Eclipse and Skill-Based Partial Casters

And for today it’s the answer to another question…

I notice that you don’t have a ton of examples of the dweomer system, and no examples of a partial caster using a skilled based one. What might say, a version of a paladin or bard using the dweomer system look like?

-Jirachi

In Eclipse, of course, a “Partial Caster” is just a character who buys some magic but who doesn’t really focus on it. Gratuitously, I’m going to assume that less than 60 points over twenty levels is “dabbling”, and that 181 points or more is “a full caster” – leaving Partial Casting as any spellcasting package with a total cost between 60 and 180 points over twenty levels. On the “practical details” side, a partial caster usually has a fairly limited range of effects, is limited to mid-level effects at best (levels 4-6 depending on style), and may have a lower-than-maximum caster level.

So first up it’s Thaumaturgy or Dweomer based Paladin/Ranger/Assassin/Etcetera Spell Casting. To build the basics for that we’ll want…

  • Access to Thaumaturgy/Deweomer, Specialized/only provides access to four skills (3 CP).
  • +15 Base Caster Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / Thaumaturgy or Dweomer Only, do not support effects of above the “Difficult” level (30 CP). That’s five more than a 3.5 Paladin or Ranger gets, two less than a Pathfinder Paladin or Ranger gets – but in Eclipse they can buy a few more if they want to easily enough.
  • Adept (Their four Thaumaturgy/Dweomer Skills, 6 CP)
  • Augmented Bonus / Adds an attribute modifier to the base for Thaumaturgy or Dweomer skills, Specialized/only for the four Adept skills, above (3 CP).
  • Mastery (At least three of the Adept skills, 6 CP). This lets them “take 10″ instead of rolling when casting using at least three of their skills.
  • 10d6 Mana (as 20d4 (50) Generic Spell Levels), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to power Thaumaturgy or Dweomer, cannot power effects of above the “Difficult”” level (20 CP). Fortunately, generic spell levels return daily without need for Rite of Chi.
  • Unity (6 CP). This avoids the need to split their pool between Power and Generic Spell Levels. Trivial Effects cost 1/2 Spell Level, Easy Effects cost 2, Average Effects cost Four, and Difficult Effects cost 6. “Difficult” effects equate to spells of levels 5-6, and are beyond the usual range for Paladins, Rangers, Assassins, and such, but are possible here.

At a total of 74 CP this costs the same as Pathfinder Paladin Spellcasting. It will require a further investment of 10-20 skill points (or other boosters) to reach it’s full potential of using sixth level equivalent spells (in Eclipse there’s almost always a slight surcharge for creating your own style of themed spellcasting) – but it has the side benefit of boosting some checks and saves and is extremely flexible. It’s also worth nothing that – while it will use up the second permitted use of Adept – adding a second field will only cost 38 CP (totaling 112) since there’s no need to buy the Caster Levels or Unity again. You could even go for a third dip, for a mere 32 CP more (totaling 144 CP) – but you’d need to boost your skill points since you couldn’t take Adept again.

So what skills? Well, for some quick examples, lets say you are building a…

  • Battlerager: Self-Enhancement (personal boosting spells), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), Lightning (Page 103), and Physical Healing (Page 105). Avatars of War and Thunder, Battleragers are direct and powerful warriors and reasonably effective healers after a battle. They possess a fairly well balanced mix of abilities and can play many roles on the battlefield.
  • Berserker: Self-Enhancement (personal boosting spells), Shapeshifting (Page 105), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), and Speed (haste, rapid travel, accomplishing tasks as great speed). Berserkers are capable of taking deadly forms, equipping themselves in an instant, and rampaging across a battlefield with vastly enhanced physical abilities.
  • Demonologist: (Evil) Monster Summoning (Monster Summoning, Planar Binding, Etc), Hellfire (evil fire magic), Maledictions (from The Practical Enchanter), and Demon Channeling (summon monster channeling variant, from The Practical Enchanter). Commanding deadly and corrupting infernal powers, a demonologist tends to summon a few monsters to help him or her carry the fires of hell into the depths of an enemy line.
  • Healer: Life Transference, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Healing (all from Eclipse, the Healing List, Page 105). There are lots of ways to heal people at higher levels, but a backup healer can still be pretty handy to have around. Healing is rarely the first option selected, but it’s a fairly common second or third choice.
  • Kineticist: Animation (obvious), Pyrotics, Reconstruction, and Telekinesis (Mostly from Psychokinesis, Eclipse page 104). As direct blasters Kineticists are not the most effective at magical battle, but they have an immense variety of utility effects, ranging from repairing items to opening locks to extracting breathable air from the water that’s filling a room. Whether you need to fly, temper metal, or haul masses of treasure, the Kineticist has a spell for you.
  • Planeward: Dimensional Warping, Stabilization, Transference, and Warp Detection (all from Eclipse, the Warping List, Page 105). A Planeward’s magic is dangerous, and often of fairly high level (commonly leading them to buy more Generic Spell Levels to work with), but the ability to teleport, shunt in matter and energy from other dimensions, detect and banish summonings, resist dimensional and temporal effects, and otherwise counteract a lot of the best high-level effects can make them quite vital in the right situation.
  • Radiant Master: Electrokinesis and Nucleokinesis (Eclipse, Psychokinesis, Page 104), Amplification (Eclipse, Mysticism, Page 106) and Stabilization (Eclipse, Healing, Page 106). The master of atomic energy is an odd fit in most fantasy settings, but they can work there just fine. After all, how many fantasy creatures have defenses against hard radiation, cannot profit from a boosting spell transmuting that hard radiation into raw magical power, or have no use for shifting their metabolism over to nuclear sources to avoid having to breathe for a time?
  • Ranger: Animalism (take on animal powers), Plant Control (animate plants, hurl volleys of spears, grow spikes, make plants let you through, etc), Mobility (boost movement, haste, boost missile fire, dimension door, boost stealth, etc), and Physical Healing (Page 105). Rangers are classic hedge-magi, capable of a wide variety of nature-related spells. It can be quite handy to have a tree pick you up out of a battle and put you safely up in its branches to let you do some sniping.
  • Solar Guardian: Celestial Radiance (holy light and purification), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), Inspiration (prayer, bless, other bonuses for the group), and Shielding (Stasis Fields, page 104). As fairly classic “Paladins”, Solar Guardians are radiant servants of the higher planes, defending others and striking down creatures of darkness.
  • Stalker: Darkness Mastery (Page 103), Venom Mastery (poisons and antidotes, toxic clouds, etc), Shadowwalking (moving in and out of the plane of shadow, blinking, etc), and Shadow Magic (the illusion-based variety). While the powers of darkness are usually seen as evil and corruptive, with determination they can be used for a variety of purposes. Similarly, slipping through the shadows to strike down opponents with deadly poisons may not be a pleasant or common way to do good – but it can be used that way.

Now, if you want to create a Spellblade or the equivalent of a Psychic Warrior you’ll want to buy Opportunist and Evasive to let you cast boosting effects as you fight,

For a Godling, advanced Adept, or Bardic type…

  • Upgrade the Access Feat to a full list (3 CP).
  • Take Mastery Again (if necessary, 6 CP).
  • Upgrade to 100 Generic Spell Levels (20 CP)
  • Upgrade to 20 Base Caster Levels (10 CP).
  • Include about +60 skill points (60 CP). Normally I’d take Fast Learner and another level of Adept to help with this, but Bardic types are normally already using those to get their other skills.

That raises the cost by 99 character points – up to a total of 173 CP. Of course, a Pathfinder Bard normally spends 174 CP on his or her magic, so that – once again – fits well enough.

As for skills… Well, at this point you can take any one of the full Thaumaturgy or Dweomer lists from Eclipse or you can invent your own list. Either can be a very effective option. If you want to be a fairly classical bard, you might want a list like:

  • Illusion, Presence, and Projection (Eclipse, Telepathy, Page 104), Physical and Spiritual Healing (Eclipse, Healing, Page 105), Vibration (Eclipse, Psychokinesis, Page 104), Auric Sight (Eclipse, Extra-Sensory Perception, Page 106), and Dimensional Warping (Eclipse, Warping, Page 105).

That won’t cover every spell on the Bard list – but as a freeform system it will cover more of them than any normal Bard with a limited number of spells known will get to have. If it doesn’t cover something you desperately want… well, trade out one of those skills that you don’t want for what you think fits well into a “Bardic Powers” theme.

For the next option:

Substituting Theurgy for Thaumaturgy/Dweomer is straightforward, although you will want an Intelligence of at least 12.

  • +15 Base Caster Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / Theurgy Only, do not support effects of above level six (30 CP).
  • Adept x2 (the six Theurgic Verbs and two Nouns, 6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus / Adds an attribute modifier to the base for Theurgy skills (6 CP).
  • Mastery (At in 12+ covers all six of the Verbs, 6 CP). This lets the user “take 10″ instead of rolling to use Theurgy. (This is cheap, and may not be permitted – but it’s an obvious modifier to take if the game master allows it).
  • 6d6 Mana (as 12d4 (30) Generic Spell Levels), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to power Theurgy, cannot power effects of above level six (12 CP). Fortunately, generic spell levels return daily without need for Rite of Chi. Also fortunately, Theurgy is less expensive than Thaumaturgy or Dweomer,
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds a second Attribute Modifier to their Intelligence Modifier when calculating Skill Points Per Level, 18 CP).

That’s 78 CP – but investing even a modest handful of additional skill points will let you work freeform magic within a speciality. If you invest more… you can wield a wide variety of spells indeed. The Bard/Godling/Etcetera version mostly simply needs more generic spell levels (another 36 CP worth will probably do), and a LOT more skill points – probably about 60 CP worth again. That gets them up to 174 CP – a precise match for what a Pathfinder Bard spends on their magic progression and approaching the limit for a “Partial Caster”.

So what nouns should these characters study?

  • Beguilers master the Mind and Illusion elements, weaving deceptions and influencing minds to subtly bend the world to their will. Suggestion, Charm, Glamours, Phantasms, and more lie within their purview. If a campaign involves stealth or intrigue, they can be most effective.
  • Deathlords study the Spirit and Illusion elements, wrapping the dead in quasi-real shells of undeath, speaking with or raising the dead, imbuing inanimate objects with life, and peering into the planes beyond all fall within their purview.
  • Healers study the Body and Spirit nouns (although they often dabble in the Mind as well) – offering them access to a wide variety of enhancements, the ability to repair injuries of all kinds,
  • Seers study the magic of the Mind and Time, peering into the future to learn a myriad secrets and subtly enhancing their allies and hindering their enemies. Perhaps fortunately, only those few seers who have surpassed all normal limitations may actually travel though time or manipulate it to any great degree.
  • Stormweavers study Air and Fire, two of the most volatile and easily-stirred elements. They may manipulate storm and lightning, channel energy, manipulate the winds, and employ the destructive power of fire. They are easily amongst the more violent Theurgists.
  • Treemages study the Earth and Plant nouns, creating barriers and earthquakes, hurling spikes of wood and stone, entangling victims, dropping them into pits or quicksand, growing useful herbs, constructing fortified campsites, and more. There is rarely a time when mastery over the land and the things that grow upon it is not useful.
  • Voyagers study the magics of Space and Water, allowing them to navigate their crafts through the barriers between dimensions, exploring strange worlds, pocket realms, and the depths of the sea. While they may wield the forces of ice, acid, and banishment in emergencies, their magic is perhaps best used to reach their desires rather than to blast opponents.

Even taking only two elements at a time, there are 66 possible combinations. Add a few more elements to the mix and there are – thanks to the joys of permutations – thousands.

Overall, both systems allow freeform casting within particular themes at a cost close enough to more conventional spellcasting to allow them to be plugged in to “standard” character builds with little or no difficulty.

And I hope that helps!

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Eclipse – Entreaty Magic, Superheroics, and Tricksters

This power package request is for a “Doctor Strange” style Sorcerer – albeit perhaps one with more limited use of their abilities so as to fit into a standard fantasy universe.

Well, while comic book mages tend to have a variety of minor powers that they use all they want to, their forte is the well-chosen and highly specific spell, usually involving gestures, peculiar incantations, and calling on various magical entities. Has a swarm of demonic horrors gotten loose? The Mage throws the protective circle which gives everyone a few moments to get things organized, his or her companions hold back the demons while the mage works on the grand spell of sealing, and the demonic horde is sealed away again just barely in time. They’re powerful, but it generally takes a few moments for them to bring that power to bear – and it’s at least implied that major magic is not to be thrown around indiscriminately. Spider Man may punch out dozens of thugs and wrap them all up in webbing, but the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak are reserved for major situations.

So how can we build that kind of magic? I shall call it…

Entreating The Infinite

The user may call upon the aid of supernatural beings, channeling their powers into the physical world. Sadly, this is subject to some major limitations:

  • The user may only develop links with a limited [(Cha Mod + Level)/2] group of mystical entities, each of which only grants effects related to it’s field of influence. In addition, the user must pick a reasonably coherent group of entities to invoke:
    • For example, a Cthulhu Mythos mage who gained his powers from the Necronomicon might call on…
      • Azathoth for chaotic spells of transformation and destruction.
      • Cthalpa for powers of vulcanism and the deep earth.
      • Cthulhu for telepathic and mind-manipulating effects.
      • Nyarlathotep for divination, dark knowledge, and curses.
      • Shub-Niggurath to summon monsters, induce mutations, and manipulate fertility,
      • Ubbo-Sathla for healing and shapeshifting.
      • Yog-Sothoth for spells related to teleportation, gates, and dimensions,
    • An ancient, mummified, priest of the Old Kingdom might call upon…
      • Anhur for battle enhancements, hunting, and combat.
      • Anubis for spells of Death, Creating/Controlling/Destroying the  Undead, and communicating with the Dead.
      • Imhotep for spells of healing, construction, and architecture.
      • Isis for spells of Force (Magic Missile, Shield, Etc) and Magical Manipulation (Dispel Magic, Antimagic Sphere, counterspells, etc).
      • Khonsu for lunar magics, such as shapeshifting.
      • Ra for spells of solar might and rulership.
      • Shu for magics of the Air and Winds.
    • A Marvel Comics mage apprenticed to Doctor Strange might call upon…
      • Agamatto for spells of truth, light, and the manipulation of raw magical energy.
      • Cyttorak, for spells of force and binding.
      • Denak to summon monsters and constructs.
      • Ikonn for illusions.
      • The Seven Suns of Cinnibus for blasting and light effects.
      • The Seraphim for spells of protection.
      • Watoomb for spells of air and transport.
  • Each such entity grants a pool of (Cha Mod + Level/2) spell levels worth of magic to draw on. Unfortunately, renewing those pools is a slow process: the user may make an appropriate Knowledge skill check once per day to gain (check result/2) spell levels through some means (meditation, prayer, study, minor rituals, ceremonies, chanting names of power, or whatever suits the user’s style). Gaining points faster requires serving one or more entities. Minor services will half-fill a pool, major ones will fill it entirely – although no one entity will do more than completely refill the associated pool in any one day no matter how many services the user performs. For some examples….
    • You could serve Isis by regularly teaching magic. That’s a minor service when it comes up (even if you may often need to dispel some students mess). It’s a major service if you have to rescue your students from dangerous witch hunters. If it’s more than a few days between adventures your Isis pool will automatically start full.
    • You could be protecting some relic, gate, or place of power. That’s minor if you’ve just got to keep an eye on it and regularly take precautions, major if there’s a serious assault on it.
    • You could just undertake missions. Perhaps Anubis wants you to hunt down some undead? This kind of thing is usually major every day for the duration. Minor missions tend to be future setups… “go to this address and leave 10 GP in a bag stuck to the door with a silver nail before you depart”.
    • You could commit yourself to advertising your patron. Do you regularly talk about how wonderful it is and try to get other mages to call on it? Probably minor, unless this sort of thing is likely to get you hunted down or killed.
    • Do you adhere to an oath to hunt down monsters which threaten children? Minor when you need to investigate, major when an actual fight comes up.

Thus, for example take Erebus Herensuge, an eighth level magus of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh with Charisma 18. He can call on six different Lovecraftian Horrors, each of which can provide him with eight levels of spells (for a total of 48) – but his Knowledge Arcana skill of +12 will only get him back an average of 11.25 spell levels per day. Fortunately, a Minor service will get him four spell levels in the appropriate pool and a Major one will get him eight – and he is…

  • Responsible for recruiting more Cultists for Azathoth. Basic recruiting activities are a Minor service, but recruiting an influential or powerful person is a Major service.
  • The organizer for ceremonies honoring Cthalpa, tossing sacrifices into any convenient volcano, apparently bottomless sinkhole, or the depths of an abandoned mine. That’s Minor whenever he can get together with the cult, or Major when they can offer a truly worthwhile sacrifice.
  • Aiding Nyarlathotep by slipping eldritch tomes and disturbing occult lore into libraries and other locations. Minor if it’s something people have to hunt for, major if it’s blatant – such as adding terrible mystic secrets to an “ornamental” public mural.
  • Helping monsters interbreed with humanity to honor Shub-Niggurath. Minor if it’s just making it easier, such as by covering up an odd birth, Major if it’s enabling a serious horror to create some dark spawn.
  • Breeding slimes and oozes in honor of Ubbo-Sathla. Minor if they lurk in the depths, major if they come out for a major attack. They also help get rid of anyone who survives being dropped into a sinkhole…
  • Encouraging the installation of Teleportation gateways in the city in honor of Yog-Sothoth – Minor for enabling, Major for finding a way to use them to summon horrors from beyond into town.

Erebus is going to be making a lot of trouble just to keep the magic flowing. He’s also quite likely to try to toss any player characters who happen to be investigating his activities into a sinkhole or old mine he’s filled with slimes, oozes, and other monstrosities, and thrown various treasures into – but then dungeons need to come from SOMEWHERE. Similarly, he leaves mythos tomes about to drive people mad (while also stocking the libraries with the dangerous lore needed to defeat him) and turns monsters loose in town. He’s very handy for a game master to have around!

A player character is more likely to take things like teaching, guardianship, and missions – but that sort of thing will automatically provide them with motivations, connections, reasons to go on missions, and involvement with the setting. I usually consider that a good thing.

  • Entreaties can be interrupted like any other form of spellcasting, although the user is perfectly free to throw in metamagic (Still, Silent, etc) to avoid such issues. They can even throw in an extra +1 to make an effect swift or +2 to make it Immediate (thus allowing comic book mages to throw up those reflexive shields they love to use).

So to actually build this, take:

  • Path of the Dragon/Shaping (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP)
  • Pulse of the Dragon (Summons Magical Energy), Specialized and Corrupted (involves Entities, Limited Pools, Knowledge Checks, Services, and Interruptions as above) plus Heart Of The Dragon (Shapes Magical Energy provided that it under the user’s control). While the number of entities, and the pool size, is always limited as above, the ability to cast higher level spells costs increasingly more. To summarize the calculations, the ability to make entreaties of level…
    • One requires Pulse (Corrupted for Increased Effect, Specialized for Reduced Cost, 3 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 6 CP), for a total cost of 12 CP and a minimum level of one.
    • Two requires Pulse (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect – automatic control and 2 spell levels, 6 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 12 CP), for a total cost of 21 CP and – as per the general rule on controlling magical effects – a minimum level of three.
    • Three requires Pulse II (Specialized for Increased Effect – automatic control and 3 spell levels, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 12 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect, 18 CP) for a total cost of 33 CP and a minimum level of five.
    • Four requires Pulse II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect – automatic control and 4 spell levels, 18 CP) plus Heart III (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 28 CP) for a total cost of 49 CP and a minimum level of seven .
    • Five requires Pulse III (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 28 CP) plus Heart III (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect, 42 CP) for a total cost of 73 CP and a minimum level of nine.
    • Six requires Pulse III (Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect – 6 Spell Levels and Automatic Control, 42 CP) and Heart III (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect, 42 CP) for a total cost of 87 CP and a minimum level of eleven.

Unfortunately, Pulse III is as high as it goes. While it is possible to take Heart higher (at ever greater expense), it would probably be simpler to take Mana with the Spell Enhancement option to allow for the occasional really powerful spell at higher levels. Still, if somebody wanted to commit to paying for this package at 8 CP per level through level eleven – basically converting it into a limited spell progression – that would be entirely reasonable.

For comparison, this really resembles a specialized version of Sorcery. Eleven levels of Sorcerer Spellcasting with similar Specialization costs… 88 points instead of 87. The sorcerer will have less flexibility, but doesn’t have to divide his or her spells into a bunch of specialized pools. That looks like it’s going to be reasonably well balanced.

  • In any case, the caster level of such effects is equal to the user’s level, the saving throw DC’s against them are based on the level of the spell and the user’s Constitution, and they overcome magic resistance with a roll of (1d20 + caster level + Con Mod). If the user is casting counterspells they will tend to be specifically tuned, requiring a spell of only (target spell level – 2) – but he or she can only counterspell things with appropriate themes.

And that gives us the standard comic-book mage: debonair, knowledgeable, personable (high charisma), and very tough (high constitution) for a more-or-less-normal human being with flexible magic that they nevertheless rarely use for anything minor.

If you want to be the Sorcerer Supreme, you’ll also want the Superheroic World Template and the Four-Color Superhero Package (24 CP). If you want to have a special relationship with a particular patron or group, a few more points in Augmented Bonus (Add a second characteristic modifier to your Charisma modifier with respect to a particular entity) will do it nicely.

For the minor powers? I’d go for a bit of Witchcraft. After all, a level eleven character will have at least 288 CP, and this magic system will cost less than a hundred of them even with a special modifier or two. Twenty or thirty points worth of Witchcraft can provide a wide variety of minor tricks to use when you don’t want to expend your limited supply of Entreaties.

Now, if you just want to be a trickster… don’t bother going past second or third level spells. You’ll still get decent-sized pools and more entities to call on as you go up in level, but it will be pretty cheap – and still gets you some built-in involvement in the game.

Skill Stunts and Epic Skill Stunts VIII – Heal, Profession/Physician, and Knowledge/Medicine.

Healing is going to be a have a lot of options. Not only is it a broad skill that covers a multitude of real-world disciplines and advances, but it’s always been regarded as semi-miraculous. Few other character types so consistently confront Death and win, and – in countless tales and legends – few other characters are quite so selflessly heroic. Even in reality healers often work long hours under great stress, go into danger to save others, risk deadly contagions, and stand up for their patients against threats and political pressure. That’s not to say that there aren’t incompetent, venial, and downright useless people making a living in the field – but it says something that Healers are one of the few types of professional workers who have been deified in many different cultures.

On the other hand, most of these stunts really shouldn’t need descriptions. As living human beings most of the readsers should have a pretty good idea of how healing works – and d20 makes magical healing cheap and easy anyway. After all, if you’re going to rely on combat for excitement you can’t leave the characters laid up for lengthy periods, It should also pretty much go without saying that healers – and especially highly skilled healers – usually make a pretty good living unless magical healing is easily and cheaply available to everyone. To even things up a bit, and because getting your cures ready to go is simply sensible, quite a few healing effects may be prepared in advance – but this doubles the DC and a healer may never have more than (Wis Mod + Level / 2) pre-prepared “medications”. Such preparations have no significant cost however.

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Craft simple but comfortable and reasonably effective prosthesis, such as peg legs or “hook hands”.
    • Deliver a baby if there are no major complications.
    • Make easily-digested high-energy foods for victims of starvation and malnutrition.
    • Make the dying comfortable and relieve their fears. This may include arranging an easy death.
    • Moderate pain.
    • Produce simple plant and mineral based poisons and remedies.
    • Split a simple break in a bone so that a limb will be usable within reasonable limits.
    • Spout confusing jargon that demonstrates that you are, in fact, a medical expert. (It is amazing how often this comes in handy).
  • DC 15 (may not require stunts):
    • Clearly explain the nature of an illness, injury, or dysfunction to someone with no medical background.
    • Determine a creatures cause of death.
    • Induce semi-permanent immunity to ordinary diseases.
    • Induce hybridization between species in a baseline d20 universe.
    • Make a death look natural.
    • Make advanced prosthesis, such as articulated hands that can be set in particular positions, legs with spring joints that are almost as good as a real leg, and so on.
    • Purify basic drugs from natural sources.
    • Set up a small infirmary without supplies.
  • DC 20 (require stunts to perform in a reasonable length of time):
    • Induce a +2 alchemical bonus to a physical attribute for a few hours.
    • Inflict great pain without inflicting much of any actual damage.
    • Make functional Charm-level prosthesis. (See The Practical Enchanter and HERE).
    • Perform cosmetic or dental surgery.
    • Produce advanced (modern) drugs (sadly, most are not very effective in d20 terms).
    • Relieve allergies and arthritis and reduce similar troubles to something manageable.
    • Safely deliver a baby despite all kinds of complications.
    • Splint multiply and badly broken limbs to allow healing and restore minimal function.
  • DC 25:
    • Detect traces of drugs, toxins, magic, psionics, and other outside influences in an individual or corpse.
    • Force a victim of a successful unarmed strike to save or be dazed/dazzled/deafened for 1-2/1-4/2-8 rounds.
    • Induce hybridization between very different types of creatures (EG, elementals and humans) in a baseline d20 universe.
    • Induce immunity to extremely deadly diseases for several years.
    • Make functional Talisman-level prosthesis.
    • Maximize the effect of a healing spell.
    • Perform simple surgery, curing 2d4 damage. Unfortunately, any given patient can only be healed via surgery once per day.
    • Set up professional-level facilities without supplies.
  • DC 30:
    • Cure (or inflict) blindness, deafness, or disease.
    • Determine what a creature was doing shortly before its death.
    • Heighten or inhibit sexual ability and/or fertility.
    • Induce a +4 alchemical bonus to a physical attribute or a +2 bonus to a mental attribute for a few hours.
    • Induce nerve regeneration.
    • Organize a hospital to double the effectiveness of healing effects used within it for the next week.
    • Perform a Lesser Restoration once per day per patient.
    • Sicken a target with an unarmed strike for 2d4 rounds.
  • DC 35:
    • Cure various neural disorders, including most insanities.
    • Inflict exhaustion with an unarmed strike.
    • Neutralize poison and heal it’s effects.
    • Perform organ transplants
    • Perform complex surgery, curing 3d6 damage – although patients can still only be treated with surgery once a day.
    • Produce “Pulp” drugs.
    • Revival (allows normal treatment and recovery for up to three minutes after “death”),
    • Set up hospital-level facilities without supplies.
  • DC 40:
    • Create a clone (either an “empty” physical copy or a normal infant).
    • Cure a supernatural disease,
    • Extend the duration of a patients current and remaining age categories by 3d6 years each.
    • Extract memories from a corpse.
    • Induce slow regeneration of limbs and organs.
    • Induce a +6 alchemical bonus to a physical attribute or a +4 bonus to a mental attribute for a few hours.
    • Inflict an appropriate (described in medical terms) Bestow Curse or Poison effect with an unarmed strike.
    • Provide a full Restoration (once per day per patient),
  • DC 50:
    • Create a tailored “disease” or plague. Note that this can be used to repair genetic damage or errors. This can also be used to create a strain of herbs with tailored medical uses.
    • Extend the duration of each remaining age category by an additional 3d6 years (totaling 6d6).
    • Induce a triple-strength Rite Of Chi (from Eclipse) effect for a patient, A second use on the same patient in the same day is DC 70, and a third is DC 100.
    • Induce a temporary version of “lycanthropy”, equivalent to the various “Bite” spells.
    • Inflict Enervation with an unarmed strike,
    • Perform advanced surgery (curing 4d12 damage) – although patients can still only be treated with surgery once per day each.
    • Quicken Recovery (as per the Epic Level Handbook),
    • Set up for advanced surgery or virtually any other medical procedure without supplies. Notably, this means that you can (if the GM consents) install cyberware, grafts, or other augmentations even when these things are not normally available in the setting. This can also be used to add Templates, although they must be paid for before further level advancement may occur or an additional template may be added. DC 50 for +1 ECL, 60 for +2 ECL, 75 for +3 ECL, 100 for +4 ECL, DC 180 for up to +7 ECL, and DC 250 for up to +10 ECL. Templates of up to +4 ECL may be made hereditary at +25 DC.
  • DC 60:
    • Animate the dead through mad science. You may control up to (Skill Total / 2) hit dice worth, although none may have more than one-fourth that many hit dice. If you have other means of creating or controlling undead, the totals are independent.
    • Cure (or inflict) Lycanthropy, Mummy Rot, and similar curse-diseases.
    • Induce a +8 alchemical bonus to a physical attribute or a +6 alchemical bonus to a mental attribute for a few hours.
    • Inflict an appropriate (described in medical terms) Greater Curse or Paralysis / Unconsciousness effect with an unarmed strike.
    • Perform ultra-advanced surgery (curing 5D20 damage) – although patients can still only be treated with surgery once a day.
    • Rebuild limbs, induce reasonably rapid regeneration, or redesign bodies.
    • Transfer a consciousness into another body, a golem, or a “prosthetic body”.
    • Treat a damaged local ecosystem – although a full recovery may require months or years.
  • DC 75:
    • Build a Flesh Golem. This bypasses the usual prerequisites and 80% of the GP cost – but does not bypass the experience point cost (in 3.5 anyway). Reducing both costs to 10% of normal is DC 100.
    • Create a “plague” that will swiftly spread across the land and spontaneously cure and provide a permanent immunity to a specified illness or disorder.
    • Create a clone body that’s linked to the original creature to receive it’s consciousness in case it dies.
    • Force a victim of an unarmed strike to save or die.
    • Induce symbiosis – for example, turning chunks of a gelatinous cube into “Bacta”.
    • Prevent a target from aging for 6d6 years.
    • Provide a permanent +2 inherent bonus to an attribute.
    • Rebuild a creature into a different kind of creature.
  • DC 100:
    • Create obedient living creatures. The user may maintain up to (Skill Total) hit dice worth of such creatures, although no single creature may have more than (Skill/5) hit dice in total.
    • Create a “plague” that radically alters it’s victims, perhaps adapting a species to a new environment.
    • Induce a Perfect Recovery (as per the Epic Level Handbook).
    • Induce +2 Positive Levels for twenty-four hours.
    • Raise the Dead
    • Render a living target immune to a particular type of energy or effect (including negative energy effects, poisons, radiation, etc) for twenty-four hours. Unfortunately, no single creature may have more than two such immunities active at any one time and inducing a second is DC 150.
    • Restore a target creatures youth.
    • Treat a damaged wide-area ecosystem.

Unlike most of the prior skills, I have items for Heal with DC’s well in excess of 100. Other skills have such options as well of course; but for most of them so far I haven’t thought of enough of them to be worth listing.

  • DC 120:
    • Build a Flesh Colossus. This bypasses the usual prerequisites and 80% of the GP cost – but does not bypass the experience point cost (in 3.5 anyway). At DC 150, both costs are reduced by 90%.
    • Create new types of creatures.
    • Provide a permanent +3 Inherent Bonus to an attribute.
    • Purge all external influences from a target living creatures mind, body, and spirit – eliminating poisons, possessing entities, diseases, and all similar difficulties.
  • DC 180:
    • Create or awaken a Realm (or Planetary) Spirit , causing an entire ecosystem to become an intelligent entity – and one which is generally well-disposed towards the one who awakened it.
    • Force a victim of an unarmed strike to save or be permanently transformed into a different creature.
    • Provide a permanent +4 Inherent Bonus to an attribute.
    • Treat a damaged planetary ecosystem.
  • DC 250:
    • Bestow true immortality on a target creature, providing immunity to aging and 12 CP worth of Returning (from Eclipse) on a permanent basis.
    • Clone a body from near-dust and pull the original spirit (if willing) back to it.
    • Provide a permanent +5 Inherent Bonus to an attribute.
    • Revive a deceased planetary ecosystem (although a full recovery is likely to take centuries).

Epic Stunts for Healing:

Most of the Epic Stunts for Heal simply involve using one of the above stunts either very quickly and/or to affect a large number of creatures at once. As such, I’m not really going to bother listing anything beyond a few of the most obvious.

  • Healing Touch (As per Heal, Research Level 6, DC 34)
  • Healing Aura (as per Mass Heal, Research Level 9, DC 46),
  • Divine Radiance (Research Level 13, DC 62) Cause 24d6 of Divine Damage to Undead and 24d6 of healing to any living creatures you desire within a radius of (2 x Check Result Feet). Line of sight is not required (the effect will pass through solid barriers) and any undead destroyed by the blast must make a will save or suffer a final death.

Eclipsing Drago, the Son of Shendu

Drago was the major villain of Jackie Chan Adventures season five. The son of the early-seasons villain Shendu, he was, like his father, a Fire Dragon Demon Sorcerer. Unlike his father, outside of being a demon-dragon who wanted to gain vast powers and take over the world, he was a fairly typical obnoxious, overconfident, impatient, and easily-manipulated teenager. As such his usual pattern was to find a new source of extra power (on the show the relics of his aunts and uncles “Demon Chi”) and try to grab it – ushering in a battle with the heroes who always turned up at about the same time. Sometimes he got a hold of his new power source and sometimes not – but either way he’d wind up without it at the end and yet would manage to escape. Eventually he managed to get a hold of several powers at the same time – and was still defeated, although that time it took more effort.

Drago was fought to a standstill more than once by a random bystander who accidentally absorbed some Demon Chi – granting them powers more or less equal to his, but no skill in using them. That alone made it pretty obvious that he wasn’t particularly skilled either. He was, however, very strong, agile, and fast (at least compared to a normal human being), had a scaly armored hide and a tail to smack people with, could sense demonic powers, and could project potent blasts of fire. Given a little time and some appropriate foci he could work a fair number of dark magical rituals and even a few quicker spells – albeit mostly focused on moving demonic powers from one host to another.

When he did acquire additional demonic powers they were pretty limited as well – amounting to little more than some basic elemental manipulation. With Water powers he could shoot blasts of water, create whirlpools around himself, and make big waves. With Gravity powers he could levitate and (I think) employ basic Telekinesis. With Thunder powers he could project lightning and absorb natural lightning to enhance himself.

Presumably there was more potential than THAT in those powers, but it’s not like he ever got to spend much time experimenting with them. He never got to keep them for very long and he spent a lot more of his time trying to find a base other than the local junkyard and trying to find some minions who were tolerably competent and didn’t want to backstab him (he never really managed to do either).

And if that doesn’t seem too impressive, it’s because it shouldn’t. Drago could be a serious threat if he got a hold of the components for a major ritual, or actually managed to hang onto several sets of powers – but for the most part he was fighting an elderly ritualist (most of Uncle’s direct spells looked like level one or two), a fast and highly skilled – but still entirely human and fairly low level – martial artist, a kid, and a big guy who was an apprentice mage. Drago had claws, fangs, and fire breath capable of destroying cars in a single blast – and yet apparently the closest he came to seriously hurting someone was leaving them in his Fathers way in a future timeline that never actually came to pass.

While I can’t say that I’ve seen much of the actual show past the first season, I have seen Drago’s first appearance with Future Jade on youtube – and it gave me a distinct angry-ex-boyfriend impression. He might have grown a bit past that in the next season, but the Wiki’s don’t really show it – and it would explain why the Chan’s kept letting him get away. If you’ve got to have a villain in your life… if you can’t get Colonel Klink, Catwoman, or Megamind, an angry and basically ineffectual teenager who spends a lot of combat time on banter is probably your next best choice.

So to build him I’ll start with the…

Fire Dragon Demon Sorcerer Template:

  • Draconic Toughness: +3d4 Hit Dice (24 CP) and +4 CP towards enlarging their first hit die (thus getting a d4 even as an infant) (4 CP). While extra hit points are always nice, this is because you need at least 4 hit dice to qualify for shapeshifting to a Deinonychus, below.
  • Heritage Of The Ancient Dragons: Shapeshift, with Dire (allowing dinosaurs – specifically Deinonychus), Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid Form, and Clear Speech, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (9 CP) / cannot actually change forms, obvious humanoid dragon, easily identifiable, blatant predator, causes considerable social problems (9 CP).

This provides 60′ Ground Movement and natural weapons, replaces his physical racial attribute modifiers with Str +8, Dex +4, Con +8, and grants him +5 Natural Armor, Low-Light Vision, Scent, and Pounce. This is grossly exploitative, even beyond the usual Shapeshift cheese. While that doesn’t really matter for an NPC who’s “level” is entirely arbitrary, this is only really suitable for player characters in games using the Superheroic World Template (where this sort of thing is useful, but minor) or SciFi settings where things like mecha, power armor, and vehicle combat seriously overshadow personal physical abilities.

  • Fire Demon C’hi: Witchcraft I and II (12 CP), 1d6 Mana as 3d6 Power (6 CP), and Rite of C’hi with +4 Bonus Uses, Both Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to restore Power (6 CP). This gives him access to three basic abilities, as follows:
    • Witchfire, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Range and Damage) Fire Creation Only, cannot use pre-existing flames, create prestidigitation effects, extract essences, infuse drugs or toxins, or for any other application. Note that this can be quite powerful – but the rather low Save DC (14) means that most targets can dodge quite effectively, escaping injury entirely if they happen to have Evasion.
    • Witchsight, Specialized and Corrupted / Drago may detect C’hi / Magic – and only C’hi / Magic – at no cost and gets occasional “visions” of sources of power that he can go after, but cannot sharpen his senses, give himself Darksight, Scent, or other special sensory powers, or use any other Witchsight functions.
    • Healing, Specialized in Self-Healing for Double Effect. Drago DOES recover very quickly.
  • Absorbing Demon Chi: Witchcraft/The Path Of Spirits/Ridden By The Loa, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Must find a unique source of power to absorb, powers can be stripped away, by counterspells and make him vulnerable to banishment and dismissal spells, no more than +1 ECL of template per power source. Templates do not, however, cost Power to maintain when not in use (2 CP).

At a total of 63 CP this is a +1 ECL Template – and grossly overpowered for it’s cost. Of course, in a world of normal people… he’s a dragonman. His career choices are basically Circus Freak, Cloistered Monk, or Supervillain. He’s lonely enough to give his minions another chance even after they betray him, to spend a good deal of time bantering with his enemies, and to make “bringing more dragons to earth and be respected” be his major life goal. That’s really kind of sad.

Drago

Would-Be World Conquerer

Level One (ECL 2) Fire Dragon Demon Sorcerer

Basic Attributes: Str 14 (22), Dex 14 (18), Con 14 (22), Int 13, Wis 14, and Cha 12 (Pathfinder 25-Point Buy).

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Disadvantages: Accursed (opponents always show up as soon as he gets close to obtaining something good), Broke (Variant; no matter what base Drago acquires, he always winds up back in the junkyard), and Inept (Charisma Based Skills)) +6 (Level One Bonus Feat) = 64 CP.

Basics (23 CP):

  • Hit Dice: 16 (L1d16, 8 CP (+4 for Template)) +12 (extra 3d4 at L1, Template) +24 (4 x Con Mod) = 52 HP.
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) + 4 (Int) = 10 SP.
  • BAB +1, Specialized in Melee Combat (3 CP).It’s largely instinctive at this point, but Drago is a reasonably effective brawler.
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude +0 (0 CP) +6 (Con) = +6
    • Reflex +2 (6 CP) +4 (Dex) = +6
    • Will +0 (0 CP) +1 (Wis) = +1
  • Proficiencies: None. Drago relies on his massive strength, natural weapons, armored hide, and fire-blasts in combat – which is actually pretty reasonable. If I had those advantages and fought unarmed martial artists a lot, I’d probably tend to rely heavily on them too.
  • Initiative: +4 (Dex)
  • Move: 60
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +5 (Natural) +4 (Dex) +2 (Leathers) +2 (Martial Art) = 23.

Preferred Weapons:

  • Talons/Tail/Claws: +7/+7, 1d8+6 (Lethal or Nonlethal). Can Pounce.

Other Abilities (41 CP):

  • Ritual Magic (Legends of High Fantasy style, 6 CP). Dragon can work powerful rituals if he can find the ingredients for them – but otherwise can only produce fairly basic spell effects.
  • Power Words, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to store personally-generated ritual effects (6 CP). Given time Drago can store up to five minor and three major ritually-generated effects. Usually he has a few for gathering Demon C’hi, but he’s not really very good at loading up with other useful effects in advance. He’s got the standard teenager lack of forethought.
  • Leadership, Specialized for Increased Effect (Drago gets some basic minions, even though he’s too low-level and low-charisma to qualify for any) / His minions are unreliable, and are likely to betray him if he seems weak (6 CP). He usually has three apparently teenage minions: “Strikemaster Ice”, the pizza delivery guy, “D.J. Fist”, the mechanic, and “M.C. Cobra” the video gamer. Sure, they were competent martial artists – but even working together they were no real match for Jackie Chan after the surprise wore off. And Drago still took them back after they tried to backstab him.
  • Returning, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Drago can’t actually return from death, but he does show quite a knack for evading or getting out of jail. If the series hadn’t ended he might even have made it back from the netherworld (3 CP).
  • Luck with +2 Bonus Uses (9 CP). Drago usually gets lucky a few times in each episode. Then, of course, his luck runs out and he gets beaten.
  • Universal Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized for Double Effect (4/-, versus both physical and energy damage) / only to convert normal damage to nonlethal damage. Drago gets knocked out a lot, but rarely seems to get too badly hurt (3 CP).
  • Witchcraft/Path of Water/Spirits Of The Deep, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to share a bit of his current “demon chi” powers with mortals, only works on followers gained through Leadership, bestowed templates are never better than +1 ECL, bestow a very limited set of abilities, and have obvious physical effects (2 CP). This probably gets upgraded with a few points later on, making it cheaper to use and longer lasting instead of buying off those limitations.
  • Adept (may purchase Acrobatics, Dragon Brawling Martial Art, Ritual Magic, and Escape Artist for half cost), 6 CP).

Skills:

  • Acrobatics +4 (2* SP) +4 (Dex) = +8
  • Dragon Brawling +4 (2* SP) +6 (Str) = +10
    • Known Abilities (5): Defenses +2, Strike (can do lethal or nonlethal damage with his natural weapons), Toughness II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only protects against the energy forms linked with his current set of powers – at base, fire only. This does stack with his base damage reduction however – so he normally ignores the first six points of fire damage and converts the next four points to nonlethal damage. That’s quite enough to ignore most normal fires).
  • Ritual Magic +4 (2* SP) +1 (Int) = +5. Drago really can’t do much beyond minor tricks without rare magical ingredients even WITH the use of Luck.
  • Escape Artist: +4 (2* SP) +4 (Dex) = +8
  • Linguistics: +1 (1 SP) +1 (Int) = +2. Drago speaks English and Mandarin.

Specific Knowledge: Demon C’hi (1 SP). Drago doesn’t know a lot, but he’s fairly knowledgeable on this topic.

In more serious settings Drago is probably best used as an unwanted suitor/villain, a comic relief villain, as a redeemable villain, or in some other reoccurring semi-enemy role. If you want to use him as the big bad guy, he’ll need a bunch of levels and some MUCH better plans and minions.

On Harry Potter and Puzzle Chambers

And to get going again… here’s an offline question about magical schools, puzzle chambers, and Harry Potter which mostly boils down to “Why?” repeated several times. Fortunately… the answer has applications to a lot of games.

So to start with “Why are these rooms there in the first place”…

  • You’re in a medieval setting.
  • You’re building a school for magical children.
  • You want it to last for a long time.

So generations of magical kids are going to be filling the place with accidental magic, miscast spells, effects that haven’t even been invented yet, and attempts to counterspell or cover up all that stuff when it goes wrong. Throw in magical fights, research, and experiments.

So you don’t want to hold classes in a magically-expanded broom closet lest someone somehow disrupt that magic and turn the class into crushed pulp. You don’t want the roof held up by magic for the same reason. You certainly don’t want to hold classes in an extradimensional space; there are so many obvious ways for THAT to go horribly wrong that it would take a couple of chapters of listing them just to make a good start.

You want real rooms. You want nice, thick, durable walls that don’t rely on magic lest someone counter that magic in the process of setting off an explosion. You want solid foundations built on solid bedrock so that the place will stay up without magic. You want as much of the place as possible mundanely resistant to fire, corrosives, and other destructive forces. You may want light roofs (like a fireworks factory) to go with your heavy walls, but that depends on whether you think it’s best to contain or vent problems – which depends a lot on the magic system you’re using and on whether you want to have more than one floor.

Regardless of roof designs, and whatever magic you mean to apply to the place, you want the solidest, most durable, mundane structure that you can possibly get as a basis for your school. You may want to make it defensible too, just in case of an attack.

In a medieval setting… you want a castle (In a modern one you may want a bunker). Moreover, you want one designed by the most competent non-magical architect you can find and built by a skilled mundane construction team.

So Hogwarts should be a solid, sensibly-designed, and quite functional building underneath all the magical special effects.

But then we come to Chapter Sixteen of Harry Potter And The Sorcerers Stone, wherein we are told of a trapdoor on the third floor, covering a shaft dropping down into a sizeable room, which has a long downwards tunnel leading to a sequence of five additional – and sometimes very large – rooms. There can’t be any other easy access or there wouldn’t be much point to the whole sequence. That alone pretty much eliminates any chance of it being in the castle proper; what architect would waste huge amounts of expensive space on the main floors on intentionally inaccessible rooms? Perhaps it is indeed deep underground?

So who built these rooms and why?

  • They really can’t be a part of the original architecture. If they were they would undermine the foundations and be an immense amount of work invested in a space with little or no practical use. And why would the access hatch be in a corridor instead of a room or at least an alcove? And why not start in the basement or at least on the ground floor instead of wasting space on a useless shaft? And isn’t there a water table? The place is by a lake!
  • If they were carved out by Dumbledore and company then we know that magically removing stone must be pretty easy. So what stops people from just tunneling around the obstacles? What architect did they consult to avoid collapsing Hogwarts? Where did the shaft through the lower floors come from? And there’s STILL a water table…

There really isn’t any place in or under Hogwarts where those rooms can rationally exist.

So maybe they don’t. After all… those rooms don’t need to be stable against generations of students producing random magic. They don’t need rational access ways for people to use them. They don’t need to exist without magic.

They don’t need to be REAL.

Perhaps what we’re looking at is a chained series of extradimensional spaces, each one with a specific set of conditions needed to bring it into alignment with the last.

So you can’t just tunnel around things; there is literally nothing to tunnel through. You can’t just force the doors: they don’t actually go anywhere unless you fulfill the activation conditions to get the next space lined up. You can’t go through the walls, because the next chamber isn’t on the other side – it’s in a dimensional pocket. You could try to undo the spells and collapse the spaces – but that risks losing whatever is in the further rooms (and yourself) into some random dimension even if it doesn’t just cease to exist.

So basically… no cheating short of story (and game) wrecking effects like d20’s “Gate” or “Wish”.

Of course, this is only a good security setup for items that you’d rather see lost or destroyed than risk letting an unauthorized person get their hands on for even a few minutes, which is why you won’t see it being used at Gringotts or by Voldemort to protect his Horcruxes – but the Sorcerer’s Stone qualifies.

Unfortunately, this is the point where setting-logic runs into plot imperative. The plot requires that a handful of fairly normal (for reader identification purposes) first year students be able to get through the defenses. Ergo, those defenses are formulaic and really rather pathetic.

Honestly, just for practicality…

  • Devil’s Snare? Use a tank full of Box Jellyfish. Lets hope you have a no-contact spell going.
  • Flying Keys? How about hooking a massive electrical discharge up to the lock? Brought your insulated linesman’s gloves?
  • Chessboard? If you don’t use the correct opening sequence, won’t it be a surprise when one of your own pieces smashes your head in from behind? For that matter… why not something that most people won’t know how to play? Perhaps Go? Or Shogi? Mancala? Or any one of the thousands of variations of Fairy Chess? We want security here, not fairness.
  • Troll? Well, at least it doesn’t need to eat, drink, or have a bathroom if it only experiences time when the room is in “active” – but perhaps a helmet? After all, the FIRST troll was ALSO put down by a blow to the head. If you REALLY wanted to be sensible… why use a living creature when you’re expecting the attackers to be dark wizards who routinely throw unstoppable death spells? Why not use a golem or something?
    • Of course, the book gets a pass on this one, since this “obstacle” was set up by a character who didn’t actually want it to be effective.
  • Potions? Why tell the truth in your riddle-instructions? Bring your own keying potion and have ALL of the ones on display be lethal – or, if “detect poison” is a thing (it probably isn’t in the Harry Potter universe, since divination there is basically useless), have them be magic inhibitors or sleeping potions or some such. Make sure that some of them turn into clouds when opened, to avoid having some methodical pest opening and testing each one.

At least the bit with the mirror was clever.

Of course, the puzzles can’t be serious obstacles, or Harry winds up dead – but we CAN justify both Harry and Voldemort actually having to solve them to get through.

I could attempt to justify their simplicity by throwing in some sort of magical rule that renders such obstacles null and void if they aren’t “fair” or which adjusts them to BE “fair” according to the abilities of the people dealing with them (which would at least explain why they so neatly fit in with the abilities of Harry and his friends)- but a “fairness” rule that does that while still allowing Gringotts to have decent security, letting wizards use Imperius and Adavra Kadavra, and letting infants be saddled with prophecies, is going to be quite subjective and extremely contrived. In fact, such a “rule” would effectively be a semi-omnipotent force that breaks the fourth wall to adjust reality to be “fair” to whatever character or characters it has chosen to focus on. That’s pretty difficult (albeit not impossible) to justify within a setting, but it should be quite recognizable from our external viewpoint. HELLO Author / Game Master / Storyteller / God! Let thine all-powerful plot overcome all logic!

Now none of that is “proof” of anything because we’re talking about a work of literature. There’s no underlying reality there to test or to support an actual proof – but it makes a reasonable amount of sense in the setting, which is all we can rationally expect to get out of this kind of exercise.

So why is this relevant to gaming? It’s because the “puzzle chamber” is a pretty classic idea – and those pretty much always look a lot like the Sorcerer’s Stone puzzles. They’re solvable with the players resources (otherwise they just say “go no further this way” and end adventures), they have an implicit “no cheating!” implication (you do not cut the Gordian Knot, shrug and teleport past trap-tiles instead of figuring out the code, or blow up the animated game pieces rather than playing because the game master spent time on those puzzles and may not have anything else ready), and there’s pretty much always a time factor to consider. So here you go; a sample rationale for WHY those assumptions hold true for the next time you want to get your players to deal with some puzzles.

There are other methods of course. Perhaps they need to collect a magical key from each puzzle, and the keys will be destroyed if they cheat? Perhaps their opponent has information that they need and will not provide it if they do not win by the rules? The trick is simply to make sure that winning by the rules gets them something that they need – while cheating, bypassing the problem, or otherwise not bothering means finding another (and probably much more bothersome) route to success.

Continuum II: C’hi Powers, Part III

Introspection and C’hi Powers are well known for their relationship to the martial arts. At it’s most basic, this opened a special option for the “Mystic” category of basic martial arts maneuvers – C’hi Channeling, which boosted the user’s effective level for the use of Introspection and C’hi powers by +1 per level up to a maximum of +7 levels. The first level counted as three martial arts options, each level after that cost one additional option. This, of course, weakened the mundane effectiveness of such styles, but greatly boosted the effectiveness of any C’hi powers used with them. Higher level characters would still win a fight due to their far greater power reserves, durability, and advanced skills – but at least it took a few rounds and so allowed promising youngsters to be effective speed bumps, just like they are in martial arts movies.

Really high-end “martial arts styles” – the sort of stuff you find in over-the-top martial arts comic books where the characters shrivel people to dust with a touch, shatter small mountains, shapeshift, fly, and otherwise act like super-heroes and super-villains – tended to consist of little more than a list of Introspection and C’hi powers and ways that the style typically combined them. For example…

The Poison Claw Style was an exotic and almost entirely offensive form relying on hand attacks, usually from a crouched position.

  • The techniques most commonly included as a part of the style were Intimidation (an Introspection ability), Biofocusing, C’hi Drain, Eagles Claw/Crushing Claw, Hastening, Metabolic Control, Plague Carrier/ Poison Touch, Whirlwind/Whirlwind True, Amplification (Strength), and Sensory Stun (another Introspection ability).
  • Common combinations included the signature “Poison Claw” attacks (Hastening, Crushing Claw, and Poison Touch), exhaling deadly clouds of plague or toxins (Whirlwind and Plague Carrier or Poison Touch), ripping minor enemies apart to terrify others (Intimidation, Crushing Claw, and Strength Amplification), finger-snaps so powerful that they could render every one nearby blind and deaf (Whirlwind True and Sensory Stun twice), absorbing enemy toxins or encountered diseases to add to your own arsenal (Metabolic Control and Poison Touch or Plague Carrier as needed), and so on – with each adept developing their own preferred list.
  • Overall, the style tended towards swiftly crippling groups of opponents – making it easy for friends and allies to deal with them. It didn’t work so well on major opponents, since they were often highly resistant to the user’s abilities.

It didn’t bear much resemblance to the acrobatic, ice-based Glacial Wind Style (using Polarity Shield, Projection/Psychic Lance, Biofocusing, Dim Mak True (focusing on heat and cold), Binding (encasing opponents in ice), Iron Fist, Will Shield, and Acrobatics). The Glacial Wind could inflict impressive amounts of damage, but ran more towards “close with the major opponent and entrap him or her long enough for your friends and allies to take him or her out”.

Black Lotus Flower Style was focused on deception, rapid movement, and energy transfer, relying on hand strikes for offense and evasiveness for defense. It’s basic techniques included Sensory Stun/Mirage (introspection again), Kinetic Aura/True, Hastening/Ghosting, Light Foot, Acrobatics, Iron Fist/C’hi Pulse, Shockwave/Chiburst, Transfer, Natural Empathy/Vital Points, and Missile Deflection/Evasion. It was used to confuse and delude masses of enemies, keeping them striking at phantoms while the user took them out one by one with cheap precision strikes.

Stalking Death Style employed Persuasion/Mesmerism (an Introspection ability), Unpresence/Psychic Camouflage (more Introspection), Hypersenses, Vibration (used to shatter bones, open locks, stun with a touch, and combined with Resistance to allow brief intangibility), Resistance (Vibration), Precision, Focused Mastery (Stealth), Light Foot, Acrobatics, and Evasion/Vanishing – basically focusing on becoming a living shadow, capable of mesmerizing guards, passing through walls, walking through a crowd unseen, seeing in darkness, and bypassing all kinds of defenses.

And there were many, MANY, other styles. Pretty much every C’hi-using character came up with their own if none of the existing ones caught their eye. They didn’t always do a good job the first time around, but they could always pick up a new technique or two and retrain their list of personal maneuvers to do something a bit different.

Storm Weaver Style was a “natural disaster” style, focused on turning the environment into a whirling tornado-shield and firing masses of material like a cannon – whether loaded with grapeshot or solid projectiles. It could also generate shockwaves, hurl or turn aside avalanches, and devastate areas – although, it was very power-intensive. It was very much a niche style, since – for the most part – if you really wanted to battle armies and tear up the landscape there were major psionics and several kinds of magic that did it at much lower cost. Unless you were in a martial arts / C’hi powers ONLY campaign there wasn’t a lot of point in this.

Seven Finger Jitsu Style focused heavily on introspection, vital points, precision, and projected strikes – to the point where a master generally stood around with their arms crossed and entirely hidden within their billowing sleeves, making subtle finger gestures inside those sleeves to invisibly inflict various injuries on their opponents. It’s chief advantage was being set up to use almost no power. A master could pretty much keep it up indefinitely and often didn’t even appear to be doing anything but sneering at their opponents. On the other hand, it focused on individual targets, wasn’t overwhelmingly powerful even then, and wasn’t terribly fast in dealing with those targets. Rather like Darth Vader’s “Force Choke”, it wasn’t an especially good way to deal with an onrushing horde or a giant (and likely resistant) monster. Fortunately, adding in a few area effect options made it much more effective for adventuring purposes, even if it did kick up the power costs.

And to get back to the ability listing, here are the last of the…

C’hi Techniques

Plague Carrier: This technique allows the user to maintain, and adapt to, the presence of various virulent microorganisms in his bloodstream and tissues, releasing them thru the capillaries in his skin at will. While potentially very useful, this can have gruesome consequences when/ if something goes wrong. As a side effect, this grants near-total immunity to anything already present in the user’s bloodstream, and a fair degree of resistance to new “acquisitions”. “Poison Touch” allows the user to adapt similarly to carrying exotic chemicals in his / her bloodstream, including various poisons, drugs, and corrosives. However, unlike micro-organisms, chemicals are not self-replenishing. This ordinarily limits the user to whatever he / she has recently ingested. Further improvements include the ability to produce various chemicals internally, to selectively modify the organisms living in your blood (This usually means creating a resistant or weakened strain, but further improvements may allow genetic modifications) – and the ability to create antidotes, vaccines, antibiotics, and counter-agents, for the stuff you’re circulating in your blood. Perhaps sadly, this technique has a reputation as bad as, or maybe even worse then, Dim Mak. Even the occasional healer who specializes in the curative aspects of this talent will generally be regarded with grave suspicion.

Power Block: This handy technique allows the user to link an offensive technique with a defensive one, a trick which allows the user to block an attack using a technique such as Auric Shunt and strike back with the same, “defensive”, action. The advanced version allows the user to surround himself with an aura carrying the effects of another technique, which will affect anyone who touches the user. Unfortunately, unless this skill is otherwise improved, this has to be a technique that would normally affect another person. Further improvements could involve that aspect of the technique – but more commonly involve things like extending the radius of the effect, extending defensive abilities to shield a radius, or making such an effect a reflexive action.

Precision: This technique heightens the users fine muscular control, providing a substantial bonus on any action involving fine work or precise action – such as missile fire (especially thrown weaponry), striking at openings and joints in armor (reducing the protection it gives) – and when striking from behind or by surprise. The bonus is usually around +3, but it only applies if the user is attempting a precise action, in which case it usually compensates for some of the penalties. This ability is especially formidable if combined with some of the other psychic abilities – such as Vital Points. The advanced version further refines these techniques, increasing the bonus (to +5) and assists the user in any technique involving fine control of his or her nervous system and personal energies. Any bonuses with weapons due to this technique are not cumulative with “normal” martial arts skills. Further improvements may involve things like doing micro-precision work, perfecting the ability to stand absolutely still, working faster, and enhancing the users martial arts skills.

Projection: This deadly technique allows the user to link his own bioenergy field with his targets – and then transfer the effects he generates internally into them. Obviously enough, the auras of the user and the target must be in contact for this to work at all, and it’s much easier and much more dependable if the targets physical body is within the user’s aura. This usually limits this technique’s effective range to (Dex) feet. Worse, the concentration this requires generally means that using this technique requires two actions. It can be a dangerous technique to use as well, since linking your personal energy field to that of a major demon or an undead creature can be extremely dangerous to both parties involved. Even lesser incompatibilities can be bothersome. The simplest effect available is a ranged blow, but projection is often combined with other C’hi techniques to create more exotic effects. The advanced version directs, channels, and releases the effect along a projected carrier, without directly linking the user to the target. While this avoids the dangers inherent in linking auras (and extends the range to (Dex x 10 feet) it, unlike the basic version, can miss and can be resisted normally. The basic version quite effectively bypasses a wide variety of defenses. Both versions have trouble penetrating an area protected by a psychic shield, but most such shields are limited to protecting the user’s mind, not his or her body. Further improvements often involve blocking possible feedback, further extensions of the range, reducing the need for concentration, and channeling other energies through the link.

Psychic Aura: Is probably the strangest technique on the entire list. Closely related to empyrean magic, it involves physically manifesting a psychic construct based on the users aura. This can get seriously weird. Exactly what form the construct “takes” depends on the users personality – as well as on what they attempt to develop. Examples include; blazing Inner Light, which “dispels the darkness” and “drives back that which is impure”, grasping, Manipulative Tendrils that entangle and manipulate all who approach, Good Vibrations, that damp hostilities, evoke friendship, and make everyone in the area feel good, the Dragon-Form, a type of psychic exoskeleton, the sullen, vengeful, rage of the spirit-choking Balefire, the slippery/evasive shield/disguise of a con-artist’s Doppelganger Field, and the hypnotic, devouring, inner darkness of the Myndwulf, which was capable of tearing thoughts and memories out of people’s minds. The exact powers and nature of a psychic aura vary, ranging from things like a “simple”, physical, repulsion of enemies to outre’ philosophical abilities. Advanced versions tend to improve and expand on the basic effect – but the most common improvement is to extend the range. Other improvements may include; manifesting related effects, reducing the psychic strength costs, reducing the time it takes to call up the manifestation – or evading the possibility that the construct will begin to influence the user. Psychic Auras are normally built with the Power Armor rules. Unlike actual power armor, however, they tend to be very short-term and expensive to maintain, even if they do offer an unusual range of special functions. .

As a more modern note… if you’ve just GOT to be Naruto or Etrigan or something, this is one way to do it; that’s really just adding drawbacks to your construct to make it more powerful and semi-independent.

Psychic Purging: Is a straightforward effect used to expel foreign energies, substances, beings, and so on, purging the users mind and of all such influences. The advanced version extends the effect to the user’s physical body as well. Psychic Purging can thus be used to eliminate poisons, compulsive effects, and other intrusive things, but the energy cost is proportionate to the strength of the effect. This normally requires both some time and quite a bit of concentration. Further improvements often involve reducing those requirements or extending the effect to break off unwanted contacts or links. A rare improvement is to reduce the use of the technique to the unconscious level, making it very difficult to keep the user from using the technique to throw off mental influences.

Psychic Reservoir: A simple technique that allows the user to accumulate a greater-then-usual reserve of psychic energy – increasing the user’s maximum psychic strength total by (Level) points. Further improvements increase the maximum by half a point per level. Unlike other techniques, there are few complications involved in either the basic or in the improved versions. It does have a side effect, in that each level beyond the second boosts the users limit for the safe expenditure of psychic strength in a round by one point.

Psychic Shield: This technique enhances the users ability to resist psychic probes and attacks, generating a low-level barrier against psychic contact. The basic version is fairly effective against simple suggestive, emotional, and hypnotic effects, and will protect the user from casual psychic scans and passive psi-senses, but is of little use against directed probes and attacks relying on raw power instead of subtle influences. The advanced version lets the user actively resist psychic attacks and related powers, including compulsive spells, fascination, hypnosis, and telepathic assaults, although this can get expensive. Further improvements may allow the user to identify the source of any psychic attack, generate a shield against projected psychic abilities, protect an area, hurl away living beings by “repelling their auras”, or create a permanent (if low-level) barrier.

Resistance (Specify): This handy technique allows the user to resist a particular effect, whether a form of energy, a class of substance, or a particular type of attack. Possible effects include acid, electricity, telepathy, fire and heat, and impact. The major limitation is that such effects must generally affect the targets entire body – which weapons generally do not. Note that “resistance” is not “immunity”. It only reduces the injuries caused by major effects – although minor ones can be ignored. A character with “resistance to fire” can easily pick up a coal to light his (or her) pipe without injury, but toppling into lava will still be a bad experience – if far more survivable than usual. The advanced versions can provide near-immunity to broad effects and resistance to powerful focused attacks (such as weapons), but are active effects, and so require conscious expenditure of psychic energy. Further improvements usually involve reducing the cost, making them “automatic”, or expanding their protection (EG; Acids to Corrosives to (eventually) Dangerous Chemicals).

Self Healing: The technique maintains and repairs the user’s body, restoring it to its normal state. As such, there are no short-term supernormal enhancements associated with this technique although it does provide innate self-diagnostic abilities. The basic form allows the user to regain (1D6+1) points of vitality per psychic strength point expended, up to a maximum of (End/3) “points” of psychic strength per day. While the basic level is not sufficient to simply cure major diseases or counteract powerful toxins, it is capable of handling most lesser problems and moderating the effects of greater ones. It allow the user to shrug off pain, tension, lack of sleep, thirst, hunger, and a variety of other discomforts – within reason, since the cost will increase as the problem becomes more critical. Remaining awake and alert for a few days is trivial, a few weeks is considerably harder, and a years at a time is extremely expensive. The advanced form extends the curative functions, allowing the user to counteract virtually any disease or toxin. It also allows the user to extend the benefits of the “basic” level to others. Further improvements include reduced aging, slow regeneration of lost limbs and organ, stabilizing the user’s body against overloads, stress, and environmental problems (such as dangerous, but not instantly deadly, levels of radiation, temperature, low oxygen, and toxic chemicals), remaining active despite severe injuries, and even (temporarily) resisting death.

Senethar: This ability channels energy within the user’s bioenergy aura, a talent related to Auric Shunt but attuned to energy rather than matter. The “basic” version used passively provides a modest (+3) bonus on the users Resistance Rating and Defense Rating vs energy-based attacks. In active mode, it lets the user attempt to divert individually-targeted energy attacks – as well as to attempt to tap and channel energy sources within his or her aura. The advanced version permits the user to attempt to divert or reflect such attacks on an “automatic” basis. While this is not effective on area effects, it does provide a +5 bonus on relevant Resistance checks. Further improvements often involve focusing and projecting available energies and area-effects, grounding energy sources, increasing the effectiveness of the basic functions, learning to manipulate purely magical or psionic energies, instead of accepting the usual limitation to quasi-physical ones, storing a circulating “pool” of energy, and channeling energy into barriers.

Sexual Techniques: Always one of the most popular (if, perhaps, not one of the most practical) available disciplines – incorporating enhanced sexual endurance, skills, sensitivity, and attraction along with perfect control of fertility and the bodies physical responses. The advanced version extends this to the auric level – adding a seductive aura, pleasure-sharing, and similar talents. This technique is often combined with others, such as Mindlink, Precision, and Relaxation – although addiction may become a problem. Further improvements may include easing pregnancy and childbirth, using the energy of the activity to recharge psychically (possibly even to above normal limits), “charming” / fascinating the possible partners, creating various kinds of links, the ability to use other talents on your partner, pheromone generation, deliberate addiction of others, physiological and/or genetic manipulation of the children, using the energy surge to boost other abilities beyond normal limits, and resistance to disease.

I’ve never seen any point in trying to pretend that this would NOT be one of the most popular topics of research and development in any field that covered it. My usual ruling was that this particular field of study could just be noted as background characterization (like “my character is really good-looking and gets invited to a lot of swinging parties!) unless you expected it to actually have notable game effects (like “my character is so good-looking that he/she just gets admitted to see important people without question”) – in which case you had to actually pay for it.

Shadow Casting: This bizarre technique allows the user to “split off” portions of his self – of his or her personal mass, vitality, psyche, and energies. Such “shadows” may embody a fraction of the users energies in general, or a particular portion of the users power and personality. In either case, they are usually physically intangible (and can’t “die” by normal means) – unless they embody a major fraction of the user. Both psychic and magical senses will detect them as “real”, if weak and partial, presences. Shadows can be used as scouts, diversions, and even as weapons, but they are splendid links to the user, and will generally be missed if he or she doesn’t get a chance to re-absorb them. Splitting off too much of yourself is dangerous, especially over long periods of time. The advanced version allows the user to reshape a shadow – either internally, granting the user the ability to draw on the powers of whatever type of creature he’s reshaped a portion of his “self” into (QV; Weres) or to be released, creating a kind of “companion creature”. Such creatures are still shadows and remain telepathically linked to their creater over a fair range. Further improvements may involve giving shadows greater solidity, self-duplication, drawing on were-creature powers, placing a part of your self into another body, using a reshaped shadow as a disguise, and entirely disassembling yourself and re-assembling somewhere else. It’s also possible to set up a “repertoire” of different shadows, but this takes practice.

Shockwave: A simple, if expensive, technique that unleashes an overwhelming wave of pure psychic energy. In itself, this is simply a stunning, concussive, bolt of force – however it can be propagated through objects unless they’re resistant to psychic energies and can act as a “carrier” for other effects. The shockwave can be projected up to (Dex x 10) feet or be extended as a cone out to the limits of the users aura. The advanced version simply allows the user to push beyond those limits, at a cost dependent on how far the ability is being pushed. Shockwaves are incredibly “noisy”, on the psychic level, if not always on the physical. They tend to disrupt psychic constructs, shatter spells with psychic components (such as most illusions and mental manipulations), stun psychic sensitives, and otherwise make a mess. Further improvements usually revolve around making it cheaper to use, extending the disruption-effect to the physical or magical level, or learning to attune it to specific targets or types of targets, thus making the effect selective.

Somatic Control: This technique allows the user to manipulate and augment his or her bodies physical processes on the gross level, manipulating heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, need for sleep, food, and water, breathing, and so on – supplying any shortcomings (such as there being no air to breathe) with psychic energy. While this control can be used for an immense variety of “yoga” tricks, it’s most dramatic use is in resisting injury through control of bleeding, shock, and repair processes. The basic version allows the user to transfer a part of any damage taken from injuries, toxins, or diseases, to his/her psychic reserves and to resist effects which “drain” attributes. The advanced version extends the basic abilities, and adds new ones; it can be used for self- healing, to resist or suspend the effects of injuries, and to briefly “push” the user’s other psychic abilities by boosting neural activity – a potent, expensive, and dangerous technique. The user can suspend the effects of some single attack for up to (Wis) days, but cannot recover either physically or mentally until the damage has been dealt with. Further improvements cover things like ignoring mortal injuries, feigning death, boosted recovery of psychic energy, enhanced ability to absorb injuries, and neural surge techniques.

Transfer: This is the technique of nonresistance, of “allowing” energies to pass through the user’s body and aura without interacting with them. While not totally effective, it can reduce the effect of such attacks by up to 90%. It’s even possible to transfer the kinetic energy of material objects, although this doesn’t work very well against precisely-focused (arrows, thrusting attacks, etc) or continuously-driven (EG, chain saws and rapiers) attacks. It also has a minimum “threshold” of about ten points of damage. Below that point it simply isn’t possible to drop the resistance low enough. This is a very expensive discipline to use – and so is probably best saved for the “big stuff”. The advanced version allows the user to attempt the opposite tactic – increasing their “resistance” to the point where the force rebounds against its source. While this tactic can be spectacular, it’s also dangerous. If the force overwhelms the users resistance, he or she will absorb the full impact – often as structural damage. Boosting your resistance this way tends to forfeit a lot of the “give” usually inherent in living structures. Further improvements often include somewhat reducing the cost, transferring attacks into someone else (this trick has the same sort of disadvantage as “reflection” does. If the victim manages to resist, the user will absorb the full effect), protecting the area within your aura, or extending the effect to several attacks within a brief period.

Vibration: This technique allows the user to generate powerful vibrations, either internally, or in whatever he or she touches. While this can be applied in a variety of ways, the most common is to shake, disrupt, or shatter whatever it’s directed against. Other uses range from massage, through removing tarnish, to countering sonic attacks. The advanced version lets the user generate a powerful “pulse” of vibration or a vibratory “shield”, a trick which makes him/her nearly impossible to hold. If combined with an appropriate resistance, this can even be used to render the user intangible, if usually only briefly. Attempting such internal tricks without the resistance is often painful and (in the case of attempting full intangibility) sometimes fatal. Further improvements include causing structural damage, “reaching into” the other aspects (subdimensions of reality), seeking out resonant frequencies to use to destroy things, subsonic manipulations of emotions, inducing severe vertigo, countering vibratory effects, knocking people out, and ignoring armor.

Vocal Control: This subtly potent technique begins with “basic” mimicry, permitting near-absolute mastery of tone, inflection, and accent, as well as the allowing the user to effectively imitate an incredible range of sounds – often at remarkable volume. It also makes it easier to acquire languages – reducing the skill point cost by one, to a minimum of one. The advanced version extends this to the ability to interweave subtle tones and inflections in normal speech – weaving suggestions and insinuations, subtly influencing moods, and issuing abrupt orders with a fair chance of being obeyed. Such tactics work best on well-known individuals, poorly on strangers – and not at all on unknown races. Further improvements include a hypnotic voice, a “great shout” (capable of deafening people a breaking windows within a radius of several hundred feet), focused speech that “carries” only to its intended target even at great range, generating a telekinetic field within the users aura which acts as a kind of “amplifier” or “speaker”, psychic projection of meaning along with the words, or further linguistic enhancements.

Whirlwind: This deadly technique permits the user to attack everyone within his or her bioenergy aura, a radius in feet equal to his/her dexterity. While this may be a basic physical attack, many characters employ more exotic techniques, ranging from a nerve strike to plague carrier. Sadly, using such exotic techniques with the basic version requires paying for each attack separately. It does, however, allow the user to selectively exempt possible targets if he or she so desires. The advanced version permits the user to simply pay twice the price of a single attack for the full sequence – but doesn’t allow for leaving people out. Further improvements may permit launching an entire rounds attacks instead of a single strike, reduce the cost, allow target selection with the advanced form, make simple attacks automatic, extend the effect to three dimensions (and possibly even beyond that), creating a sphere of a long-term effect, or simply pushing people away automatically.

Will Shield: This handy technique allows the user to superimpose a counterpattern to an incoming psychic (or mystic) effect on his aura – making any resistance check an all-or-nothing proposition. Fortunately, the user can generally “feel” whether or not he can handle the incoming effect. (In game terms, the user may pay for using this technique after a successful resistance check to fully nullify the attack. If the roll fell in the marginal success or marginal failure range however the user may still pay for the attempt – but will have to roll again. It might or might not work. A failure will leave the user too busy dealing with the collapse to resist in any other fashion). The advanced version allows the user to blunt an effect that overwhelms the counterpattern, increasing his level of success by two levels. Further improvements may involve learning to resist internal effects (poisons and such) similarly, gaining bonuses on particular categories of rolls (EG; either vs particular items, such as “drugs and toxins”, or on rolls against a particular attribute), resisting the effects of shock, countering subtle mental effects and influences, ignoring distractions, or making great efforts.

The Introspection and C’hi systems allowed characters using them to have unique styles and suites of abilities, while still being free to attempt hundreds of different tricks with varying chances of success depending on their underlying abilities. Of course, it also required a lot of on-the-fly game master adjudication. That was the main weakness of Continuum II; the players had a lot of fun – but it took years of play before any of them were really ready to run a game of their own because they needed to understand how everything worked before they could easily figure out what was likely to happen when a player tried something outre on them.

It was also possible for it to backfire. For an example, when the party was attempting to deal with a water mage who’d set up shop in a swamp, they found that his tower was made of water – and simply flowed into gaps and otherwise repaired itself when they tried to breach it. One C’hi master announced that he was going to “channel an enormous pulse of energy into his metabolism and briefly enhance it to “bomb” speeds, channel that thermal energy into a reserve before it could injure him, and them project it – creating the equivalent of a massive shaped charge to blow away a chunk of the tower. He acknowledged that this was potentially suicidal when I warned him – but he went ahead and tried it anyway.

He didn’t manage to project the energy before he lost control. The resulting blast pretty much vaporized him, but also blew away a large chunk of the tower.

And then another character with far less training and skill announced that – since the first attempt HAD taken down a lot of the tower – he was going to try the same stunt. The rest of the players told him he was insane, but he insisted.

Still, two such blasts did take out most of the tower, so that was something I suppose.

Similarly, when Arthur attempted to put together a combination to let him meditate his way back to the present (linking himself to the planetary biosphere to get the strength to maintain his body and putting himself into a healing trance to maintain his mind) after being stranded on an alien world  a hundred and forty million years in the past, he made most of his checks – but lost track of his body, and wound up greeting his friends as the spirit of the local biosphere. That really put a crimp into his ability to go adventuring until after he figured out a way to make an Avatar.

Continuum II: C’hi Powers, Part II

Quite a lot of things in Continuum II ran on the same general mechanic; you had a power defined by how it worked and by it’s theme. You could attempt anything within your personal limits for handling energy and the limits of whatever energy source you were drawing on that fit in with how it worked and with that theme, at a cost determined by how much power it would require and a difficulty determined by the level of fine control it required – with most basic actions being simple enough not to bother rolling for.

So you had Electrokinesis and you wanted to throw an electrical bolt? A high power cost (depending on the damage and range you wanted), but a really easy control check – so easy in fact that you normally didn’t need to roll that control check because success would be automatic. You wanted to override the circuits of an electronic lock to open a door? Not much power required, but you’d want a lot of fine control – so a difficult roll (made much easier if you had some applicable special senses so you weren’t fumbling around blind). You wanted to reach into a computer you’re touching and directly enter some false data? Almost no power – but a virtually impossible check unless you had supplementary powers like “computer emulation” to make it more reasonable, and probably tricky even then.

Psychic Powers fueled by your personal energies (C’hi powers if they normally operated inside your own energy-aura, and so had direct control feedback and a big break on control checks, Psychomancy if they projected energy beyond that range and so gave smaller bonuses) gave bonuses to control, but had much lower upper power limits because your body only had so much energy available. Powers fueled by available external sources of energy (minor psionics) had no modifiers. Powers fueled by remote, but almost unlimited, cosmic energy sources (major psionics) could accomplish incredible things – but required a low transfer impedance to avoid frying the user’s brain with the waste energies and made fine control extremely difficult. Not too surprisingly, characters who opted to focus on stealth, manipulation, and otherwise being subtle tended to go for personal-energy based powers, those who wanted to balance power and control went for minor psionics, and those wishing to deal in vast amounts of raw power went for major psionics. They could all be equally effective in combat of course; using personal energies to pinch someone’s aorta shut worked just as well as using cosmic power sources to crush them with a mountain.

With psychic powers you could improve your control with rituals, tools, and time, and/or improve your raw power with boosters, foci, and channels. If you wished to extend the theme, or make a power cheaper to use, or improve your fine control, or vary it in a lot of other ways, you invested more skill points in it. That had an upper limit of seven in total, but let you personalize and improve your favorite powers and uses thereof.

Overall, I’ve always preferred this general approach; it means that there’s a lot of ways for a thoughtful player to solve problems and manipulate their character’s powers to meet particular challenges.

And to stop musing and get back to the C’hi power descriptions from lo, those many years past…

C’hi Techniques

C’hi Infusion: This technique allows the user to transfer psychic energy (or vitality) to someone else, usually on a temporary basis. The user simply attunes his bioenergy field to the recipients and channels his or her energy into them. While this sounds simple, the actual technique is fairly complex, and merely setting up the link requires a certain amount of energy. Fortunately, physical contact usually makes it easier. The advanced version lets the user “guide” the recipient’s internal energy flows, making it far easier (and much safer for the student) to teach c’hi disciplines – and even allows a teacher to temporarily imbue his target with some of his own techniques, catalyze a shapechange, or help them heal wounds. Interestingly, this also allows a “teacher” to study his “students” techniques. Further improvements generally revolve around deeper transfers (EG – skills, knowledges, and languages), fast teaching, fast learning, and amplifying the recipients power. As a rule, transfers are temporary. A permanent transfer leaves the donors power permanently decreased, and can lead to problems like those noted under in C’hi Drain, although the voluntary nature of this transfer reduces them somewhat. While it’s possible to manage permanent transfers without the donor actually dying, unless the donor and the recipient share a great mental affinity, the mental link it creates can easily lead to madness.

Compensation: This ability is most useful to characters with a major permanent impairment, but can be handy to anyone who suffers an from a permanent or temporary handicap. Users simply force their (unimpaired) aura to replace the function of the damaged organ. This ranges from managing with a sore foot up to compensating for total blindness or even a missing limb or organ. Such “compensation” is effective – if often odd – offering minor advantages and disadvantages over the original ability since this is a psychic effect with limited range. A blind man could use this skill to “see” – but might find that, while his visual range is limited, many illusions do not register at all. A phantom limb would have no trouble picking up something hot or picking something out of acid, but might be shocked by something carrying a strong psychic charge. The advanced version acts as a form of empyrean projection with a limited range; the user may explore the psychic aspects of the material world(s), but cannot reach the deeper levels of dream, the various afterlives, or the conceptual realms. Further improvements include things like boosted physical functions, doppelganger effects, the ability to make an easy transition to the empyrean level upon physical death, or even the ability to make such transitions at will (going is easy, rebuilding your physical body when you want it back is a lot harder).

Dim Mak: This technique uses a focused burst of energy to disrupt the target’s life processes, usually on the neurological level. Obviously enough, there are many possible variations. The best-known effect is, naturally enough, the infamous “Death Touch” – causing severe, immediate, damage, pain, shock – and/or neural disruption. More specific variants include “draining” various attributes, stunning or paralytic effects, the “laughing death” (IE; causing uncontrollable spasms in one form or another), and simply inflicting incredible pain. Advanced versions of such skills allow the user to inflict either greater or delayed injuries, causing a subtle, cumulative, disruption, which may eventually kill or cripple the victim. Such subtle effects can go unnoticed for some time – possibly becoming extremely serious in the interval. Further improvements usually involve making such “injuries” more difficult to heal, expanding the number of variations available, or using the technique to disrupt the use of other powers.

Dragon C’hi: This technique allows the user to tap other energy sources to rebuild his personal psychic reserves. Such sources may be magical or physical in nature, but each separate source requires an individual variation or improvement on this skill. Common sources include personal magical powers, symbiotic spirits, great heat or cold, lightning, and so on. These sources must be internal to, or directly in contact with, the user for this talent to operate. The advanced version allows users to draw on fields in the immediate vicinity, such as the electrical power being released by a storm. Note that, while “bio-energy” is a popular choice, the user can only tap excess energies, he cannot forcibly take it. The “third level” of this ability is often used to power C’hi skills directly, greatly reducing their cost. While this may effectively supply several points of C’hi per round, self-recharging is a far more delicate process – and cannot be accomplished at this rate from external sources. There is, however, no fixed limit on recharging through the conversion of exotic personal energies. Further improvements usually involve extending the efficiency or range, learning to tap additional energy forms, or building up “pools” of extra energy, either psychic, or in the original from.

Eagles Claw: This handy technique exploits the natural tendency for creatures to focus on their manipulative organs. Focusing the bodies energy there enables the user to grip with superhuman strength. This makes it extremely difficult to dislodge the users hold, disarm him or her, and so on. It also lets the user to grip even the tiniest surface irregularities, allowing him or her to readily cling to almost any surface. Those already skilled in climbing will find that they can easily cross ceilings and similar obstacles. The advanced version enhances and extends this power, allowing the user to crush stones, bones, and so on, with his grip. While much too powerful to be used in ordinary climbs, it can be used to scoop out or break off pieces of the surface, so that others can easily follow. Obviously enough, such strength has an immense variety of other uses. Further improvements often involve imbuing the hands with incredible toughness, extending power through the arms and shoulders, or enhancing precision and speed to inhuman levels.

Energy Absorption: This technique allows the user to act as a “capacitor” for some form of energy, using his or her body to absorb and store it. The basic form is essentially defensive; the energy is first absorbed and then gradually dissipated into the surrounding area. The advanced form allows the user to control that discharge, storing and directing it. Unfortunately, this has a far lower upper limit then simply dissipating an overload. (Storage limits are usually Endurance – 6 “levels” of magic, Endurance “points” worth of physical energies, and Endurance + 6 points of psychic energy). Further improvements usually involve increasing that limit, storing complex energy patterns (Spells and such) – or imposing a simple pattern on the usual raw energy discharge (for example, creating laser beams instead of simple solar discharges).

Evasion: This technique allows the user to shift his molecules from point-to-point within his bio-energy field at near-sonic speeds – an effect which gives the appearance of near-instantaneous movement. While this is most commonly used to evade attacks, it can also be used to get into position to attack, reach cover, duck out of sight, cross crevices, and so on. Unfortunately, any substantial intervening barrier will block the use of the basic form. The advanced version, or “Vanishing Technique”, allows the user to rearrange his molecular structure in transit, allowing him to penetrate simple barriers, vanish without a “strobe effect”, and escape from bonds. It does not allow him to retain an altered molecular structure at the “end of the trip”.

The most common variant form is “Face Dancing”, the ability to reshuffle your personal molecules while remaining in place. The basic form of this ability allows the user to modify his or her; features, coloration, apparent (but not actual) mass, and general body type, within the limits of the basic humanoid (or whatever) form. While this usually includes the users clothing and gear, large amounts of inorganic material may require enough extra energy to be impractical. The advanced version permits a full shapechange to a non-humanoid form, giving the user access to any innate, physical, powers which that form possesses. Sadly, due to the great complexity of this feat, each such form must be acquired separately.

Further improvements commonly revolve around things like repairing damage, adding new or improved physical systems to the users body, combining features from two or more forms (“Wereforms”), or simply acquiring extra forms.

Focused Mastery: This ability permits the user to focus his psi-energies on enhancing his use of various skills or small groups of skills, although the broader the group chosen, the smaller the bonus. At the basic level, the user may select three such skills or groups of skills to enhance – although his (or her) selection is restricted to basically physically-oriented skills. Typical selections include various athletic, combat, and stealth skills, although others are possible. Typical bonuses range from +1 to +5, depending on the breadth, relevance, and importance, of the skills selected. The advanced version provides an extra “+1” on the bonus and allows the selection of two additional areas to boost, either or both of which may be mentally-oriented. Any further improvements generally involve adding an extra area and/or increasing the bonus – to a maximum of +6. Variants which boost the users effective level of mastery of a skill exist, but can get tricky. Pushing the limits of your mastery of dance is unlikely to result in more than stiff muscles or perhaps a strain. Pushing your mastery of – say – shapeshifting presents considerably greater hazards.

Focusing: This handy technique is used to channel the users full effort into a precise moment – commonly the moment of impact when hitting something, but other applications exist. Used in combat, the basic version allows the user to inflict maximum damage with a blow. The advanced version is more flexible. Used passively, it increases the users Damage Bonus by his (Level/2). In active use it takes an extra three phases to invoke, and can be used to either inflict structural damage or to combine a round’s attacks or efforts as a single action. Such combined actions are made with a +3 bonus and have the combined effect of all the actions they replace. While both options can be employed, that requires five extra phases instead of three. Further improvements usually involve the using focusing in combination with special abilities or reducing the preparation time.

Hastening: This technique uses psychic energies to accelerate the user’s metabolism and reflexes – allowing him to select any two enhancements from the list given below. No single enhancement may be selected more then once at the first level. Each additional level allows the user to select two more enhancements – although no one enhancement may be selected more then three times. Selections are permanent once made. The possibilities include Attacks (+1), Initiative (-2), Movement (+8″), Actions (+1. Incidental, unresisted actions only. This means things like getting something out, tying a knot, and so on. Not movement or attack actions, although this does let the character get lots of work done quickly), Resistance to “Slow” Effects (Permits the character to compensate for the effects of efforts to slow him down through magic and psionics, although each effect must be countered separately), Ghosting (a tactic that employs bewilderingly rapid movement to produce an illusion of multiple images – making it difficult to determine the users exact position and angle of attack. This grants the user a “+2” to his Defense Rating and Resistance Rating against individually-targeted attacks and a “+1” on his Attack Raring, provided that the foe has no method of countering the effect), and whatever else the GM and player can come up with.

Hypersenses: This useful technique increases both the users sensory acuity and range. The basic effect is a simple “+3” bonus on the users perception rolls. The advanced version is applied to a particular sense, and permits both active and passive enhancement. The passive version generally provides a “+5” bonus on appropriate perception rolls and an extended sensory range, allowing the user to see slightly into the ultraviolet and infrared ranges, feel electrical and radiation fields, hear sub- and supersonic frequencies, taste normally tasteless substances, or smell weird things, as appropriate to the chosen sense. Active enhancement allows things like telescopic vision, master-class safe-cracking, and a variety of other tricks depending on the sense. Any further improvements usually mean simply extending the active version to additional senses.

Iron Fist: This skill allows the user to channel a burst of psychic energy through whichever limb he uses to attack with. While the basic effect gives the users unarmed blows Attack Rating and Damage Bonus bonuses of +(Level/3), generates a blinding psychic “flare”, and allows the users blows to affect creatures normally resistant to such attack, it’s primary purpose is to learn to generate and channel that burst of energy. The advanced version allows the user to focus that burst into a concentrated pulse, an effect which can be used to cause tremendous damage to inanimate targets or quite a lot to living beings. The pulse can also be focused into another ability, vastly increasing it’s effects. Further improvements usually involve using the pulse to overload psychic blockages, focusing it into specific abilities, or converting the pulse into other forms of energy. A chi pulse usually multiplies the effectiveness of whatever technique it’s fed into by the same factor as it multiplies the points expended in using it. This is usually limited to around three times the normal level of effect. Going beyond that risks psychic burnout.

Iron Flesh: Is a basic toughening technique which allows the user to resist injury through inner control and conditioning exercises. It can be used both actively and passively. The passive version slightly enhances the users Defense Rating and Toughness (+2 each). Actively, it can be used to attempt to “moderate” an attack – reducing the damage by 50% with a successful Endurance roll. The advanced version channels psychic energies into the outer level of the users aura, generating a protective force field known as protective air or “golden armor”. Passively, this technique is simply a more effective (+3) version of Iron Flesh. Actively, it’s a visible glowing aura, offers increased (+5) protection, and extends somewhat beyond the surface of the body. Further improvements may offer increased defenses, allow the user to extend his protection to someone or something he or she is holding, or enhance the users ability to resist specific forms of attack.

Kinetic Aura: Allows the user to impose a simple kinetic vector field on his bio-energy aura, generating any of a variety of effects, ranging from just pushing everyone away, to cyclones and wedges of pure force. The effect can be tuned to living things, unliving things, or (weakly) to both, but this must be decided when the ability is acquired. The advanced version will either greatly increase the strength of the effect – or allow the user to “re-tune” it at will. While not usually the best form of attack against an individual, this talent is especially useful against barrages of missiles and/ or large numbers of attackers. One popular trick is to raise a sphere of whirling junk as shield, weapon, and source for a barrage of missiles. Further improvements usually involve strengthening the effect, more complex fields, selectivity, maintaining an air bubble / force field, or simply throwing things around skillfully.

Latent Energy: Put simply, this is the art of the delayed effect. While only of value when combined with some other C’hi ability, the user may delay the effect of that ability for anything from seconds to a week or so. Greater delays are possible, but the latent energy is increasingly likely to dissipate in the interim. As a rule, latent energies can be detected by any form of psychic scan, although more subtle effects can be hard to analyze. The advanced version of this skill allows the user to trigger (or dissipate) the “latent” effect remotely, at ranges of up to (Per) miles. One popular trick is to “pay” for several attacks, set to “go off” sequentially, effectively making the attack continuous over several rounds. While expensive, this still only counts as one action – and the cost of this skill need only be paid once. Further improvements often involve selective effects, various “automatic” triggers, and the ability to “store” raw psychic energies.

Light Foot: This dramatic ability allows the user to “brace” his personal energy field against another – given a clear boundary to focus on. This allows him to “touch” the field and any associated substance without actual contact. It can thus be used to move over water or cross mud without leaving tracks, to walk on a thin wire, or even to stand on intangible energy fields and illusions. Other applications include handling objects without actually touching them and striking immaterial beings. The “advanced” version dispenses with the need for a visible boundary, permitting the user to “walk on air” or float around. Further improvements usually involve speeding up (often in combination with other techniques), a form of “immovability”, or simply making “steadying yourself” a reflexive act.

Metabolic Control: This complex talent allows the user to manipulate his or her own biochemistry and metabolism. While this helps the user stay comfortable in hot or cold weather, most users are more interested in the “+3” bonus against toxins and disease and in the way it similarly increases the users healing rate and the effects of occult healing effects (also by +3). Other uses include; enhancing your stamina, compensating for a poor or minimal diet, going into hibernation, and so on. The advanced version allows the user to create new enzymes and take such metabolic tinkering to an extreme, permitting him or her to counteract most toxins, digest cellulose, drastically slow the aging process, go into suspended animation, stay comfortable in extremely hot or cold weather, resist metabolism-altering effects, and further enhance their healing processes (+5 instead of +3). If appropriate complementary techniques are used to avoid destroying yourself, metabolic control can be used to generate tremendous internal heat or cold. Further improvements may involve adapting to outre’ environments (breathing water or toxic gases, extremes of temperature), easing the necessary rolls, generating peculiar biochemicals, form changing (basically a total physical redesign. This can be very tricky), and genetic shifting (do-it-yourself designer genes or even changing species). Some of these tricks take a lot of time, or power, or both, but the real limiting factor is usually knowledge and control.

The Bio-enhancement variant involves tinkering with your bodies structure and natural chemical balances in an attempt to improve things. Unfortunately, the body is a complex interactive mechanism – and improving one thing usually means paying a price elsewhere, if only in the form of overload-stress. However odd it seems, artificial physical augmentations fall under the rules for Cyber/Bio-ware, regardless of how they’re induced. Such augmentations are innate once “installed”, and so do not require even the passive use of this skill to sustain. While c’hi-based “cyberware” is easy to “purchase” and “install”, both the selection, and the number of cyberware points available, are sharply limited. Selection is primarily limited by what the GM can be talked into allowing. The “point value” is limited to three times the users level of Bioenhancement skill. The Pheromones variant allows a subtle manipulation of the users body chemistry, generating chemicals which subtly influence the attitudes, reactions, and moods, of those around the user. The effect is sharply variable, depending on the local conditions and the users actions. Pheromones tend to augment the users social talents, not replace them.

Mystic Channeling: This technique taps the user’s personal mana, allowing him to wield a small selection of cantrip-level magics. The “basic” effect allows the user to acquire a selection of (Intellect/3) cantrips. (This may be modified by skills and techniques such as Eidetic Memory). Unfortunately, wielding them drains both the users personal mana and psychic strength. The advanced version expands this list to (Int) cantrips and allows the user to counteract cantrips. Further improvements might include various mystic “senses”, access to small (Int/3) lists of higher-order spells (Up to level 3 at the most), and improved countermagics. All of this is, unfortunately, limited by the fact that personal mana tends to be an extremely limited resource itself. Note that Mystic Channeling DOES NOT permit faerie, demons, and gods, to channel their dynamic mana flow / Might into magical effects. Linking together their chi and might that way is an extra two-point Talent (Major Ramifications on the C’hi powers), and has the potential to completely unbalance the game. Combined with a good memory, it would allow them to work extremely powerful magics. Combined with Dragon C’hi, it would allow them to do so almost endlessly. GM caution is advised.

Parting Waters: This technique generates a “wedge of force”, a field within the user’s aura which causes a violent repulsion between objects. Perhaps the most spectacular use is to literally “part the waters”, but parting things like flights of arrows is somewhat more practical. It’s also a great way to get through crowds and brush. The advanced version enhances this effect to the point where it can disrupt, and tear apart, solid stone. While a handy escape technique, this is hard to beat when you’re looking for a dramatic way to express yourself or if you’re annoyed with a door. Further improvements normally involve things like generating a spherical shockwave, faster burrowing, using the field to hurl things away, erecting a force-field sphere, or focusing the disruption-field to do fine work with it.

Polarity Shield: This technique requires that the user have a recognizable “polarity” – a personal theme or style. Given that, the character may then choose to be highly resistant to that style or to it’s opposite. Thus a “Master Of The Glacial Wind” might be resistant to either extremes of cold or to fire and heat. Such resistance extends to various levels, hence a “Servant Of The Light Incarnate” might be resistant to darkness in all it’s various forms – magical, psychic, negative emotions, and so on. The more general the effect which the shield protects against, the weaker the resistance it grants is. The advanced version can either be used to protect a modest radius or as a more potent version of the basic shield. Thanks to the immense variety of possible “polarities”, the mechanics of any particular case must be worked out in consultation with the GM. A fixed percentage, a reduction by the users level, or a bonus to resistance rolls, are among the simpler ways. Any further improvements must be negotiated.