Eclipse and the Biophysical Advantages of the d20 Human

   Humans take a minor hit in Eclipse: with the abolishment of Classes, being able to treat any class they like as being “Favored” becomes meaningless. With the ability to design your own feats the ability to freely select a bonus feat is more useful than ever, but – since every character can spend their character points on any desired ability – it’s less impressive in comparison. It’s not that humans have gotten any weaker, it’s just that the other races have been let out of their straitjackets.

   On the other hand, humans do get Fast Learner as a racial bonus, allowing them to take it twice – a major long-term benefit. More importantly, they can spend three character points (since they’ve already got 3 CP invested in the half-cost version), whether from disadvantages or from that initial bonus feat, to upgrade it’s Specialization/Skills only from “half cost” to “double effect” – thus gaining eight skill points at level one and two additional skill points per level, rather than four and one. That option effectively pays for itself at first level, and will continue to pay dividends throughout the character’s career.

   Personally, I don’t really think that humans need any additional bonuses to stay competitive in an Eclipse-based d20 game. Neither do most of the local players, who often make human characters. Still, human variants and upgrades are one of the more common requests – so here are a few possibilities based on the notion that “humans” are not the bland base on which other races are built.

   The best place to start is probably a look at what traits are distinctively human. Not items that go with simply being sapient – complex speech, tool use, the ability to pass on information to future generations, and so on – but what would fundamentally distinguish a human from, let us say, a sapient anthropomorphic raccoon in game terms? Looks, skin covering, and similar cosmetic modifications don’t really mean anything in d20. A sapient creature with feathers for hair, green blood, and a radically different skeletal layout that was interfertile with normal humans would send a biologist into raving fits, but on many d20 worlds no one would even blink. In many d20 worlds humans are interfertile with animated hunks or rock or masses of fire!

   So what are some distinctive human traits?

   Humans are intensely tribal. They form intensely-loyal groups easily on a small scale, but when those groups get too large, tend to break up into quarrelsome smaller groups just as easily. Neurologically, this is simply because the human brain can only handle a limited number of complex personal relationships before resorting to a simplified classification scheme to handle the remainder. Of course, most other creatures can’t handle anywhere near that many complex relationships – and aren’t nearly so intense about it. Ergo we could add:

  • Tribalism: Humans group with other humans to form close personal friendships, and intensely-loyal tribes, quickly and easily. They perform at their best when defending those relationships. Presence/+1 Morale Bonus to attacks, damage, saves, and checks, Specialized for double effect (+2 bonuses)/only when defending members of their immediate tribe or family or extremely close personal friends (6 CP).

   That wouldn’t usually make a difference in small-party play – at least not until they’d been together long enough to consider each other close friends – but it would certainly say something about why so many towns and cities are primarily human.

   Humans are good with missile weapons. There’s a well thought out theory that the human brain is, in large part, optimized for the “Projectile Predator” niche. Now, there’s no reason to expect that nonhuman brains – which may have arrived at sapience in radically different ways, or be optimized for entirely different things – to have that same adaption. Ergo, we could simply assign humans a bonus:

  • Projectile Predator, bonus to BAB, Specialized/only with projectile weapons, does not contribute to iterative attacks (3 CP for +1, 6 CP for +2).

   That would have more effect on small-group play, but probably less effect – if only because it’s less general – on the overall dominance of humans in the world. You might expect to see humans relying a bit more on projectile weapons than on melee weapons, but the rule of “ranged weapons first, then close” is pretty much universal anyway.

   Humans can tolerate heat well. Humans lack of fur and large numbers of sweat glands may make them easier to track by scent, but it also gives them a major advantage when it comes to heat tolerance and endurance. This may not be too noticeable if all the local playable species are simply near-humans, but in worlds featuring furry (and thus heat-retaining due to insulation), large (and thus heat-retaining due to the smaller ratio of surface area to volume) or otherwise heat-sensitive types, it’s worth noting. Humans might thus have

  • Heat Tolerance: Resist/+2 (3 CP) or Resist/+4 (6 CP) Nameless Bonus on saving throws to resist the effects of fatigue, heat exhaustion, and similar difficulties.

   This won’t have much effect on most games, since the topic doesn’t come up at all often – but it would neatly explain why you so often find desert-dwelling humans, and so rarely find desert-dwelling dwarves, elves, and halflings.

   Humans are remarkably well-adapted for long-term efforts – especially long-distance jogging and walking, at which humans are astoundingly energy-efficient (you can find some biological information on that HERE and HERE). Humans aren’t as good at sprinting or short-range movement as many other animals, but they run marathons that would kill many other mammals simply for fun, they can use their hands to eat and drink while moving, and they can exploit a wider variety of food resources than most other mammals. They can’t match a bird or a cetacean – both of whom have their own, very specialized, advantages – but humans sometimes act as endurance hunters, simply continuing to push a prey animal until it collapses from exhaustion. Their advantage here would be partially covered by the bonus on saves from the last paragraph, but we could quite reasonably give them something like:

  • Enduring Traveler: Celerity, +20′ ground movement, Specialized/only for use in calculating long-distance travel ranges (4 CP).

   Well, there we have a reason why you find humans everywhere you go; they just do better at long-distance walking travel than anyone else. Of course, since the speed of a group is set by the slowest member, this isn’t going to have much of any effect on a party of adventurers – although it may affect foot-messengers. Of course, a message-spell or radio will still beat out pretty much any runner, so that’s a moot point in most d20 settings.

   Humans also swim extremely well for a land-based creature, and can learn to swim very easily and very early – but there are still plenty of non-swimmers out there, ergo this isn’t an innate bonus. In d20, it’s simply represented by the fact that humans start getting some bonus skill points early on, and are perfectly free to spend them on the Swim skill if they so desire. There’s no cost for making that decision other than the usual opportunity cost – that is, not having those skill points available to spend on something else.

   We could get into the various benefits and limitations of the human spine, variously optimized eyes, the fact that humans are prone to respiratory illnesses due to problems with their upright posture and lung drainage, and many more such tradeoffs – but in game terms they’re both pretty trivial and create an annoying mass of minutiae for the game master to deal with. It’s not worth it.

   So; what does that give us for our revised human?

   The Revised Eclipse Human:

  • Bonus Feat (6 CP): Humans get their usual bonus feat at level zero.
  • Fast Learner, Specialized for reduced cost/skills only (3 CP): Humans get (Level + 3) bonus skill points.  
  • Tribalism (6 CP): +2 Morale Bonus to Attacks, Damage, Saves, and Checks when defending members of their immediate tribe or family – or such close personal friends as the game master feels qualify. They will qualify for this bonus while hunting down and fighting a monster that’s been attacking their village or kin, but not when simply looking for loot or generally protecting civilization or some such.
  • Projectile Predator (3 CP): +1 Racial Bonus to attacks with projectile weapons.
  • Heat Tolerance (6 CP): +4 Racial Bonus on saving throws to resist the effects of fatigue, heat exhaustion, and similar difficulties.
  • Enduring Traveler (4 CP): +20′ ground movement only for use in calculating long-distance travel ranges.

   Well, that comes out to 28 CP – just 3 CP short of the maximum allowance for a +0 ECL species. It also isn’t likely to upset the game any; many of those bonuses won’t come into play very often if they ever come up at all – just like some of the bonuses that other races get.

   Of course, there’s always someone out there who wants to min-max everything, and spend those last three character points. Oh all right. What other distinctively human characteristics have we got left though?

   Here’s one:

   Compared to almost all the other playable fantasy races, humans are short-lived. That’s pretty understandable. Fantasy – and RPG’s – are all about doing things you can’t do normally, and there are few notions more attractive and out of reach than living longer. Fantasy races always have some wish-fulfillment about them, otherwise no one would want to play them. Ergo, most of them live for a long time.

   What would that do? Well, first off, it means that their societies are likely to be more egalitarian and ability-oriented. A long-lived creatures parents position and social class probably won’t mean that much when they left them behind a century ago – and, unlike humans, it won’t have been after spending a sizeable chunk of their life expectancy with them. Even small differences in competence will have plenty of time to show. Humans generally can’t afford to take three apprenticeships and find out what they’re best at. Humans have to get out and live right away, or they may not leave any descendants.

   Similarly, humans tend to take a family reputation as a fair indication of the worth of any given member of that family, and to see it as a guideline to what their abilities are likely to be. That’s not unreasonable. A young humans family background will have determined most of what he or she learned, where he or she might have been apprenticed or sent to study, and what environmental factors he or she will have been immersed in for a third of his or her life.

   All right: lets work with that.

   Humans understand the importance of their heritage instinctively. Elves tend to be themselves, taking pride in their own accomplishments. Dwarves take pride in the great heritage of all dwarves. Gnomes follow their own eccentric paths – but Humans, Half-Elves, and Half-Orcs may follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. Ergo, under this rule:

  • A human, half-elven, or half-orc character may select a Heritage – a bonus racial ability or set of abilities worth a total of six character points. In consultation with the game master, he or she must name and describe it – and come up with a related three-point Disadvantage. For example:
    • The descendants of the old Davrin royal line all carry the potential to harness the power of Dominion in their blood (6 CP) – but the old enemies of their line still seek to wipe out their bloodline forever (Hunted, – 3 CP).
    • Edrik’s parents beat him regularly as a child, going so far as to often fracture his bones. Thanks to this maltreatment, he has great inner reserves of rage (Berserker, 6 CP), but suffers from many old and badly-healed fractures, which often cause him great pain (Stigmata, -3 CP).
    • Clarissa comes from a family of mages. Although she has rejected their teachings to become a forester, she has enough skill to bond a Familiar to herself (Companion, 6 CP), but – since she fled into the woods rather then endure yet another course in basic spellcasting – starts off with very little funds or equipment (Broke, -3 CP).

   Since disadvantages are normally more trouble than they’re worth, allowing Heritages may fill out a Human characters background very nicely – and spend those last three points to satisfy the min-maxers – without especially upsetting the game.

Thera: Channeling The Primal Powers

   On Thera, Channeling goes a bit beyond the ability to influence the Undead.

   Channeling focuses primal energies through the user’s life – or unlife – force. It’s the oldest of all mystical techniques, by far the most erratic – and is the province of those who have the faith and will to open themselves to the high powers of the cosmos and accept that randomness.

   There are, of course, eighteen “fields” of channeling, sixteen of which are available to mortals (The fields of Light/Word and Darkness/Void are only available to the Celestial Host and the Spawn Of Apophis respectively). Each can be used to simply generate a burst of raw power or – with a successful save to maintain control – to produce more “advanced” effects. Sadly, failing that save means losing control of the powers which you’re channeling through your life force. It’s not a good idea.

   Character’s with Channeling normally get a base of (3 + ChaMod) attempts daily, and access to one field. Those with “special affinities” or cross-training may gain access to a second field at the price of permanently dividing up their daily allotment of attempts between the two fields. Such fields may not, however, be polar opposites in the Eye Of Thoth.

The Primal Powers:

   Creation, A.K.A. “Positive Energy”, can be used to repel those attuned to Destruction or “Negative Energy”, to heal, and to create new things. It’s probably the most common of all fields. A burst of positive energy is used to “Turn Undead”. More advanced effects include:

  • “Turning” the Spawn Of Apophis (DC 15. Works just like turning undead).
  • Blessing items (DC 15. Allows one to create holy water and so on).
  • Healing (Cure Light Wounds DC 12, Cure Moderate Wounds DC 15, Cure Serious Wounds DC 18, Cure Critical Wounds DC 21, and Heal DC 27).
  • Lifegiving (Raise The Dead DC 28, Ressurrection DC 32, True Ressurrection DC 35) and
  • Creation (Of mundane items up to 25 GP DC 18, +3 DC per additional 25 GP).
  • “Exorcisms” usually fall under “Turning”.

   Destruction, A.K.A. “Negative Energy”, can be used to Awe or Command entities attuned to negative energy, to injure, and to destroy… While it’s not inherently evil it’s very easy to abuse – and is the aspect of Thera through which the power of Apophis enters in. It does not have a good reputation. A negative energy burst can be used to Awe/Command undead. More advanced effects include:

  • Aweing or Commanding the Spawn Of Apophis (DC 14).
  • Disintegrations (DC 25).
  • Disrupting other Energies (Generally incoming spells and such, DC 11 + Spell Level).
  • Death Spells (DC 18 + SL).
  • Granting temporary Spell or Power Resistance (DC = desired level +10).
  • and Inflicting Injuries (Inflict Light Wounds DC 12, Inflict Moderate Wounds DC 15, Inflict Serious Wounds DC 18, Inflict Critical Wounds DC 21, and Harm DC 27).
  • If perverted, it can be used to create undead of various types, at a DC of 20 + the Challenge Rating of the undead to be created.

   Transformation can be used to repel beings of order and to influence those attuned to it’s power – but it’s primary function is to alter the world… Attempting to use it on yourself is suicidal; the most subtle items – thoughts and memories, your control of the power flow, your biochemistry, and so on – are the first to go. Advanced effects include:

  • Reshaping Matter (Stone Shape et al, DC 15).
  • Alchemical Manipulation (restructuring substances, DC 18-24).
  • Polymorph (others only, DC 21).
  • Transmutation (DC 28).
  • and Polymorph Any Object (DC 32).
  • The power of transformation is extremely flexible – but it’s also very easy to go disasterously wrong using it. Undesired transformations can make life pretty miserable.

   Preservation can be used to bind creatures of chaos – shapechangers – into stable forms, at least temporarily, and to ward off various disruptive forces. More advanced applications include:

  • Fortification (Boosts the hardness of materials and grants DR to creatures. DC 12 + [+to Hardness/2] or [DR +2]).
  • Creating Stasis Fields (force constructs and Walls Of Force, DC 15-21 depending on size).
  • Induced Hibernation or Paralysis (DC 14).
  • Suspending or Resisting Poisons, Diseases, or Aging for a day (DC 18, or as the effect -4).
  • Armor Of Eternity (Mage Armor effect, +6 AC and +4 to saves).
  • Resisting Death (DC 10-Negative HP/5) and
  • Temporal Stasis (DC 35).

   The use of the four Primal Powers requires Fortitude saves.

The Elemental Forces:

   The Elemental Powers – Fire, Air, Earth, and Water – can be used to repel or disrupt those entities attuned to opposing forces or to awe or command entities attuned to them. Advanced effects relating to the elements are normally fairly straightforward; they involve:

  • Creating (Bolts DC 14, Sphere DC 16, Stable Wall/Shape DC 18).
  • Commanding (“Telekinetic” control of, DC 16-24 depending on scale).
  • Manifesting (infusing inanimate items, or yourself, with, elemental power; assume an Elemental Subtype DC 16, Elemental Form DC 20, Elmental Infusion 1/2/3 D6, DC 12/16/22), and
  • Counters (“Blocking” an oposing elemental effect – only DC 10-16 as a rule, but requires a readied action).

   The use of the Elemental Powers requires a Reflex save.

The Governing Forces:

   Space can be used to create a wavefront or “ripple” of expanding space, that sweeps away unrestrained matter and energy in it’s path. In essence, everything the user “targets” within 60′ will be moved (2x[2D6+User’s Level + Cha. Mod)] feet away. More advanced uses include:

  • Storing Items in an extradimensional “pocket” (DC 10+LB/20)
  • Teleportation (Dimension Door, DC 14, Teleportation, DC 18, Circle Of Teleportation, DC 24 and Gate/No summoning, DC 30) and even
  • Creating a Pocket Dimension (DC 35 – sometimes used as a prison or trap).
  • “Telekinetic” Effects also fall into this field – with a DC dependent on the scale of the desired effect. Micro-scale telekinetics aren’t possible.

   Chaos can be used to repel and disrupt those beings attuned to order, but can’t be used to influence chaotic entities; they tend to just do as they please. It can be used to disrupt spells and complex structures, but it’s primary use is allow the user to briefly “bend” basic laws of nature – allowing users to accomplish things otherwise impossible. Advanced uses include:

  • Dispelling (Dispel Magic DC 14, Break Enchantment DC 18, Greater Dispelling DC 21),
  • Disruption (Shattering DC 16, “Rusting” Grasp DC 18, 2D4/1D4 Attribute Damage DC 20), and
  • Breach Reality (Getting something to work which shouldn’t. Walking thru a wall DC 18, bypassing SR / DR for an attack DC 14, breaking a Wall Of Force DC 18, using a “cure light wounds” spell to reattach a limb / head within a few rounds of it being severed DC 16 /20, breaching an antimagic/antipsionic field DC 35 and releasing imprisioned spirits DC 30).

   Time can be used to generate haste or slow effects – and grants a natural sensitivity to disturbances the flow of time. More advanced applications include:

  • Readings (Object Reading DC 12, Determine Ages DC 14, Postcognition DC 18, Augury DC 16 and Possibility Scan DC 24),.
  • Ending or Extending Spells with durations (by Rounds DC 14, Minutes DC 16, Hours DC 20, and Days DC 24, can affect [Turning Damage] spell levels),.
  • Temporal Manipulations (Preservation DC 16, Timeslip [Forward jump, DC 18], Induce Hibernation DC 12, Reroll Once DC 18, Take an Extra Action [Off Initiative] DC 22, Enhanced Haste DC 24, Fugue [Mentally stretching a few seconds into minutes to observe and consider] DC 18, Time Stop 32, Age Victim/Entropic Bolt DC 18, Temporal Hold DC 18, Restore Youth [an effect which costs lots of EP] DC Varies) and
  • Timeshifting (The GM may – or may not – allow this. Alter Immediate Past DC 26, Restore To Past State DC 30, Call The Past DC 35, and Gate To The Past DC 40).

   Ordercan be used to repel / bind entities of chaos or to spontaneously organize things – ranging from disorderly meetings and crowds to messy workshops. Advanced applications include:

  • Controlling the vagaries of chance (“Prayer” DC 16, Forcing a “1” or a “20”, DC 18, manipulating “destiny”, DC 24).
  • “Channeling” the forces of nature (DC Varies, but can only be used to steer events, not to create them – although diverting a tornado can be quite effective).
  • Temporarily Reinforcing, or Imposing, Structure (Imposing rigidity, or solidity, on liquids or gases, DC varies with the volume affected, toughening materials, or creating exotic alloys, DC 16).
  • Reversing the ravages of time is quite straightforward – at least in nonliving objects (DC 14).

   The Governing Forces – Chaos, Space, Time, and Order – require Willpower saves to use.

The Mental and Spiritual Elements:

   Mind governs thoughts and memories – ranging from subtle suggestions thru insight and logic. A burst of mental power can be used to create a mental gestalt with selected targets within 60′ – allowing for “instantaneous” discussion and development of plans, rapid explanations, and conveying hours worth of information. Such plans grant a +2 Circumstance Bonus to Skill, Attack, Damage and Saves for one minute. More advanced applications include:

  • Mental Control (Suggestion DC 14, Erasing Minor/Major/Vital/ Fundamental parts of your target’s memory (or Implanting New Memories) DC 14/16/20/24.
  • Domination (of Ordinary/Weird/Alien Minds DC 18/ 24/30).
  • Insight (Boost Int or Wis based skill by +5/10/15/20/25 DC 12/14/18/24/32).
  • Flash Of Brilliance (Get a clue from the GM. DC 20).
  • Instantly “Swapping Out” a Spell Formula (Up to 1/3/7, DC 14/18/24).
  • Projection (Send a “burst of data” to someone far away, DC 22), and
  • Invention (The user may bypass several weeks of time – and the associated expenses – when doing research, DC 32 – once per project maximum).
  • While skills can be bestowed by granting relevant memories no single individual can gain more then (Int) skill points in this fashion.

   Note that emotions are in the realm of the Spirit, below.

   Spirit controls emotions and astral beings – those entities who still carry too great an emotional “charge” to peacefully reincarnate. A “burst” of raw emotional energy carries any desired emotion to those within a group (this may include mindful undead) within it’s area. More advanced applications include:

  • Laying The Unquiet Dead (DC Varies).
  • Laying Wards (Block astral intrusion, and emotionally deter others, DC 18).
  • Emotional Blasts (Panic, Infatuation, Etc, DC 18).
  • Astral Projection (DC 32).
  • Boost Charisma (+4/6/8, DC 16/20/24).
  • Oration (Sway or inspire large groups, QV; Bards), and
  • Astral Blast (Bolt DC 18, Sphere DC 21, 60′ Burst DC 28. Damages spirits – or EVERYONE).

   Mind and Spirit energies require a Willpower check to control.

The Corporeal and Transcendent Elements:

   Body governs the control and manipulation of living tissue – flesh, blood, bone, and wood. It can be used to shapechange, to resist most injuries, to control plants, and to enhance the physical attributes, but can not be projected sufficiently to affect the bodies of anything more complex then plants. An internal burst of such power can be used to shapechange (EG; “Wild Shape”) or to expel parasites and toxins. More advanced applications include:

  • Enhancement (Adds a +2/4/6 divine bonus to your Str, Con, or Dex for an hour DC 12/14/18).
  • Turn/Command Plants (DC 14, requires a “turn” check).
  • Self Healing (DC 10 + [number of D8 desired]), and
  • Sculpting (Subtly reshaping yourself to alter appearance, DC 12, to remove aging penalitiesDC 18, to add natural weapons/armor for a but DC 21, and to enhance attributes permanently DC 25 plus 1000 EP/point of inherent bonus).

   Soul governs both higher and lower instincts as well as the link between the world and the eternal realms. A burst of Soul energy grants serenity, damping the excesses of the spirit, calming emotions, and awing/commanding animals. Advanced applications include:

  • Communing with or Summoning the Celestial Powers (DC 24/28).
  • Offering Guidance and Comfort (DC 12).
  • Speaking with Departed Spirits (DC 18).
  • Reincarnations (DC 22).
  • Making a Concentration Check (or any similar roll).
  • Dispelling External Influences (DC 16).
  • “Manifesting” your Inner Darkness or Light (As an Aura of Purity or Fear DC 14, as raw energy DC 18, as an entity embodying your essence or a part thereof, DC 22).
  • Shattering Soul-Bindings and Demonic Magic (DC 30), and even
  • Redeeming Demons and The Fallen (DC 35).

   The energies of the Body and/or Soul require a Fortitude check to control.

   As noted earlier, the remaining two fields – Light And Word / Darkness And Void – aren’t normally available to ordinary characters.

   The Light and Word is the exclusive province of the Celestial Hosts, themselves extensions of Dhaos. It’s command infused with the first light of creation, as much of the true divine as the world can bear.

   The light dispels darkness, illusions, the power of the darkness and void – and madness. Focused into commands it allows Celestials to issue simple, preemptory, commands to objects and creatures. The most powerful Celestials can make a command – including those which change creatures, such as “be strong” – permanent by repeating it successfully three times, and thus making it a part of reality.

   The Darkness and Void is the exclusive power of the Spawn Of Apophis. It can be used to counter virtually any force, to transform any willing mortalinto a demon, to entrap souls, to curse, enervate, and weaken living things, and to disintegrate matter. While Darkness is no match for the Celestial Light, there are a lot more wielders of it, and they’re far more likely to do so uninvited.

   The High Powers of Light and Darkness can be controlled, or at least directed, with reflex checks. Given that both effects are generally the province of NPC’s, mechanical details are intentionally vague.

Channeling Failures :

   These occur whenever a channeler’s save is not made, their effect depends on how much it is missed by.

  • Natural 1, but bonus equals or exceeds the difficulty level : May not retry for at least 24 hours. This cannot be mitigated.
  • 1-2 : The attempt is wasted. An immediate retry is possible, but costs two attempts. As a GMO alternative, it may succeed with “minor problems”, such as misteleportation.
  • 3-5 : The attempt is wasted. The channeler may not attempt this particular “stunt” again for 24 hours and takes 2D4 damage.
  • 6-9 : The attempt is wasted. The user may not attempt to channel again for 24 hours and takes 1D4 Temp. damage to a random attribute.
  • 10+ : The attempt goes disasterously wrong somehow. The user may not attempt to channel again for 24 hours and suffers some side effect appropriate to the channeling field – such as HP or attribute damage, effect backlash, or a mistargeted/incorrect effect.
  • 16+ : 1D4 level drain. 18 DC to regain.

   Failures can be mitigated by expending EP. 50 EP buys a retroactive “+1” on the relevant save, up to a maximum of +5.

Other Notes:

   The DC of unspecified effects is up to the game master. As a rough guide, use DC (12+2xSL) and add +5 if the target is distant or the effect seems to stretch the nature of the field.

   In general, when a random number is needed for a channeling effect it’s equal to; (2D6 + Charisma Modifier + BCL).

   Channeling – drawing on the energies which make up the fundamental structures of Thera – is an “Extraordinary Ability”. It’s effects can be countered by some opposing effect, but cannot be surpressed, blocked out, dispelled, or otherwise nullified without tearing a hole in the structure of the universe.

   While the reason and mechanisms behind the phenomenon are unknown, occasional “deposits” of materials linked to the primal energies are found scattered across Thera. They have quite extraordinary properties – and are extremely valuable, since they are useful in an amazing variety of ways. Such substances are used in the best enchantments and the most impressive alchemical feats.

   This version of Channeling was not directly covered in Eclipse: The Codex Persona – although it could easily be created using Channeling, Spell Conversion to an appropriate “Anyspell” effect, and some “Corrupted” and “Specialized” modifiers for requiring a save to control the power and for the possible side effects of failure. A specialized Immunity to convert it into an Extraordinary Ability. If you want to purchase it directly, it would probably be about 12 CP, plus the initial expense of purchasing the Channeling ability to start with. In normal d20, which is considerably less flexible, it’s probably worth two Feats for the basic abilities plus a one-Feat surcharge for the flexibility.

Upcoming Material

   Today I’ve been working on getting a very old character ready to post. Raven goes back to the early days of first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and has been updated for each (2’nd, Players Option, 3.0, 3.5) edition since. He’s also a good example of using Eclipse: The Codex Persona to build exactly the character you want, since this 3.5 version is direct conversion of his second edition (Players Options series) abilities. He’s also got one of the most powerful templates I’ve ever created. Fortunately for game balance, it’s greatest abilities almost never come into play.

   Some things were easier to do in second edition. Raven, infused with the infinite power of the Wyld Magic was extremely dangerous to artifacts, deities, and anything else powerful enough to awaken a response from that power – but no normal situation would bring it out. In second edition, it sufficed to note that such entities and objects were generally aware of this and avoided him at all costs, since weird and wonderful (GM plot device) things would happen if they failed to do so. In 3.0 and 3.5, you actually have to come up with a mechanism for this so that you can price it. Since the conversion required adding an acquired template anyway to cover the various minor oddities he’d acquired over years of play, it seemed best to build the Wyld Magic in too.

   With any luck, the main sheet will be up later this evening.

Realms of Origin: Benedict

   Benedict comes from Rithhan – a fairly realistic quasi-feudal/medieval world which allows mid-level magic and psychic abilities (albeit with powerful religious associations) and pre-gunpowder technology (but surprisingly good sailing vessels). Technological items usually translate into appropriate magical trinkets. Geographically, it centers on a fairly accurate version of Europe and the Mediterranean, distorted versions of Africa and the Middle East, and an almost totally mythical version of the far east. Benedict hails from the local version of Great Britain.

   The western world – most of which once compromised the Empire of Kharlamagne – is dominated by the hereditary noble class and their monotheistic faith of the Enlightened Path. The deserts and trackless forests of the middle east and central Asia are dominated by monsters and by tribal barbarians and nomads (worshiping and bargaining with an assortment of local spirits). The semi-legendary lands of the far east are said to be dominated by the feline folk of Cathay – but such creatures are more rumored than seen. If this version of Cathay actually exists, it may actually be a part of another realm entirely.

   Despite the pretensions of the Nobles, the western world is actually divided between two faiths: the monotheistic Enlightened Path of Kristos and Hanto, the traditional animistic faith of the Peasantry. While the Nobility regards the practice of Hanto as foolish superstition at best, and outright heresy and black magic at worst, they’ve never had much luck at stamping it out. More importantly from the nobles point of view, despite periodic crusades into the middle realms, the Enlightened Path has never spread much beyond the west. The Middle East and Northern Africa remain bound to various pacts with local spirits (some, admittedly, of great power), while the trackless reaches of Central Asia remain the domain of Monsters, Totems, and the primitive tribes which worship them.

   The Enlightened Path bears some resemblance to the classical Church of Rome. It was founded by “Kristos” as a great teacher and an emissary of Wisdom who appeared among the desert tribes of the Middle East to lead them away from their worship of (and pacts with) various local spirits, it spread into the west, it encourages hermits, missionaries, and other holy men and women, recognizes wise and holy men and women as “saints” and enlightened spirits, and shares many other traditions and (slightly-distorted) teachings – but most core observers would say that it has incorporated elements of Gnosticism, classical Celtic beliefs, and even Buddhism.

   The Path maintains that the “physical” world is the creation of the Demiurge – an entity not so much evil as foolish enough to fail to listen to his mother Wisdom – and that to achieve true enlightenment, and release from the bonds of the world, one should reject the base animalistic desires and nature of the Demiurge and focus on knowledge, thought, and meditation. Only thus can anyone transcend the bonds of the physical world and develop a true soul of their own. Most – especially among the peasantry – never so transcend. When those without a soul perish, their essence dissolves once again into the Sea of Souls, their individuality scattered and lost. Only those with true souls may hope to remain themselves and touch the face of Wisdom.

   The magic of the Church is based on the belief that the physical world is fundamentally an illusion – albeit a powerful one – and that a focused will, and the words of an enlightened spirit, can alter that illusion. The Church teaches Theurgy, Martial Arts as a form of meditation, and various Immunities – allowing its devotees to deny the influence of the illusory world surrounding them. To deceive yourself is the worst of sins, to deceive others nearly as bad. Giving in to the temptations of the world – whether sensual, of power and ego, or of wealth, is a misstep along the path. The true way lies in study, abstraction, and simplicity – a belief reflected in their crafts, decorations, and celebrations: “Less is More” and “Truth and Perfection lies in Simplicity”. Kindness and charity are generally regarded as good things – but they’re not nearly as important as study and ruthlessly pruning away distractions and worldly attachments.

   Those foolish enough to slip too far away from the path may find themselves infused with fallen or fragmented spirits, dropping below the station of humans – who alone may hope to devote themselves to study and so reliably transcend if they have not done so in a past life – to become shapeshifters, fey, lost spirits bound to the land, or even find themselves damned and bound to elemental forces (a fate from which even an escape into the Sea of Souls may require eons and without hope of transcendence – the closest approximation of “hell” that exists within the Path). There are numerous cautionary tales about foolish youths who fall to such fates, such as the tale of the Princess and the Swans, the Boy who Called Wolves, and many more.

   Hanto, the faith of the Peasantry, is a simple form of animism – their devotions little more than making offerings to the spirits of nature and enjoying the simple pleasures which the world offers. Lush gardens, majestic natural beauties, fine food and drink, sexual pleasure, the majesty of the rolling sea, and the glory of a thunderstorm, are all evidence of the splendor and power of the natural world – and those who follow this path feel that the nobles are fools to deny it, and to seek to escape the wheel into a sterile, isolated, existence. Hanto is the way of nature: to refuse to dissolve into the Sea of Souls is to deny that nature – and to struggle against or even forfeit the eventual destiny of all living things, which is to become one with everything. The peasantry sees the widespread presence of shapeshifting animal spirits (fox and badger spirits are especially common for some reason) and lycanthropes as obvious evidence of humanities unity with nature. Similarly, they see the malleability of reality via Witchcraft, “Fey Powers”, and Shapeshfting powers (“Peasant Magic”) as obvious evidence of the joint nature of creation.

   The nobility, of course, sees such beings as evidence of shattered and undeveloped spirits, and see both Witchcraft and (especially) Shapeshifting powers as impure and of the world – binding you more throughly to it and placing their users at serious risk of falling to the status of local fey or even into the abyss of the elemental forces which know not Wisdom.

   Unfortunately, the Churches of the Enlightened Path have become the dumping ground for excess or embarrassing noble offspring – and, while some of them accept such a destiny and do their best to become holy men and women, others abuse their positions, seek worldly luxuries and power, intrigue against rivals both within and without the church, and even turn to peasant black magic or bind fragments from the Sea of Souls into themselves in search of more earthly power, becoming bestial lycanthropes. While powerful, the Church is also isolated; too much of its philosophy involves retreating from the world to allow it to play a major role as an organization.

   Occasional peasants use the church as a route for advancement as well, although this is fairly uncommon.


Special Notes:

   1) There are a few noble groups which study Witchcraft as a method of reaching out through the Void in search of Wisdom, but this is generally regarded as heretical.

   2) Both of the western faiths have some points: like most Manifold realms, quite a lot of the people of Rithhan are phantasms – realm “scenery” and communal embodiments of the passing thoughts and dreams of millions, and thus without true souls of their own. As manifestations of humanities racial mind, they do in fact arise from – and fall back into – something which might as well be described as “the Sea of Souls”.

   3) Neither faith sees merchants, or the quest for profit, in a particularly good light: the nobles see them as failing to spend time on self-perfection and deeply involved with the world while the peasants see them as concerning themselves with abstract cash and detachment from nature.

   4) In practice, noble children are usually presumed to have souls, while peasants are (at least according to the nobles) presumed not to have souls – hence noble children cannot simply join the peasants, that would be beneath their station in the universe (they do make good hostages though). Since peasants are presumed to not have souls, the “justice system” for them is pretty much up to the local nobles whims – and, since criminals are believed unlikely to develop souls, punishment is usually some form of disposal designed to make them an example. Lesser offenses (or major ones for nobles) are occasionally punished with fines, indentures, exiles, enslavements, and so on, but the death penalty is still pretty common.