for whatever reason) be converted to cash. You may either use something like Pathfinder’s downtime holdings system or – for the sake of simplicity – get a 5% yearly return on whatever portion of your holdings you devote to getting cash or use 10% (whether in amount or time) of whatever facilities you own. Thus, if you own a shipping company with three ships, you could reasonably divert one for three and a half months (10% of the 36 they will have available this year) to take you and your friends on an expedition – or use 10% of the space in the ships holds to transport your own cargo or some such. Similarly, you can use an office and some of the space in their warehouses.
  • In general, this is best used to gain access to various facilities or (if lifestyle costs are in play) to pay for those. Like it or not, 5% of 50% (or even 75%) of your wealth by level each year will not greatly increase your power – but at higher levels it will pay for a nice lifestyle and get you some social influence.

Imperial McMansion (6 CP). May be upgraded to A Mighty Fortress (+6 CP).

  • You control a mighty castle or other base, complete with troops, servants, useful facilities, and possibly even things like political connections.
  • This is obviously immobile, but the advantages of having a base with various facilities and employees should be fairly obvious.

Lord Of The Manor (6 CP, Minimum Level 15).

  • This package gets you a pocket-dimension full or architecture and people that you can carry around with you. You can use a minor variant if you want to bring some tigers or something. This is convenient, and can be a good money-maker, but isn’t a game breaker at this level.
  • Siddhisyoga, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (can buy mundane items and creatures that can be manifested into reality) / Only for purchasing “rooms” and “teams” according to Pathfinder’s Downtime System, the maximum value that can be used at any one time is equal to the user’s (Knowledge; Architecture and Engineering x 500) GP, once a structure is “brought out” it cannot be dismissed or modified for at least one minute, user must gesture dramatically to produce and place structures within short range, structures must be appropriately placed (no, you cannot drop houses on the wicked witch), creatures that would be within a structure may make a DC (16 + Cha Mod) Reflex save to pick where in the structure they wind up. Sadly, any external items left “inside” when a room is not manifested count against the user’s encumbrance (3 CP).
  • Imbuement. The pocket-dimension facilities gain a Ward Major (from The Practical Enchanter), Specialized for Reduced Cost / never improves past the “+4″ equivalent that it starts at (which, coincidentally, covers the cost of an appropriate level four ward – and is why the minimum level to purchase this power is fifteen, 3 CP). Four Minor Powers:
    • Enduring. The eldritch structures have triple their normal hardness and Spell Resistance 30.
    • Non-Euclidean. The village has many local portals and can be put into places that are completely unreasonable and far too small. Up to one ton of material can be kept in it with no effective encumbrance.
    • Industry: Variant; production is only 5x normal, but anyone working within one of the buildings is presumed to have a relevant set of masterwork tools for the user of their skill(s) and an appropriate workspace.
    • Sustenance: Residents need not eat, sleep or breathe while within the village. Those who get tired and hungry outside it will still need to sleep and eat to fix that, but they will not get hungrier or sleepier while they wait.
  • This can be very convenient and very profitable – but it can also be something of a headache for the game master if the character starts dropping architecture into fights. Use with caution.

In Realms Of Fantasy (6 CP):

  • Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans take some time to attune for use (6 CP).
  • This isn’t an especially powerful option, but Charms and Talismans (From The Practical Enchanter) can be quite convenient – and are nicely flavorful for starting off a game with less awesome powers than the later options.

That Will Cost You (6 CP):

  • Presence, Specialized and Corrupted/for Increased Effect/Only works on people who strike the user in melee combat, only once per round per individual / invokes Talons Of The Magpie (User may make a touch attack (automatic in the this case) to steal something from a victim – 2d6 HP (gained as temporary HP and lasting a maximum of one hour), or 4d6 GP (or equivalent in other valuables), or to swipe a random, loose, small item from the target.
  • OK, this is silly – but who could resist?

A Doctorate In Philosophy (6 CP):

  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for making a Philosophers Stone (2 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect and corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for making a philosophers stone (4 CP).
  • This allows the user to produce a plentiful supply of first level scrolls and potions, as well as assorted supplies, trade goods, and cash.

The Words Of Creation (2 CP):

  • This is expensive, but powerful; it allows you to get services and supplies, accomplish labors, and have henchmen – although this does cost a great deal.
  • Siddhisyoga, Specalized and Corrupted / only to purchase and upgrade a Supply Pouch, Rod Of The Imperator (or one of the many variants thereof), or a “Gangsta Wrap” (2 CP)

Genre Savvy (6 CP).

  • Access to the Occult Skill Stealing The Scene (3 CP) at Normal Cost (3 CP).
  • This is actually quite impressive, as it allows the user to pretty much ride the plot – exploiting the cliches that are inevitably going to appear.

The Luck Of El Diablo (6 CP):

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Skills. If you opt to go with the “devices not personal power” theme and corrupt this to require some obvious device, just raise it to eight bonus uses.
  • Sinple, straightforward, and incredibly useful when something just HAS to work.

The Luck Of El Diablo II (6 CP):

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves. If you opt to go with the “devices not personal power” theme and corrupt this to require some obvious device, just raise it to eight bonus uses.
  • Another one of the incredibly convenient, if less than dramatic, abilities to have.

Always On Guard (6 CP):

  • Reflex Training (Three Extra Actions Per Day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Defensive or Evasive actions only (6 CP).
  • This allows the user to get out of the way, use a protective device, throw a defensive spell, or otherwise get a free chance to save themselves when it hits the fan. A MAJOR survival mechanism.

Those Who Have, Get (12 CP):

  • 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing Specialized for Double Effect (Each point counts as two for Reality Editing) Half Cost, Corrupted for Increased Effect (effects may be built up over time via ritual behaviors) / only to produce effects associated with Skills, requires a minimum skill bonus of +5/+10/+15/+25 to make Minor / Notable / Major / Grandiose edits (6 CP)
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / requires five minutes to work, only to restore the Mana pool given above (6 CP).
  • This ability allows the user to pull off remarkable feats with simple skill checks – crafting a magical blade with Craft (Blacksmith), steering a ship through a hurricane and into another world with Profession (Sailor), and various similar stunts. If you want to take full advantage of this at higher levels you’ll need a few more dice of Mana.

Talking Your Way Through (6 CP):

  • Opportunist / If the character has a relevant skill at +5 or more he or she gets to make an immediate skill check if an appropriate attempt to resolve a situation descriptively fails (6 CP). Thus, if the user was describing how he or she would disarm a bomb by freezing the mechanism with liquid nitrogen, but wound up triggering it… he or she would get an immediate “disable device” check to get it right after all. If he or she was beating it with a hammer, he or she would not get a check at all; that wouldn’t be an appropriate attempt in the first place.

The Mystic Martial Arts (12 CP):

  • 2d6 Mana as 4d4 (10) Generic Spell Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / only usable to power mystical martial arts, below (4 CP).
  • Immunity/The normal limits of Martial Arts Skills: (Very Common, Severe, Minor, Corrupted / such effects must be powered by the expenditure of either (effect spell level + 1) generic spell levels or a similar number of ranks from the relevant skill (add +1 for an Swift Action or use during an Attack of Opportunity, +2 for an Immediate Action). No skill may be reduced below +0 in this fashion,. Expended skill ranks will return after a days rest, effective casting level equals character level (8 CP).
  • This can produce a wide variety of supernatural “martial arts” effects approximating spells of up to level three. Unfortunately, such effects must be in-theme for the martial art skill so employed. Thus the Tiger Style can be used for feats of strength, sprouting or upgrading claws, to make great leaps, to roll with and negate massive blows, to survive falls, to see in the dark, and for other cat-style effects. The Godfire Palm Style offers control of Fire and rapid movement, but few other options.

Words Of Power (Varies):

  • Immunity/the normal limits of Knowledges (specifically, having to take physical actions to get results from applying them, although a form of fatigue still applies to the skill, just as it would apply if you used your muscles): A Nymic Master may use his or her Knowledge and Concentration skills to directly manipulate reality, creating spell-like effects upon the things that the knowledge skill covers (Very Common, Severe, variable effect level, see below). Sadly, the more a Nymic Master uses this ability, the greater the distorting backlash against his or her mind – and the more confused he or she will become on the aspect of the universe being manipulated, reducing his or her effective knowledge skill rank.
    • The possible manipulations include Control (Ward Off, Move, Command, Summon), Destroy, Create, and Transmute (Heal, Reshape, Transform). The maximum level of effects which can be produced is set by the lesser of the user’s (Caster Level / 3) or the level of immunity purchased. Nymic Magic is normally a standard action, affects a single target within medium range and has a verbal component, but may be reduced to a swift action for +2 on the cost or to an immediate action for +3, expanded to Long Range for +1 on the cost, affect a 20′ radius for +2 on the cost, or be performed silently for +1 on the cost. Their equivalent of other “metamagic” effects must be built into the effect; it may not be added later. Their effects must also be built without modifiers for XP costs or expensive components, which may increase the levels of their equivalents of spells that normally require such components. Save DC’s are (10 + Effect level + Int Mod).
    • The extent of the confusion / cost in Knowledge Skill Ranks depends on how closely the user is pushing his or her current abilities – dependent on the level of immunity purchased – to their limit.
      • Trivial Immunity (06 CP): L0 spells cost 3 Knowledge Skill Ranks and L1 spells cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
      • Minor Immunity (12 CP): L0 spells cost 2KSR, L1 spells cost 3KSR, and L2-3 Spells cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
      • Major Immunity (18 CP): L0; spells cost 1KSR, L1 spells 2, L2-3; 3, L4-5; 4. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
      • Great Immunity (36 CP): L0-1 spells cost 1KSR, L2-3 spells cost 2, L4-5 spells cost 3KSR, and L6-7 cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
      • Epic Immunity (54 CP): L0-3 spells cost 1KSR, L4-5 spells cost 2KSR, L6-7 spells cost 3KSR, and spells of L8-9 (generally only available at epic levels) cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible. They might be achievable through Legendary Resistance (and very high caster levels) however; but whether or not to allow this is up to the game master.
    • Unfortunately, only the targets permanent base skill score (purchased ranks plus attribute bonus and feat-based enhancements) can be used to power magic – and the total base score cannot be reduced below +1. The user may, however, expend Concentration Skill Ranks in the place of any other knowledge skill and may also drop plusses from any actual true names that he or she happens to know (Eclipse, Pg 10, upper right column; normally a +4). A single reduced skill may be restored per hours sleep or quiet study and meditation.

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys? (6+ CP):

  • This package turns various limited-use innate magical abilities into charms, fetishes, potions, dusts, bags that “contain” spells, strange crystals, and even quasi-technological gadgets. This is a VERY powerful effect, and is likely to be a major sources of a higher-level “Nephews” special abilities.
  • Create Relic: Specialized and Corrupted / only to make limited-use items (Apply “Specialized / Does Not Recover to the items created, only select abilities that normally offer a limited number of daily uses) costing a maximum of 3 CP each, only using points from Enthusiast (2 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (provides four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / points may only be used with Create Relic, limited as above (4 CP).
  • Expanded: Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted (+1 CP for Relic Creation per CP).
  • The basic package gets you 4 CP worth of relics to start with – with the various limitations, enough to get you quite a few gadgets to play with. Another 6 CP worth will get you a small magical arsenal.

For some examples:

Spell Talismans:

  • Innate Spell with Multiple Uses:
    • Two L1 Effects: 6 Uses Each (1 CP), 14 Uses Each (2 CP), 22 Uses Each (3 CP).
    • L2 Effect: 6 Uses (1 CP), 14 Uses (2 CP), 22 Uses (3 CP).
    • L3 Effect: 5 Uses (1 CP), 13 Uses (2 CP), 21 Uses (3 cp).
    • Related L3 and L4 Effect (1 CP), either 5 Uses of Each or a Related L5 and L6 Effect (2 CP), 9 Uses Each of a related L3 and L4 effect (3 CP).
    • Related Set: One effect of each level 3-7 (3 CP).
  • Unfortunately, this doesn’t bypass the level requirements for using innate spells, so low-level artificers must wait a while before using the high-level stuff. On the other hand, there’s nothing at all wrong with taking along a plentiful supply of Multiplying Shuriken (Magic Missile), Rainbow Crystals (Color Spray), Healing Draughts (Cure Light Wounds), and Origami Golems (Unseen Servants) on your early adventures.

Curative Ointment.

  • Healing Touch with Bonus Uses (enough to cure (5 x Chr Mod x Level HP) and Improved/Switch/Empower with Bonus Uses to provide (4+Level/3) total uses of Remove Disease, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Cure Serious Wounds, Remove Curse, Neutralize Poison, and Restoration (3 CP).
  • Curative ointment isn’t all that level-dependent, so a low-level party may find having a pot along very VERY helpful.

Sorcerer’s Bag:

  • Improved Occult Talent, Corrupted for Increased Effect (spell level) / slots must be preset. provides 5L1 and 3L2 charms/fetishes/scrolls/whatever with whatever you like in them for (1 CP).
  • That’s not as many uses as you can get from Innate Spell, but you do get a wide variety of effects. This is taking cheesy advantage of the rounding rule, but Improved Occult Talent is not likely to break the game.

Ring of Whispered Wishes:

  • 6d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Corrupted / cannot be used for other purposes (3 CP).
  • This useful little item answers small wishes – that there be something solid to catch onto when you’re sliding towards the cliff, that an opponent suffer some brief disadvantage, that a spell operate in a way it really shouldn’t or pierce that spell resistance. There’s usually enough power for none or ten very minor requests, but larger boons expend the rings power far more rapidly.

 

  • Someone with this package makes a wonderful seller of potions and items that provide more uses of your own abilities, rather than independent abilities. Even better, they don’t need expensive ingredients, or to spend experience points, or to have all kinds of spell formula available. If you kill them, their stock ceases to work. If you steal their stock, it will soon cease to work as they invest their Enthusiast points in making some new stock. You can’t even accumulate it, because unused purchases will lose their power after some agreed-on date (when they make new stuff). On the other hand, buying from them can be quite inexpensive.

Channeling Mysterious Spirits – The Discordant Powers and the Seven Deadly Sins Part I: Gluttony, Lust, Greed, and Wrath

And now for something completely different!

Most of the previous power-package “Spirits” (and virtually all the actual character writeups) so far have been for people of one kind or another, with independent personalities of some sort. These, however – like Ansitif or the Exemplars of Magic – are forces rather than creatures, and extremely unpleasant ones at that. Still, it’s coming up on Halloween again, so it’s time for some evil powers.

As usual, all of these Mysteries build on the powers of the basic Bokor Package – although that is cheap enough that it’s normally well worthwhile. They’re all 32 CP / +1 ECL Acquired Templates  as usual.

Gluttony – and it’s sibling Lust – get a bad rap. Both are the result of perfectly natural, healthy, and necessary drives; if people did not eat, drink, and breed, there would very shortly not be any people. What has long placed them on the list of “sins” is a combination of the idea that enjoying yourself is inherently bad and humanities tendency to pursue pleasure beyond all reasonable limits (which is probably what led to the first idea). Eating is not bad. Eating well is not evil. Eating “Sinfully Delicious” deserts isn’t especially wicked either – although the phrase itself says that at least some people find it inherently morally dubious.

On the other hand, gathering the ingredients for a fabulously expensive banquet by working a dozen poor farmers to death and then feasting while the people outside your gates starve isn’t all that different on the personal level from having an extra brownie that you know you shouldn’t eat (you can only eat so much after all) – but even if the exact line is impossible to identify, most of us would say that you have crossed it SOMEWHERE.

Similarly, simply feeling lustful isn’t terribly important. Even a private sexual romp between two consenting, adult, and socially-acceptable partners stirs few objections beyond “They’re having fun and I’m not! No fair!”. After all… King Solomon didn’t get into serious trouble for lusting after foreign women, or even for having a thousand concubines in his harem until he started to worship their gods. David apparently wasn’t thought to be going totally overboard until he had a loyal man killed so that he could add his wife to his harem. Once again, there’s definitely a line somewhere in there between “just fun”, “mildly naughty”, and the kinds of things people like Wu Zetian, Prince Sado, Justinian II, or some of the crazier Roman Emperors got up to. I can’t say exactly where it is – but it can probably be found somewhere between “enthusiastic participation” and “pleading to be let go”.

Of course, in d20, where even the “good guys” routinely burst into other creatures homes, massacre them, and steal their stuff, even really serious cases of “selfish exploitative individual who is grossly fat because they eat too much” and “shallow and egotistical individual who considers everyone they meet a potential sexual conquest to be ogled because they want to have a lot of sex” aren’t really that impressive. Even in medieval reality the “deadly sins” were usually considered to have a lot more depth than eating too much turkey or a couple of teenagers setting themselves up for a shotgun wedding. Still, d20 also offers some darker options.

Gluttony:

When you slay, or sometimes even when you merely defeat, an opponent in d20 you may absorb a portion of it’s energies – those oh-so-precious “Experience Points” – a magical force that can transform and enhance the user in all kinds of ways. Some few, however, learn the dark art of true gluttony – becoming a literally demonic force that takes not only a portion of the energy that is released naturally, but actively draining parts of the victims very soul as well.

  • Major Privilege: Gains access to a Wealth Level Template from The Practical Enchanter, with the level depending on the number of hearts of worthy enemies or sacrifices the user has eaten in proportion to his or her current level. Specialized and Corrupted / you must eat your enemies hearts or drink their blood, you will be haunted by fragments of their souls, and anyone seeking to raise or resurrect those you’ve so slain must seek you out and defeat you to make it work (2 CP).
  • Grant of Aid with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / The user is blatantly drawing upon foul and evil powers, uses may only be regained by eating the heart or drinking the blood from a ritually sacrificed sapient being (6 CP).
  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / The user is blatantly drawing upon foul and evil powers, uses may only be regained by drinking the blood from a ritually sacrificed sapient being (6 CP).
  • 2d6 Mana (Resilience Option), plus Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / The user is blatantly drawing upon foul and evil powers, Mana is only regained via Rite of Chi, uses may only be regained by drinking the blood from a ritually sacrificed sapient being (12 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP). Points may only be used in conjunction with Create Relic, below, all relics created are
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with points from Double Enthusiast (above), all relics created will carry at least one 3-point disadvantage since they are created using unwilling soul-fragments (2 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus/ Adds (Con Mod) to Charisma-Based skills, Specialized for Reduced Costs and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Counts as being Skilled) / only for Rune Magic skills, only for terrible black magic (3 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Bloodlust, a boundless desire to consume the lives and souls of others, and being pretty obviously evil on a level that even most evil people will want nothing to do with (-3 CP).

While it’s certainly foul enough, even this version of cannibalistic spiritual gluttony isn’t all that far beyond the usual d20 conventions: after all, the characters usually kill a lot of things. Still, it is only the first sin on the list.

Lust:

Lust is born of the urge to breed, to produce offspring – although, in this corrupted version, this is not for their own sake but as tools of your own power – things to be used and exploited at your whim, not children to be nurtured and loved (although you get extra style points if the other parent is protective, nurturing, and loving and you let them see what happens to their offspring).

  • Presence / Aura of Seduction. This rather resembles “Charm Person”, but it induces lewd, lavicious, and sexual thoughts and urges in those affected (6 CP).
  • Perform (Sexual Acts) +1 SP (1 CP). That’s not a very high skill base, but most people have no actual skill in the field at all.
  • Dominion: Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to organize, and collect Dominion points from, orgies, drunken debauchery, gang-rapes, sexual conquests, and similar activities (6 CP).
    • Path of Valor:
      • Voice of Command, Specialized and Corrupted / only to suggest lechery, turn normal gatherings into outbreaks of sexual depravity, and induce sinful behavior (2 CP).
      • The Rightful King, Specialized and Corrupted / only to establish yourself as a lord of parties, persuade authorties to overlook your utter immorality, and become a sex symbol (2 CP).
      • Heroism, Specialized and Corrupted / only to counteract the effects of excessive self-indulgence, cure the venereal diseases you catch, and otherwise enable horrible behavior (2 CP). Yes, this is a minor variant on the ability. Eclipse explicitly allows this – especially when it’s not a lot of use in actual play.
      • Epic Heroism (Half-Infernal Template). You may spend 8 Dominion Points to take on the half-infernal template for twenty-four hours or 2 to pass it on to one of your children (6 CP).
  • Channeling, one use per day, Specialized/only for use with Dark Awakening (1 CP).
    • Hatred’s Weal Path:
      • Dark Awakening, Specialized / only to rise as an undead monstrosity if slain (3 CP).
      • Shadow Casting, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effect (disregards the ECL of the half-infernal template, uses dominion points instead of experience points; each point spent grants the shadow one level up to a maximum of two-thirds the user’s ECL) / each shadow is inherently linked to a single creature, which must a child of the user’s less then six years old. The shadow devours the child’s mind and enslaves it’s tormented soul, turning it into a mere extension of evil and the user’s will. This is most effective, of course, if done shortly after a child is conceived (6 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Being obsessively sexual, mistreating children on a level that most normally evil people would hunt you down for, and having to make will checks to avoid trying to seduce people and turn every situation into a depraved orgy (-3 CP).

There are few darker evils than this, even among the Deadly Sins. This gets you the betrayal of family, the torture-damnation of children, the corruption of innocent souls, lust for power, the intentional spreading of supernatural evil, blatant abuse of sexuality, and (almost certainly) forcing heroes who resist you to slaughter abused children all in one tidy little package.

Greed:

Greed – or Avarice – is especially troublesome in d20, for not only does d20 virtually enshrine Greed above all other goals, but it tells us that there really is always more to get – and that getting it brings ever-increasing power. In d20 even the greatest Paladins, the exemplars of Law and Good, focus on upgrading their equipment and going forth in search of still more plunder and power rather than on – say – caring for orphaned children, building temples, or healing the sick. Such is the nature of Greed – forever unsatisfied, demanding more and yet living in desperate fear of what it has already claimed being plundered. As befits the nature of wealth in d20, Greed is one of the few “spirits” which can make lasting changes in a summoner.

Unfortunately, it isn’t really one of the most effective ones. d20 characters are generally already getting many of the benefits of unbridled greed already. Still, investing your time in Greed brings ever more bonuses.

  • Stipend (12 CP) 1200 GP/Month. Those channeling Greed will become known as ruthless moneygrubbers, usurers, and corporate raiders. Each day that you do so, you gain a base income of 40 GP. If you do so as a starting character, add 12,000 GP to your starting funds. Note that this is actual cash; it does not vanish when you cease to channel Greed.
  • Landlord I, Specialized for Double Effect / you gain your funds from slumlording, usury, rackets, illegal gambling, and many similar activities, and gain an appropriate reputation and legal problems (3 CP). During the times that you are not channeling Greed, this money is tied up in legal problems, protests, and similar difficulties.
  • Siddhisyoga with the Efficient, Fey, and Inner Whispers modifiers, Corrupted / to keep your Siddhisyoga powers working you must maintain a horde of unused treasure worth at least 25% of the effective cost of those abilities hidden away (16 CP). Note that the Siddhisyoga powers remain even when you’re not channeling Greed; they were paid for with real money and are quite permanent.
  • Occult Sense / Sense Valuables, Specialized / only to maintain an awareness of the user’s horde (3 CP). As long as you continue to channel Greed, you will remain aware of your horde and of anything that disturbs it.
  • A +1 bonus to Appraise (1 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Those channeling Greed must make will checks to turn away from opportunities for profit, to refrain from taking bribes even if they have no intention on following through on their promises, and will show no consideration for others (-3 CP).

Wrath:

Wrath is more than flying into a simple rage. It is swearing revenge on entire bloodlines for minor offenses, it is the slaughter of a village lest you miss a rebel, it is blindly sacrificing what you hold precious in pursuit of destruction.

Anger is natural. Hatred is natural. Violence is natural. Wrath… is when those things are without temperance. When nothing – not pain, not love, not survival itself – restrains the urge to destroy your target. It is all too easy for the urge to resist injustice and evil, the defiance of those who have injured you, and even the heroic desire to defend others to lead to Wrath.

Wrath is, not surprisingly, probably the least subtle of the Deadly Sins or Discordant Powers, as well as one of the least devalued. Most people are still aware that genuine Wrath goes somewhat beyond yelling at annoying people or even punching a hole in the drywall simply because random shootings due to “road rage”, people killing their spouses and children in a fit of anger, and similar human tragedies are still all too common.

Little can stand against a Wrath-channeler in a rage – but at least Wrath does nothing but destroy.

  • Birth of Fire, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Use 9’th level base and double it) / the constructs only exist when the user is in a berserker rage and he or she has little actual control over most of them. They will tend to defend the user, if only so that they will not be dispelled too early, and will prefer to attack his or her enemies – but inanimate or precious things, buildings, allies, and anything else in the area is on the target list (6 CP).
  • +6 Bonus Uses on Birth of Fire, with the same limitations as above (9 CP).

The Minions of Destruction are Huge, have 38d10 + 80 (289) HP, Initiative +0, Spd 80, AC 60, 6 Attacks at +58 for 6d6+33 damage, all Saves +12, Str 76, Dex 10, Cha 10, Wis 11, Int 10, 152 Skill Points and 12 destructive feats. Special abilities:

  • Class-A Options: Damage Reduction 10/Magic, Fly, Knockdown (those hit must make a DC 46 Str check or fall), Semisentient (+18 to Intimidate, Spot, Jump, and Listen), Swim, Tunneling..
  • Class-B Options: Extra Attacks, Fast Healing 4, Sentient (you can usually just treat them as having the summoners feats and skills), Trample, and Warding.
  • Class-C Options: Natural Invisibility, Noncorporeal at Will, Spell and Power Resistance 48, Dimension Slide 90′ as a move action, has True Seeing and 60′ Blindsight.

When the channeler goes berserk, the Minions of Destruction manifest themselves and start smashing up the area. They will make some effort to protect the channeler, simply because if he or she falls their rampage will come to an end. They don’t really have the foresight to try to avoid collapsing structures or setting off explosions though. If someone can see them… they can be presumed to look like a bunch of monstrous giant beasts suitable for monster movies.

  • Berserker with Odinpower, Odinmight, Enduring, and +3 Bonus Uses (20 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Must make will checks to avoid flying into blind rages when insulted or defied or to avoid to avoid undertaking absurd levels of retribution for minor offenses (-3 CP).

Simple. Straightforward. Insanely Dangerous. More than a little rules-abusive. When someone channeling Wrath flies into a rage, and seven invisible forces start destroying everything in the area… very little is likely to survive. The best way of dealing with such a situation is probably to run like mad and wait for the channeler to either burn through his or her rage or to self-destruct by bringing down the roof of causing a massive collapse or something.

And now I feel sort of slimy…