Eclipse – The Golden Ones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Package Deal: Usually the Pathfinder Package Deal.

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

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

Other Abilities:

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

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

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

Among The 1% (6+ CP):

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

The Keys To Heaven’s Vault (6 CP):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Realms Of Fantasy (6 CP):

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

That Will Cost You (6 CP):

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

A Doctorate In Philosophy (6 CP):

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

The Words Of Creation (2 CP):

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

Genre Savvy (6 CP).

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

The Luck Of El Diablo (6 CP):

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

The Luck Of El Diablo II (6 CP):

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

Always On Guard (6 CP):

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

Those Who Have, Get (12 CP):

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

Talking Your Way Through (6 CP):

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

The Mystic Martial Arts (12 CP):

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

Words Of Power (Varies):

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

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

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

For some examples:

Spell Talismans:

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

Curative Ointment.

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

Sorcerer’s Bag:

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

Ring of Whispered Wishes:

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


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

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

And now for something completely different!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now I feel sort of slimy…

Eclipsing Magick

So; first up among the New Mutants… an Eclipse version of a character who’s kind of tricky in Mutants and Masterminds: Illyana Rasputin – A.K.A, Magick. The problem here is pretty basic; RPG’s give the characters pretty definite attributes and abilities, while comic-book magic-users tend to vary in ability to fit the plot even more than most comic book characters do. Secondarily, they usually have a lot of minor abilities that don’t make it into the statistics, simply because the writers have them do all kinds of minor things more or less at random because it shows that they’re mysterious and magical without actually disrupting their plots. Finally, the Marvel Universe has a fairly complex magic system – personal energy magic, “universal” energy magic (which varies with the dimension), invocations of mystical beings, white and black magic (drawing on other creatures life forces), and a whole lot of minor disciplines drawing on specific power sources. Shamans calling on land-spirits, “priests” calling on various dimensions and their dimensional rulers, gaian magic, necromancy, magic channeling the power of coincidence, and many, MANY, more. Not surprisingly, building all that out of basic effects is incredibly awkward and time-consuming.

I’m most familiar with the character from the early New Mutants years, so that – and this series of posts over HERE (as requested) – is going to be my basis for comparison.

Magick was a fundamentally tragic character, a survivor of frightful abuse who’s “inner demons” (such as her “psychic familiars” when she first joined the New Mutants) were quite capable of getting loose and wrecking the area, even if that did make them easier to fight. Her choice was between accepting her role as the gateway through which the Lovecraftian Elder Gods would enter the world (and ruling over the resulting hellscape as a demon-queen) or to constantly battle her own nature to stand as a guardian at that gate – knowing that, no matter how much she might strive to do good, with three-fifths of her soul bound to evil her efforts would always be corrupt. There would always be a price – and her heroism lay in paying it herself, rather than laying it off onto others.

In many ways she was a surprisingly uncomfortable character to see. Even in the X-books which had always been metaphors for racial prejudice and hatred the incredibly blunt metaphor for child sexual abuse was well beyond the norm. Still, it did give her stories unusual depths.

As a member of the New Mutants Magick was the bad girl – a relatively limited witch who was willing to use her dark powers to their fullest extent, who voiced the unpleasant truths, and who promised vengeance against whatever hurt her friends. Cannonball rammed you like a football player, Sunspot punched you in the nose… Magick stuck a sword in your heart. Sure, it was a (usually) non-lethal magic-disrupting sword, but it was still a pretty firm statement that “My teammates would prefer to spare you. ->I<- will do what is necessary”.

“If you’ve harmed Kitty, woman, I’ll bring this entire mountain down around your ears. I’ll use my magic to move your precious academy from Earth to the heart of hell itself!”

-Magick’s internal monologue at the Massachusetts Academy – and well within her power. Given that she knew that her mind was unreadable, this was a statement of personal intent – and of her willingness to send hundreds of random teenagers to hell just to upset the White Queen.

Now when it comes to comparing or converting Eclipse / 3.5 and Mutants and Masterminds, a lot of things are very direct indeed.

Basic Attributes: 3.5-style attribute modifiers convert to the various M&M attributes and vice-versa with two complications: d20 Str has been split into M&M Str (governing melee damage) and Fighting (governing melee attacks and taking over the melee part of Dex’s AC bonus). D20 Dex has been split into M&M Dex and Agi, possibly on the theory that Initiative, Ranged Attack Bonus, AC Bonus, and Reflex Saves are bit much to load into a single attribute.

Regardless… D20 Str Mod = M&M Str. D20 Int Mod = M&M Int. D20 Wis Mod = M&M Awa. D20 Con = M&M Sta. D20 Dex Mod = M&M (Dex + Agi)/2. D20 Cha = M& Pre. Fighting is generally BAB (Specialized in Melee Only for Double Effect; Also provides a AC Bonus versus Melee Attacks, Corrupted/no iterative attacks).

Magick is shown to have Str -1, Sta 2, Agi 2, Fight 6, Dex 3, Int 0, Awa 2, and Pre 2 at PL7. The PL 10 adult version gets Str 0, Sta 2, Agi 3, Fight 6, Dex 3, Int 1, Awa 3, and Pre 3.

Personally I’m not so sure about Presence / Charisma having a positive modifier at all – Magick is notable for her prickly personality, general grumpiness, sarcasm, failures of leadership, lack of ability to manage people, constantly being betrayed, and lack of close personal relationships. She hid her own nature from the people who wanted to help her since she didn’t know how to talk about it – perhaps the first of a long string of obvious bad decisions that cast serious doubt on her Intelligence and/or Awareness as well.

Oh well. I shall chalk it up to her youth and rather extensive psychological damage.

I’ll go with Str 8 (-1), Int 12 (1), Wis 16 (3), Con 14 (2), Dex 16 (3), Chr 14 (2), and BAB 6. Given a base attribute array of 16/16/14/12/10/8 (25 Point Buy) we need two “+2’s” to get there. Of course, she gets one for being a Pathfinder Human and picking up a +2 to an attribute should be easy enough.

Special Abilities:

  • Expertise (May reduce AC by 5 to add 5 to her Attacks, 6 CP).
  • Sanctum (Limbo, 6 CP). Magick “rules” Limbo and controls it’s magic. Unfortunately, all of the power she gains in Limbo is corrupt black magic, involves constantly defending the place against various horrific magical entities who want to take it over, her control is little longer than arms reach, and the local demons are quite treacherous. This is quite enough to specialize and corrupt every power she gets from this ability. The extra 24 CP she gets in Limbo go to…
    • Ritual Magic (2 CP). Magick can perform all kinds of powerful rituals in Limbo. They usually go badly wrong of course, but she CAN.
    • Augmented Bonus: Adds (Dex Mod) to her Rune Magic Skills, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (+9) (6 CP).
    • +14 Skill Points (Wisdom-based Mastery and Casting for abjuration, conjuration, divination, enchantment, evocation, necromancy, and transmutation rune magic). Double Effect and Two-Thirds Cost. While in Limbo this provides a base of +14 (allowing the user of third level effects and providing caster level seven within those fields) (9 CP).
    • Runic Ritual (2 CP). While in Limbo Magick can use +1 Mana, ceremonies, and invocations, to increase the power of her spells.
    • Hysteria (Magical) (2 CP). Magick can draw on Limbo’s energies to augment her power.
    • Lore (Magical Artifacts, Realms, Rituals, and Creatures) (2 CP). While in Limbo Magick has an extensive magical library to draw on.
    • Specific Knowledge / the layout of Limbo (1 CP).
    • She also has a big castle full of treacherous demons, wholly unsuitable clothing, horrific relics of her gruesome past, no defenses of note, and a large bed with a soft mattress. The abuse metaphor is working overtime isn’t it?

As the Sorcereress Supreme of the Limbo Dimension, Magick commands massive magical powers there. She’s capable of pulling off sixth level effects at caster level thirteen if she cares to bother. In fact, if she uses those modifiers with her Stepping Disks… she’s quite capable of creating a dimensional overlay that will combine Limbo and Earth (and set up an entire “Inferno” storyline). Similarly, pumping up her Soulsword with those modifiers will make her a genuinely serious threat to intruding ancient dimensional overlords, such as the Dread Dormammu.

  • Blessing (6 CP): Magick is capable of passing on portions of her powers and benefits – ranging from allowing someone else to take advantage of her rendering someone else flat-footed against an attack on up to passing on her arcane powers to someone else (usually Kitty Pride) if she is slain or somehow stripped of them.
  • Evasive and Specialist (Sunder): Gains a +4 bonus and provokes no AOO when using the Sunder maneuver (6 CP, 3 CP if you skip the “No AOO” part. If you’re just building for conversion, you might want to; Mutants and Masterminds doesn’t really have attacks of opportunity, or iterative attacks, or a lot of other stuff. Of course, if you want to actually convert a character… you’ll need to either build those abilities or leave them out in the first place.
  • Mystic Artist / Intimidation, Specialized and Corrupted/only to gain the “Fascinate” ability (2 CP).
  • Leadership (The Demons of Limbo), Specialized and Corrupted for Double Effect and two-thirds cost / they’re DEMONS. They are rebellious, treacherous, misinterpret what they’re asked to do, and make endless amounts of trouble (6 CP). Magick can call up swarms of demons. This almost always proves to be more trouble than it’s worth in the end.

Magick’s supernatural armor was exceptionally ill-defined. According to the original Marvel Super Heroes rules it varied between Excellent (sufficient to automatically shrug off rifles and such) to Monstrous (sufficient to automatically shrug off nuclear weapons). In actual stories, she never seemed to be all that invulnerable, even if it did protect her from the demon-bears claws during her armors first (completely unexpected) appearance.

Well, it mostly acted like plate armor, so…

  • Innate Enchantment, Specialized for Double Effect / only while wielding her Soulsword. All spells Spell Level Zero or One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated).
    • Mage Armor, Personal-Only (x.7) = 1400 GP. +8 Force Bonus to AC.
    • Immortal Vigor I, Personal Only (x.7) = 1400 GP. +(24 + 4 x Con Mod) HP.
    • Weapon Mastery (Soulsword) L0 = 1000 GP. +6 BAB with Soulsword.
    • Resistance (L0), Personal Only (x.7) = 700 GP. +2 Resistance Bonus to all Saves.
    • Stabilize (L0), Personal Only (x.7) = 700 GP. The wearer automatically stabilizes if below zero hit points.

At an effective value of 5200 GP, this costs (6 CP). Doubling the effect of the spells instead of manipulating the cost is kind of dubious, but every character is entitled to a little cheese – and doubling up on the number of spells could produce similar results, albeit with a far more complex mess of bonus types.

  • Immunity to Dispelling (Common, Minor, Great), Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect Magick’s supernatural armor, above (4 CP).

Personal Energy Magic: The weakest, if by far the safest and easiest, form of magic in the Marvel Universe is basically “psychic tricks” – little stuff that a talented child might pull off with little or no training at all. This can actually be quite effective if used cleverly, but on superheroic scales… you’d better have SOMETHING else to draw on. This, of course, is exactly what the Witchcraft system in Eclipse represents. So… Witchcraft III with an extra 6d6 (22) Power (although she usually fuels her abilities with Mana), Pacts of Guardianship (keeping the gate to the realms of the Elder Gods closed) and Possession (Magick was occasionally possessed by her own dark side) (18 CP).

  • The Adamant Will: Magick’s psychic shields are capable of standing up to Professor Xavier, at least for a time – which is exactly what The Adamant Will does.
  • Glamour. Magick is capable of hypnosis, of causing a normal person to forget brief periods, and similar minor mental tricks.
  • Dreamfaring. Magick is capable of astral projection, quasi-clairvoyance using it, and sensing things in nearby dimensions.
  • Healing: Magick isn’t a particularly GOOD healer, but – as an adventuress – she knows a few tricks along those lines. Don’t expect anything much past first aid though.
  • Shadoweave: Magick can generate simple, obvious images, lights, and similar effects.
  • Witchsight, Specialized in Magical Detection to make it continuously active at no cost. Like most trained Marvel Universe mages, Magick pretty much automatically feels any major magical disturbances nearby thanks to their effect on her own magical core.
  • Hand of Shadows with an Upgrade (may generate telekinesis and force effects of up to level three, +6 CP). Magick can generate force-blasts and bonds, make basic shields, barriers, and “wards”, move things around, clean up rooms, and perform a lot of minor tricks.

In her very first on-earth fight, Magick deployed a variety of spells – mystic chains, bolts, a spell of forgetfulness, and likely more. They didn’t have much effect on Sym, which is why she had to use her Soulsword – but obviously at least some of her powers worked just fine on Earth. Later… she said that they didn’t, but then kept using various spells. As a compromise, her personal magic works just fine on Earth, even if it IS pretty weak by superheroic mage standards. The grandiose stuff she can pull off in Limbo does not work on Earth.

Magicks access to Universal – or Ambient – Magical Energies was far more limited on Earth; which shouldn’t be all that surprising; she learned to use the dark energies of Limbo, not the natural magic of the Earth. She only had access to some Earthly ambient magic because her mutant power was the ability to tap into some aspects of it.

OK, that makes just as much sense as being able to tap into magnetism with your mutant powers, but it still seems really awkward – if only because perfectly normal, non-mutant, human beings can learn to tap into magical energies at least as well. It’s like having your mutant power be that you’re amazingly good at literary criticism without having to study it very much. Isn’t that just a bit lame?

Access to limited fields of Universal Magic is probably best represented by Rune Magic – which relies on skill, the Mana that being in a superhero universe provides, and neatly sorts itself into a variety of specific fields which you can ignore, study, or master, entirely independently of each other. In her case, it’s going to be Wisdom-Based.

  • Augmented Bonus: Adds (Dex Mod) to Wisdom-Based Skills, Specialized for Increased Effect / only for Rune Magic Skills, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for Soulsword, Stepping Disk, and Time Bender Rune Magic (4 CP).
  • Adept, Soulsword (Casting and Mastery) and Stepping Disks (Casting and Mastery) (6 CP).
  • 10 Skill Points (Paid for later). Four go to getting a +3 base in her Adept skills, the remaining six go to getting a +3 base in Time Bending (Casting and Mastery). That gives her a base of +12 in those six skills.

Magick’s Soulsword was always a very questionable thing. A spell of creation, meant to shape a pure focus for a soul touched by black magic, was fused with black magic and corruption to turn purity into a devastating weapon. It is little wonder that – the more Magick wielded the resulting abomination – the more demonic she became. Worse, like most major comic-book magics, it was never particularly consistent as to what it did, or how, or even what it looked like. Sometimes it only disrupted magic, sometimes it disrupted psychic powers, sometimes it could hurt people (at least as if it was a normal sword), and sometimes it couldn’t. That’s not “a” power. That’s a suite of powers.

  • Soulsword: Rune Magic / Negation, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only for negating / disrupting magical / psionic effects and beings, the more Magick uses the blade the more demonic she becomes, the user becomes an evil that exists to fight other evils, drawing the attention of demon lords and eldritch horrors, she can be at least briefly “disarmed”, although the blade always seems to show up again. Magicks +12 bonus would normally give her a casting level of 6 and let her use third level effects. At triple effect, that’s casting level 18 and ninth level effects for three mana – although three of those levels normally go to making the “casting” a simple part of attacking with the sword (this is most often a touch attack). This doesn’t cover using the Soulsword as if it was a normal sword, but she can manifest a normal sword with Hand of Shadows quite casually, which covers that.
  • Stepping Disks: Rune Magic / Travel (Mastery and Casting), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / all travel involves opening portals, all portals must go through “limbo”, may accidentally move across time or scatter travelers as a GM plot option, accuracy decreases as range increases, occasional portals may open nearby without conscious control. Magick is quite capable of moving a small area to Limbo and back in the same round using two quickened effects – such as when she pulled the New Mutants (and a car) into the X-Mansion to fight Sym.
  • Time Bender: Rune Magic / Time Manipulation, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / Magick basically has very limited control over this at best. She can twist timelines, travel to the past and future, change her own timeline, and reverse catastrophic magical effects across entire cities, but none of that is ever what you’d call reliable. About all she ever did that WAS reliable was return from Limbo so quickly that it looked like direct teleportation rather than a two-step process, and that might not even have involved time magic; it could have just been two quickened stepping disks. It’s notable, however, that Dr Strange tapped into this ability to let him reshape time on a level beyond what he could handle on his own.
  • 4d6 (16) Mana, Specialized for Double Effect (32 Mana) / only for Rune Magic (24 CP). Being in a superhero universe provides Mana to work with each round – but quickened spellcasting and such can easily outrun that supply. Ergo, Magick has some mana reserves.
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / requires at least twenty minutes worth of rest or meditation per die regained, only to restore the Mana Pool noted above (8 CP).

Combat Bonuses:

  • Finesse: Uses (Dex Mod) in place of (Str Mod) for magically empowered melee attacks (6 CP).
  • +6 BAB (36 CP). Melee +9, Soulsword +15, Ranged +9. Damage is per the magical effect used (whether Witchcraft-based, her Soulsword, or whatever she decides to do in Limbo).
  • +2 to All Saves (Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +7, 18 CP)
  • HP 12 (L1d12, 8 CP) +30 (L2-7d8, 24 CP) + 14 (Con Mod x7) +32 (Immortal Vigor) = 88 HP.
  • AC 10 (Base) +3 (Dex) +8 (Mystic Armor) = 21. M&M splits that into Melee (Parry) and Ranged (Dodge), but we don’t need to bother.
  • Initiative +3 (Dex)

Converting d20 damage to M&M damage is difficult because – fundamentally – neither system actually makes any sense. For the first and most obvious benchmark… take a normal person. To score an automatic instant kill in d20 you need to inflict a minimum of 14 damage. To score an automatic instant kill in M&M they have to miss their damage resistance check by 30. A normal person will have a +0 bonus on that check, but might roll a “20″. So an automatic kill requires a DC of 50, and a damage bonus of +35. So many low-level fighters – perhaps inflicting 2d4+12 – can do +35 in M&M. But M&M defines a one megaton strategic weapon as doing +30 damage. A one megaton blast to the face thus only has a 70% chance of immediately killing a normal person in M&M.

Ergo, melee attacks default to (Str Mod + Level), while others just use (Level).

Thus most of Magicks Witchcraft effects will be Rank 7 in M&M (very effective against normal people, but easily shrugged off by Sym). Her Limbo Magics have a base effect rank of 7 but can be boosted to rank 13. Her Stepping Disks and Soulsword are at rank 18, but can be boosted to rank 24 in Limbo.

Toughness is awkward. As written, Magick can – on average, and assuming that she doesn’t throw up a force sphere or something – take one nuke to the face, but it will leave her on the verge of dropping. So against DC 45, with an average roll of 10, she’d miss by 15. Yet Toughness 20 is obviously too much. I’d go with the (square root of the characters hit points + 1). In her case… that’s 10. Good, but hardly invulnerable.

And that takes us to Skills – although we can disregard the various combat-booster skills unless she wants to purchase a martial art or two since those have been incorporated into her boosts, above. At her lower power level the M&M writeup gives her Acrobatics 2, Athletics 3, Deception 4, Expertise (Magic) 12, Expertise (Queen of Limbo) 5, Insight 3, Intimidation 6, Perception 2, and Stealth 3, for a total of 40 SP.

At the higher power level her M&M writeup gives her Acrobatics 2, Athletics 2, Deception 4, Expertise (Magic) 13, Expertise (Queen of Limbo) 5, Insight 4, Intimidation 10, Perception 4, and Stealth 4. That’s 48 SP. Superhero advancement tends to be pretty slow, but she probably picked up a level or two, which would explain it.

Personally, I’m dumping “Expertise (Queen of Limbo) because Magick has quite spectacularly (and repeatedly) demonstrated that she is, in fact, no good at all at running Limbo – a task which consists almost exclusively of keeping the demons under control.

She’s going to want to increase the human skill bonus to +2 SP/Level (3 CP), Acquire Fast Learner Specialized in Skills (6 CP), and Adept (Specialized in two skills only for Increased Effect (Adept Skills get an extra +4 Bonus)/Expertise (Magic) and Intimidation, 6 CP). That gets her 20 SP at L1, plus 5 SP/additional level, and lets her get the Adept skills at half cost. She’ll still have to purchase a few skill points – I’ll say 12 (12 CP) at level six.

Available Skill Points: 5 x (Level +3) = 50 +14 (Purchased) = 64 SP.

That will give her the high-end skill package of Acrobatics 2 (+5), Athletics 2 (+1), Deception 4 (+6), Expertise (Magic) 13 (+14), Insight 4 (+7), Intimidation 10 (+12), Perception 4 (+7), and Stealth 4 (+7) at a cost of 27 SP. Since she has another 37 available, she can boost her rune magic and other skills some more – such as buying her second language since she is bilingual and throwing in a few points in knowledge / expertise skills or perhaps some martial arts since she did all right in Xavier’s school.

So let’s add this up:

  • Four-Color Package (24 CP). As a Sorceress, she gets her Mana from her Wisdom.
  • Expertise (6 CP)
  • Sanctum (Limbo, 6 CP)
  • Blessing (6 CP).
  • Improved Sunder (6 CP).
  • Fascinating Intimidation (2 CP).
  • Leadership (6 P)
  • Darkchilde Armor (10 CP).
  • Witchery (18 CP)
  • Universal Magic (10 CP, also requires 10 SP)
  • Mana Pool and Recovery (32 CP).
  • Finesse (6 CP)
  • +6 BAB (36 CP)
  • +2 to all Saves (18 GP).
  • Hit Points (32 CP).
  • Skills (29 CP).

That’s 247 CP. It’s been shaping up to look like level seven or eight, so lets see what we need:

Available Character Points: 192 (Level Seven Base) +30 (Human Bonus, L1, L3, L5, and l7 Feats) +14 (Duties) +7 (Restrictions; can only call on the Elder Gods for dimensional magic, and will not do so) +10 (Disadvantages: Accursed (Bloodstones bind soul to evil and prevent the use of pure white magic), History, and Hunted (Belasco and other evils)) = 253 CP.

  • So we have 6 CP left over. Given the superheroic tendency to leap in front of attacks meant for others, throw up shields in front of incoming attacks, and so on… I’d recommend Reflex Training (the three action per day variant).

For remaining details… we have a minor effect or two to add from the Four Color Package and her Wealth-By-Level equipment.

  • For the minor effect, we’ll pick up the remaining +2 to an Attribute that she needs (a first level effect) and a +3 competence bonus to Intimidate when she goes all demony.
  • Her equipment allowance is 13,000 GP. According to Urban Arcana, 1 GP = 20$. According to the Price Conversion Table from d20 Modern up to Purchase DC 10 is about $10 per DC. 10 = $120, 11 = $150, 12 = $200, 13= $275, 14 = $350, 15 = $500, 16 = $650, and 17 = $900. From there, each +8 DC is x10 dollars. Fortunately, we can ignore much of that except for calculating the base price of her phone.
    • Kevlar Reinforced Costume (“Leather Armor”, but 40 GP and only 5 pounds. Note that Arcane Spell Failure does not apply to Rune Magic or Witchcraft), Masterwork (+150 GP), +1 (+1000 GP), Amulet of Tears (2300 GP. This can provide up to +36 HP per day. Throwing that into her HP total for the purposes of calculation in M&M provides +2 to her Toughness – although that effect will wane as hit points increase. In theory this still takes up the appropriate item slot, but Superheroes rarely care). Armor Crystal: a Lesser Iron Ward Diamond (2000 GP).
    • Advanced First Aid Kit / Healing Belt (750 GP).
    • “Pocket Secretary”/Hero Team Comlink: Satellite Smartphone with HUD and hands-free links (250 GP), Smartsearch (As per a Tome of Worldly Memory, 1500 GP), Intelligent (500 GP), Int, Wis, Chr all 10 (0 GP), 30′ senses, uses Message at will (1000 GP). Note that, since smartphones can talk anyway, there is no need to buy speech for it.
    • Reactive Contact Lenses / Raptors Mask (3500 GP).+5 to Spot (Perception), Immunity to being Blinded or Dazzled.
    • Utility Pouch: Keys, LED minilight, multitool, chalk, nylon ties, etc. All the little junk that pops up once in a blue moon (10 GP).

And that’s 13,000 GP.

When it comes to equipment, Superheroes are much more vulnerable than d20 characters. That’s mostly because comic books are created by writers to present to third party audiences. If a Green Lantern is deprived of his or her power ring… even if it’s a team book in the first place, the rest of the team will either be shuffled offstage to allow a solo story, handed the idiot ball so that the powerless character can still be a leader in their adventures, or land in an incredibly contrived set of situations that still allow the character who can’t do much of anything to be the hero. None of those are good options for a RPG, since they ALL translate to “GM railroading” and/or “one or more players is not getting to actually play tonight”. Thus d20 characters may lose a piece or two of gear, and be put at a short-term disadvantage – but they pretty much never lose all their gear and get put out of action. If you’re converting to M&M, a d20 or Eclipse characters wealth-by-level is one of their powers,

Overall, this version of Magick is a fine demonstration of why throwing “an endless stream of Mana” into the character design process takes a character from a hero to a superhero. While she turns out to be built on almost exactly the same number of points in both Eclipse and in Mutants and Masterminds, the Eclipse version has a major advantage in versatility and a slight advantage in raw power – mostly because Eclipse is built using versatile fantasy magic tropes, rather than specific-powers superhero tropes. The rest of the New Mutants tend to have more specific powers, and may be a bit more awkward in Eclipse terms.

Eclipse and Four Color Heroics

The question this time is basically how some Eclipse-style superhero builds match up to Mutants and Masterminds third edition builds – with specific reference to the original “New Mutants” and their writeups over at the “Atomic Think Tank”.

Well, why not? I haven’t built very many superheroes, so this is a perfectly reasonable topic to get back to posting with.

So what do you need to buy to be a four-color superhero?

First up… the Superheroic World Template obviously applies. That’s pretty simple; it gives each character (Con Mod) points of Mana to spend each round. You generally can’t augment this, but the GM may well let you use another attribute without even taking Finesse. It only defaults to Constitution because Superheroes are almost invariably healthy types who push through terrible conditions and massive injuries, recover quickly and completely, and hardly ever get sick. Ergo, a high Constitution is encouraged – but if you must play a frail psychic or studious elderly wizard or something, swapping to Wisdom or Intelligence is pretty reasonable.

The obvious way to use that power is to make normally limited-use abilities unlimited. Go ahead. Use Berserker to keep your strength jacked up to superhuman levels all the time, or turn Grant of Aid into and endless font of regeneration, or exercise endless telekinetic control over the earth, or whatever. Really, that’s quite enough to make you a street-level superhero.

But if you want to be a true four-color superhero you’ll need a few extra ways to use that power.

Superheroic Physics (6 CP):

In some settings, characters with mighty superhuman powers have to deal with “consequences”. They have to worrry about what gets hit when they miss with an attack, the fact that buildings do not have the structural integrity to be picked up, and that trying to punch through three feet of steel will simply drive you backwards and (probably) massively damage whatever you’re standing on because it will be hit just as hard. People in such street-level superhero universes have to deal with those pesky conservation laws, leverage, and all the other factors that real people have to deal with. Superman may be strong, but no amount of strength will actually let you move planets, or lift mountain ranges, instead of going through them.

In “four-color” superhero settings – the default type for Mutants and Masterminds, Champions / Hero System, and many other games – reality need not apply. Superman is simply altering reality to go along with his heroic narrative. To do that, we want to buy an:

  • Mana / Additional Form of Natural Magic (Reality Editing), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to support the user’s heroic narrative and let the user’s abilities function without normal scaling restrictions (6 CP).

And there you go. Go ahead and lift that building and smack someone with it without having it fall apart. Catch someone who’s falling without killing them with the impact with you. Run down the stairs faster than someone can fall. Fly at incredible speeds without smashing the city around you with sonic booms. This won’t really help when you’re up against another superhuman though. When both characters are using this effect it just goes back to comparing the underlying abilities – but it will allow (for a very dramatic example) Binary to punch Rogue into orbit without serious harm to either character OR destroying the area, just as it will then allow Rogue to return from the vicinity of the moon and locate her destination in mere seconds. It means that long-range travel operates at the speed of plot rather than according to actual time and distance – with the only important measurements being however the game master chooses to distinguish between “way too late”, “just too late”, “just in time”, and “way early”.

As a side-benefit, this also means that you can and will function normally – without smashing up the scenery, punching too hard and obliterating minor street gang members, or killing your sexual partners – whenever over-the-top super-abilities do not fit your narrative.

Any character headed into a four-color superhero setting should gain this ability for free as a world law, just as they normally no longer need to worry about having limited power sources – but it’s cheap enough to buy.

Superheroic Durability (6 CP):

Superheroes are very often stunned, knocked out, or injured by their opponents attacks.

Wait. Lets just think about that for a moment. Quite a lot of superheroes are fairly normal people under their battle armor, or force field, or whatever – a lot like a normal soldier sitting in a tank. But looking at attacks on tanks… the vast majority of the time attacks either fail to get through (and leave the crew rattled but basically unscathed) or they wreck the tank and leave the crew dead. When one percent of a weapons impact is more than enough to kill someone you only get injured targets on a hit if something has used up more than 99% of the weapons total energy but still less than 99.99% or so (whatever it takes to get it down below the threshold of serious injury).

That’s a VERY narrow zone. Yet comic book characters with wildly varying defenses engage in quite a lot of combat against wildly varying opponents with all kinds of weapons, and take a fair number of hits, and yet they generally have long survival times.

3.5 and Eclipse handle this by making hit points utterly abstract and damage non-linear. A hit from a Colossal Mace should – by virtue of basic physics – be capable of doing hundreds of thousands of times as much damage as a hit from a 1d8 Medium Mace, yet according to the d20 rules it only does 6d6. That’s as if dropping a can of soup on your foot five times in a row was equivalent to being caught between a high speed loaded truck and a rockface.

Want to consider a nuke? Well, d20 Future tells us that a one-megaton nuke (one of the few weapons on the list that’s actually real and comparable) does 16d8 damage – an average of 72 points. My scaling calculations (from hand-held explosives, but the same article again) tell me that a one-megaton blast would cause either 20 or 21 d6 damage (averaging 70 and 73.5 respectively, or 71.75 together). Alternatively, we can also just go by the standard charts for explosives and weapon sizes – which tell us that a Tiny explosion causing 3d6 damage can be scaled up to a Colossal explosion causing 18d8 damage. That’s remarkably consistent really. As for what it shows us…

  • In d20 each +1 multiplier to your hit point damage represents ten times as much actual physical damage. How does that work? It’s because inflicting injury in d20 is more about convincing your target that they SHOULD be hurt than it is about actual forces that cause physical injury. Because RPG’s are “Let’s Pretend” with rules – and the hit point rules are aimed at convincing the player that their character “should be dead”. There are plenty of mid-level d20 fighter types who can take a nuke to the face without so much as flinching – and can still be wiped out by twenty to thirty blows from a club. Bombs? A bright flash, a loud noise, and a bit of an impact? Why would they believe that something that is over so fast can really hurt them? But a club now… a club is CONVINCING. EVERYONE knows that a club hurts! You learned that as a little kid!

No, that doesn’t make much of any sense from a “realistic” prospective. Because, you know, MAGIC.

Fortunately, this system works just fine for superheroes – but it’s worth noting that Superheroes are knocked out a lot more often than they’re seriously hurt or killed and take even more hits than a low-level 3.5 character can. In the comics… this is usually a version of professional courtesy. “If you restrain yourselves, so will we – because we WILL lose sometimes, and we’d rather get to survive doing so”.

When superheroes do take a serious wound it tends to be quite dramatic though. Ergo, we’ll want to buy…

  • Superhuman Resilience: DR 3/- (affecting both physical and energy damage), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (9/-) / only to reduce lethal damage to nonlethal damage, bypassed by critical hits (6 CP).

That basically amounts to “I can take twenty times as much damage as a normal person without serious harm, but can be knocked out without incredible difficulty.

Superheroic Build (A.K.A. “The Most Common Power”) (3 CP):

Ever noticed that almost all the major characters in comics look really good? Is that a standard secondary power that comes with everything?

Not really. Standard “superheroic good looks” are a consequence of the medium. Humans tend to see clearly defined and highly symmetrical features, clear skin, an average-to-slim build, and somewhat “generic” features, as indicators for good health and good genes – in other words, an attractive/handsome/beautiful potential mate. There are a lot of nonvisual cues too, but comics are primarily a visual medium.

All of those features turn up in comics simply because comics start off as long sequences of line drawings. That means that making the main characters easier to draw is quite important. Clearly defined features? Line drawing. Highly symmetrical? Far easier to draw in a variety of poses and from various angles. Clear skin? Who wants to waste time and effort drawing skin blemishes? Average build? Easy to draw and lots of sample shots to look at. Somewhat generic features? Helps avoid any accusations of drawing stereotypes AND makes it easy for the audience to accept and identify with the characters. Result: standardized generic good looks. Buy this as…

  • Minor Privilege: Cultivated Appearance. Regardless of their actual Charisma, this character gets to describe themselves as good looking, horrifying, or utterly ordinary as they prefer (3 CP). Yes, pretty much ANY super can get groupies.

Rapid Recovery (3 CP):

Real people break bones, lose blood, and can take a vary long time indeed to recover from very small amounts of damage. Supers, however, recover quickly, rarely suffer lingering effects from their injuries, and wake up again on a moments notice. That’s…

  • Grant of Aid, Specialized/requires at least one minute to activate (3 CP).

That’s not a LOT of recovery – but it’s fairly broad spectrum, will suffice to automatically stabilize a dying character, and will start at the player’s call – so it will wake the character up if he or she is unconscious or something.

Minor Conventions (6 CP):

Given that everyone needs to be readily identifiable, and that drawing costume changes and/or damage complicates things, comic book characters tend to wear their colorful, easily-identifiable, negative stealth modifier, and wholly impractical costumes everywhere (or at least change into them impractically fast). For the same reason they’re virtually never damaged too badly and are good enough for broiling deserts and arctic conditions – although, to be fair, most superheroes seem to shrug off petty inconveniences like “estimated survival time of twenty minutes” anyway.

  • Innate Enchantment, all powers Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated. Specialized for Increased Effect (counts as extraordinary abilities, not magic) /
    • Ready for Inspection: Prestidigitation, Only to keep the user clean and neat and help perform quick costume changes (Note that characters with minor signature traits – always chewing on a cigar, having a few jelly babies in a pocket, etc, may count a couple of those as a part of their “costume”) x.5 = 500 GP.
    • Comics Code: Mending, Only to keep the “necessary” bits of the user’s costume in good repair. Thus, men can lose their shirts, but never their pants – unless it’s THAT sort of comic of course. X.25 = 250 GP.
    • It’s Sufficient: Endure Elements , Personal Only (x.7), 2/Day Only (x.4) = 560 GP. Whatever the costume looks like, it’s perfectly comfortable and adequate for all normal earthly climactic conditions.
    • Heroic Will: Protection From Evil, Personal Only (x.7), 3/Day Only (x.6), Only when the GM feels that the user is being compelled to do something against their personal code or otherwise is likely to summon a mighty surge of will to throw off possession/mind control/etc (x.25) = 210 GP.
    • Heroic Rally: Remove Fear, 2/Day Only (x.4), user must make an adequate inspiring speech (x.6) = 480 GP.
    • Coincidental Catch: Feather Fall, 2/Day Only (x.4), activates automatically (x1.5), but only works 50% of the time (x.4) = 480 GP. When a hero falls off a roof or gets dropped, there is a substantial chance that SOMETHING will happen to break his or her fall.
    • Heroic Health: Relieve Illness (from the Hedge Wizardry spell list) 1/Day (x.2), Personal Only (x.7) = 280 GP. Relieve Poison (from the Hedge Wizardry spell list) 1/Day (x.2), Personal Only (x.7) = 280 GP, Lesser Restoration 1/Day (x.2), Personal Only (x.7) = 280 GP. Fast Healing I (from The Practical Enchanter, for 18 rounds, 2/Day (x.4), Personal Only (x.7)) = 560 GP.

This leaves 2100 GP value open – enough for a trio of personal-only cantrips, an as-needed first level spell (even if perpetual healing is banned). Can you evaluate an area at a glance (L1, Sift), perform impressive card tricks (very limited Prestidigitation, L0), be perpetually optimistic (Good Hope, L1), never run out of bullets (Abundant Ammunition, L1), disguise yourself quickly (Disguise, L1), act extremely innocent (Innocence, L1), perform ventriloquism (ventriloquism, L1), look young despite your advanced age (Youthful Appearance, L1), smell poison (Detect Poison, L0), always know True North (Know Direction, L0), have small bonuses on a few skills (Skill Mastery spell template from The Practical Enchanter), always Stabilize when dying? (Stabilize, L0), hold your breath for a long time (Air Bubble, L1), have a knack with animals (Calm or Charm Animal, both L1), ignore movement penalties for difficult terrain (Feather Step, L1), jump well (Jump, L1), have exceptional senses (Keen Senses, L1), leave no tracks (Pass Without Trace, L1), communicate with animals (Speak With Animals, L1), or just swim really well (Touch of the Sea, L1)? Well, here’s a way to add it to your list of attributes as a minor quirk, mostly unrelated to being a super. You don’t have to limit yourself to what’s listed; if you want to always have a pocketful of smoke pellets… well, “produce puff of smoke” is probably a L0 effect.

That’s 24 CP – half of what a first level character gets as a base. And while it doesn’t provide any major powers as of yet… it’s not a bad start. Next up; building a few mutants.

Linear Fighter, Assistant Wizard

For today, we have a retrospective question about just when “wizards got so overpowered!”.

For the quick answer, is 3.0. For the long answer…

Originally, back in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (First and Second Edition), if you played the game as written… spellcasting didn’t really dominate the game. Over more than a decade of play with several different groups it soon became pretty obvious that Fighters did. Paladins, Rangers and Monks were all good – but the entry requirements kept them rare. Thieves helped with scouting and traps and taking out bosses with carefully set up backstabbing, but the main drive against the enemy was always the fighters.

And that was about right. In a very large proportion of legends, myths, and fantasy stories… wizards were either enemies or they were assistants to the heroic warriors who were the real stars. They had many interesting powers, and their spells might turn the tide at a dramatic moment, enable visits to strange locations of adventure, and trick overwhelming foes – but they were still secondary. Swords, bows, secondary weapons, and (sometimes) martial arts still did the main work.

But wait! Magic-Users had all those incredibly powerful spells! Almost as many as Wizards and Sorcerers do in 3.5 or Pathfinder!

Yes, they did. And they had segmented casting times at ten segments to the round and usually at least one segment per spell level. It was often more; looking back at my first edition books, many first level spells required three or four segments. Hold Person, at level two, required five segments – in a system where you determined initiative with opposing d6 rolls and any interruption ruined the spell. There were no “concentration” checks, saving throws were fixed numbers, spellcasters couldn’t evade attacks while casting, only got to know a limited number of spells, often couldn’t learn spells they wanted, some of them couldn’t use armor at all, and might take many days of rest and study (or prayer) to prepare all their spells.

Thus the Dungeon Masters Guide told us

Because spell casting will be so difficult, most magic-users and clerics will opt to use magical devices whenever possible in melee, if they are wise.

For that matter… it took a lot longer to go up in level. For example… killing an Orc was worth an average of 14.5 XP. Getting to level three as a Magic User required 4501 XP. That meant that your party of four needed to kill off 1242 orcs to reach level three through combat experience if no one died (if someone died the doubling experience point tables let a new character catch up very quickly, which was good because older edition characters died a lot). Even with experience for treasure… a party usually only gained 3-6 levels per year of play – 50-odd sessions.

So what would those spellcasting limitations look like if you imported them into a current d20 game? Well, at least in Eclipse, such “Old School” magic levels are blatantly Specialized and Corrupted for one-third cost (or possibly even double-specialized given the number and severity of limitations here).

Basic Spellcasting Limitations:

Casting Spells takes more time. If the base casting time is:

  • One Standard Action the spell requires three initiative counts per spell level including metamagic other than “Quicken”).
  • One Full Round the spell requires sixty initiative counts.
  • More Than One Round the spell requires ten times as long to cast.
  • A Free Action the spell requires one initiative count.
  • A Swift or Immediate Action the spell requires two initiative counts.
  • Scrolls require the normal casting time, and are subject to the same limitations as direct casting. Wands and Rods only require three counts to activate, while Staves require six. Unfortunately, the save DC for wands, rods, and staves is only 14.
  • If such an action would not be completed before “0”, the countdown continues into the next round.

There is no such thing as a concentration check. Any damage or distraction that would normally call for a concentration check causes your spell to fail automatically, and be lost.

Spellcasting does not invoke attacks of opportunity, but the spellcaster cannot apply Dodge or Dexterity bonuses to his or her AC while spellcasting without losing the spell.

You may only prepare spells after a period of uninterrupted rest or meditation.

  • 1’st and 2’nd level spells require four hours.
  • 3’rd and 4’th level spells require six hours.
  • 5’th and 6’th level spells require eight hours.
  • 7’th and 8’th level spells require ten hours.
  • 9’th level spells require twelve hours.

It takes fifteen minutes per level of the spell per spell to prepare a spell. Thus preparing a third-level spell requires forty-five minutes. If you then go on to prepare a fifth level spell, that’s an hour and fifteen minutes – for a total of two hours to prepare two spells.

You cannot spend more than eight hours preparing spells before you will need to rest again to prepare more.

There is no such thing as spontaneous spellcasting. All spells must be prepared.

The spell charts are not “spells per day”. The spell chars show the maximum number of spells a spellcaster may have prepared. A powerful spellcaster may need many days to prepare all of his or her spells.

This means that a spellcasters daily “spell budget” is basically sixteen to thirty-two levels of spells. At the low end that might be four first, three second, and two third level spells. It would take a seventh level magic user five hours to memorize his or her selection of 4/3/2/1 (twenty spell levels in total) spells after at least six hours of uninterrupted rest. A ninth level magic user with the capacity to store 4/4/3/2/1 spells needs eight hours of rest and eight and a quarter hours to prepare spells – and if he or she tried to cast them in a fight, a fair chunk of those would probably be disrupted and lost.

The DC of saving against a spell is fixed at 16. Yes, this means that high-level targets will almost always make their saving throws.

Counterspelling is possible, but usually pointless. If you have time to hold an action for a counterspell, why aren’t you tossing off a quick Magic Missile or something and stopping your opponent from casting a spell in the first place?

Additional Arcane Caster Limitations Include:

  • Arcane Casters may only learn (Int/2) spells of each level they can cast. Read Magic is automatically one of them. They normally begin with another three first level spells – one offensive, one defensive, and one utility, selected at random.
  • Arcane Casters must record the spells they gain access to along with the results of a roll of (1d20 + Spell Level). If that is under their current intelligence, they can comprehend the spell and may choose to add it to their spells known.
    • For an example, Tim the Intelligence 14 Magic User has gotten ahold of scrolls or spell formulas for Color Spray (19), Burning Hands (3), Glitterdust (15), Pyrotechnics (12), Fireball (9), and Fly (16). With a maximum spell list of seven spells of each level he can cast, he may opt to learn Burning Hands, Pyrotechnics, and Fireball. If he gets his Int up to 15 he could opt to learn Glitterdust, and at 16 he could opt to learn Fly. Sadly, Color Spray is likely to remain far out of reach at any level where it might be useful – unless Tim saves a first level slot and opts to research (say) Tim’s Scintillating Butterflies, which is a different spell with the same basic effect. Note that, if you successfully research a spell you still roll – but the maximum result is equal to your current intelligence.
  • Arcane Casters only automatically gain one spell formula from among those they could potentially cast each level (although they may seek out or buy more if the game master allows it or they capture a spellbook or something). They may check (and record) their spell comprehension for desired spells until they find one that they can currently comprehend to add to their spellbooks. They may add a spell that they cannot currently cast to their books if they so desire, but usually have no reason to do so.
    • For example, Tim has made level seven, and wants a fourth level spell – in his case he wants Wall of Fire. Unfortunately, the check results in a roll of 23 – far beyond his intelligence! He doesn’t pick that one. Dimension Door turns up a 15. That’s tempting – next level he’ll get his Int up to 15 and be able to use it – but why not choose it next level? Next up, his third choice of Lesser Globe Of Invulnerability comes up a “7” – and so Lesser Globe Of Invulnerability goes into his book and onto his list of learned spells.
  • Arcane Casters will find that any armor or shield that would normally produce a 5% or more chance of arcane spell failure causes automatic arcane spell failure.
  • As a note, spellbooks do NOT have plot immunity. They may be stolen, destroyed by area-effect spells and attacks, and so on. It is VERY WISE to use backup spell books and traveling spell books!

Additional Divine Caster Limitations Include:

  • Divine spellcasters may only pray for a limited list (Wis/2) of spells of each level they can cast. “Consecrate Holy Symbol” (L1) is always one of them.
  • Divine spellcasters may only select spells for their list that are appropriate to their god. For a quick example, Odin does not grant Sanctuary and Poseidon does not grant Flame Strike. If the game master has the time, and wishes to make the effort, gods may also offer access to unique spells related to their particular specialties.
  • Divine spellcasters gain spells beyond level three from spiritual servants of their god and gain spells of level seven or above directly from their god at the discretion of those entities. They may be denied spells, granted spells other than what they prayed for, be assigned missions or quests, or be asked to attone for misdeeds at the whim of those entities.
  • Divine spellcasters who change gods must prove themselves worthy followers of their new god with mighty oaths, quests, and deeds in the service of their new god. If they attempt to leave the service of their new god, those same oaths will utterly destroy them.
  • As a rule, Clerics will be asked to spend time preaching, to refuse missions that their god does not approve of and to undertake ones that he or she does approve of without further reward, to use weapons and armor only as approved of by their god, to build and maintain temples, and so on.

Spellcasters operating under those restrictions will be roughly back to where they were in first and second edition; they may have some useful noncombat effects that they may use for special circumstances and they will have a very limited range of combat spells and game-changing effects that they can cast once in a while during fights IF a bunch of other characters protect them while they do it. Their spells, however, often will not work against high-end opponents, who can be counted on to make their saving throws. Magic will become, once again, a very limited special resource, to be husbanded carefully and deployed with planning – or in extreme emergencies.

Of course, in Eclipse, all this reduces the cost of your magic levels to the point where you can easily afford to add some weapons skills, a better BAB, a few more hit points, and other bennies – resulting in the modern equivalent of an old-style multi-classed character without any major complications or sacrifices.

Looking at all this also helps explain why so many players made Elven Fighter/Magic-Users in first and second edition days despite the 7/11 level limitation. After all… level eleven was well past the point where you could prepare all your spells each day. Were you on a long adventure? You’d have just as many spells each day as a higher-level human mage. They’d be weaker spells (at least in some cases), but YOU could wear armor. Not only did you have a better chance of getting your spells cast because you were harder to hit, but you weren’t an obvious target like that unarmored guy. If you started from level one, a human magic-user wouldn’t really have much of a magical edge on you for nearly two hundred sessions. Even better, the high-end magical gear worked for you just as well as it did for a higher-level wizard – reducing the gap even more. I, personally, played a maxed-out elven fighter/magic-user for a couple of years in a game that went up past level eighteen (for the human wizard, characters with easier advancement tables had higher levels) and it worked just fine. I even got some better items than the higher-level mage because they were used more often, and so did more good for the party, in the hands of someone who didn’t have so many other high-level spell options. And best of all… you could reasonably play your fighter/magic-user through the fifty-odd lower-level sessions before adding a human wizard to the party became really viable.

Underlying The Rules Part VI: Discussion and Development

And for today it’s an answer to a question again…

So I’ve recently been reading Dave Arneson’s True Genius, and it’s really been making me think of Eclipse. The first essay in particular, regarding how Original D&D utilized a melding of open system and closed system designs to establish a new paradigm of game design (and play) that went beyond what either could accomplish alone – and how this was largely lost with the release of AD&D and its rejection of the open system principles therein in favor of standardization – is an excellent summary of why I love what Eclipse has done with regards to (as I see it) trying to reintroduce those principles back into Third Edition (at least somewhat) via the mutability of game rules (a la corruption and specialization for abilities, world templates, a stronger focus on modularity with what’s used and what’s not, etc.).

In that light, this article takes on a new dimension, as it honestly looks like KrackoThunder is trying to leverage the closed system principles of Third Edition (e.g. the immutability of the “implied setting,” the invariability of the rules, and their extrapolation with regard to “how things work”) to achieve the results that you’d get from an open system, wherein those things are defined as part of the act of creating the setting (or, at a slightly higher level, using the rules as ur-tools to effectively build a game – along with a setting – unto itself) and so more easily allow for that level of alteration with regards to players tinkering with what is and is not allowable within the scope of the game.

Of course, as you noted here, that doesn’t really work; it’s like trying to “rob the bank” in Monopoly. Of course, the same is true in reverse as well, which is why I roll my eyes whenever I see someone unironically utilizing Eclipse to make what you called an “atrocity build.”


Breakthroughs are often very simple insights; the genius lies in picking out something that no one else saw.

Test your hypothesis. Only survivors breed. “Particles” are waves. Motion is relative.

Those are the key insights that led the the scientific method, to the theory of evolution, to quantum mechanics, and to relativity in three words each. Each explained things – why philosophical theorizing rarely led directly to practical advances, why animals and illnesses were so well adapted to their environments, why electrons didn’t spiral into nuclei, how Maxwell’s equations could work when things were moving.

Exploring the consequences of those simple ideas is still underway – in some cases after many centuries.

Personally, I’ve always seen the stroke of genius fundamental to role-playing games as a bit of psychological insight; Adult “Let’s Pretend” needs rules. And while that phrasing does evoke safewords and agreed-on limits rather than RPG’s… that’s fair enough, since that’s where the notion appeared first – even if that’s arguably an independent line of development.

But when it comes to games and “let’s pretend”… Unlike kids adults won’t be happy with Robbie the Dinosaur, Spaceman Spiff, the Wicked Witch of the East, and Megatron.

  • Adults are competitive; they don’t like to be overshadowed – and so every role needs to be unique and important. They need some rules on creating tolerably “balanced” characters and some expectations on what kinds of characters are appropriate.
  • Adults have firm opinions. Since they won’t give in easily they need rules to resolve what happens when they don’t agree on an outcome.
  • Adults want “fair” rewards and consequences for their decisions. They need a rules system for that or they’ll always suspect bias.
  • Adults want details – a more complicated plot with surprise twists and turns. They need a game master.

All of that flows from “Adults need rules”. They aren’t going to be happy with the vague “everyone imagines their own thing” that little kids are. For them… it’s not much fun without acknowledgement by others are a certain level of participation. That’s why a player who’s sulking, or busy reading a book, or getting drunk instead of playing is such a downer in a group.

And the practitioners of this new hobby looked upon it, and it was pretty good – but, unlike the works of a divine creator, it was equally obvious that it could be BETTER.

But, the hobbiests being human, and each having their own personal inner description of the perfect game, they didn’t quite agree on what would improve it.

  • Inevitably there were a lot of things that the original, simple, pioneering, rules did not cover – and so there was pressure for more rules, more tables, and more systems. They had a point. When there were no clear rules on a topic disagreements soon broke out.
    • Of course, more rules complicated everything. The people who wanted to play casually didn’t like that.
  • There was the push for more coherent and simpler rules. They had a point. All those tables and different systems for resolving various tasks were complicated and messy to deal with.
    • Of course, that meant that a lot of factors that affected specific tasks didn’t get included. The simulationists didn’t like that.
  • There were players who wanted pure role-playing and who didn’t like being restrained by rules at all – and wanted more options if there had to be rules. They had a point. More options meant more interesting and distinctive characters.
    • Of course, that complicated the rules in porportion to the number of options added. The people running the games didn’t like that.
  • There were the wargamers, who wanted to just relabel tanks, infantry platoons, and artillery units as “Knights”, “Men At Arms”, and “Wizards” and so on. They had a point. They were experts at turning limited sets of rules interactions into exciting scenarios.
    • Of course, the people who wanted more “realistic:, normal-human-scale characters didn’t like that.
  • The competitive players wanted clear methods of “winning” and – since that really didn’t work in a social game – at least wanted a way to keep score, whether that was accumulated gold, experience, reaching “name” levels, or access to better toys.
    • Of course, the people who liked to try new characters all the time didn’t like that.
  • The world-builders wanted a coherent underlying description of the way things worked so that they could explore the worlds and social systems that would result from such things, instead of just presuming a vaguely-medieval world.
    • Of course, the people who wanted to search the rules for exploits that were being overruled in the name of “the way the setting works” didn’t like that.
  • The deep-immersion players wanted death to be the result of heroic sacrifice, or a dramatic climax, or something. Wounds, disabilities illnesses… what fun were they?
    • Of course, the people who liked really big weapons and “realistic” battles didn’t like that.

And so compromises were made. Gaming groups filled with house rules, each group worked under different assumptions, and gaming fragmented.

And there were many other, albeit mostly more specific, fault lines and opposing forces for each.

And the publishers looked upon their sales figures, and this was bad.

To try and fix things there was compromise on the writers and publishers side. It was weighted towards new rules of course, simply because the publishers needed to keep selling stuff – but for quite some time gestures could be made towards almost everyone’s priorities because early game systems weren’t very sophisticated.

And so.,,

  • There were more rules, but there were attempts to keep a lot of them unobtrusive, on the game masters side, optional, or limited to particular situations.
  • There were premade characters, and quick-generation options, and ways to try to get people playing as quickly as possible.
  • There were attempts to streamline and unify the mechanics with things like single-mechanic skill systems instead of a mess of specific formulas and tables.
  • Compiled lists of special modifiers were (not unreasonably) pushed over to the game master to just assign some modifiers.
  • Options were added.
  • Characters did get to be the equivalent of military units (and superheroes and possibly even gods) later on, but they started off weak.
  • All sorts of character milestones were set up.
  • Character advancement was greatly accelerated, and the gap between old and new characters was (sometimes, since this annoyed the people with old characters) reduced.
  • The rules attempted to imply dangerous combat, deadly wounds, and long-term consequences – but were rewritten to make actual consequences vanishingly rare.
  • Some coherent information on “the way things worked” was added – but it was always a side-bar thing since the marketing department wanted every customer to buy everything.
  • Exploits were plugged, but mostly in obscure errata that only the people who were really annoyed by the exploits bothered to find.

That didn’t all happen in every game of course. Some games – those designed after the first rush – started off with some of it in place. Champions / Hero System, for example, started off with a well-chosen bell-curve generic resolution system, lots of options, and military-unit characters, but is still struggling with complexity, a lack of character milestones, “the way things work”, and various exploits. Rifts – thanks to creator decisions – has never really updated much of anything past the first few “different from AD&D” reforms. Basic Dungeons and Dragons went the minimalist route – and soon ran into the nothing much left to publish” barrier.

Eclipse, of course, is a compromise just like everything else – and, not too surprisingly, leans towards my biases.

  • Complexity? I can easily deal with that. Bring on the complexity!
  • Casual play? Grab a pre-build (although I’ve put out a lot of those for various settings). I’m not giving up my options!
  • Coherence? Well, using d20 as a base took care of THAT. If anything it had gone too far – and thus my support for a 3d6 skill mechanic. Roll 3d6 instead of 1d20 sometimes seems reasonable enough to me.
  • Modifiers? I can think of thousands for everything. This is hopeless, so the game master will have to handle it.
  • Realistic characters? A bit at first – but I can be a realistic person every day. I want my larger-than-life impossible feats of heroism!
  • Disparity between old and new characters? Eclipse offers several ways to play with the power curve. For this… new characters can be made powerful, but very focused – becoming more versatile as their association with older characters drags them along to higher levels more rapidly fast enough to add new abilities as they finish exploring old ones.
  • Deadly combat? I tend to prefer role-playing, so defenses are fairly cheap and plentiful – if sometimes (such as Action Hero/Stunts) limited use to ensure that there’s some longer-term cost to losing.

Perhaps most importantly… Eclipse restricts itself to pure mechanics, with little to no “setting” material – but directly tells the game master to restrict, modify, or ban any options that do not fit into his or her setting. In Eclipse, “The way things work” explicitly overrides “but the rules say”.

Not surprisingly, Eclipse appeals most to those with similar biases – although there is a substantial secondary appeal of “everything you need to make an optimized or exotic character is in the basic book”.

When it comes to KrackoThunder, I could be wrong, but I suspect that he or she sees the games as fairly adversarial things in which the game master has arbitrary power and it’s up to the players to try to “win” by coming up with rules-combinations that trump various game master ploys (or, occasionally, each other). Thus the questions about making your minions absolutely loyal, making spells totally unbreakable, using Channeling (Conversion) to gain limitless use of Wish or Miracle, laying mega-powerfed curses, and so on.

Unfortunately, from that point of view, suggesting that the setting and the social requirements of the game override rules, exploits, and gambits like the classic “introducing gunpowder” routine amounts to arbitrarily declaring that the players are not allowed to win and that there is no point in playing.

Still, while a few games (and MMORPGs) are run that way, tabletop RPG’s were never really designed to be adversarial at all – and “winning” generally consists of having a good time, being creative, and winding up with good stories rather than dominating clashes of rules. To the best of my knowledge, only World Of Synnibar has attempted to put in a rule which says that if anyone can identify a spot where the game master failed to follow the rules exactly as written during a session then the entire session is null and void.

I hope that KrakoThunder and his or her friends are having a good time with their games – but given that all the stuff I write ultimately comes with the caveat “See how your game master thinks this works in the setting” I just don’t see how I can contribute. to an adversarial game. Writing a few books doesn’t give me magical powers of overriding local game masters.

Still, I hope this little retrospective has been interesting!

My Little Pony Index II

Ponies have continued to be a fairly popular topic – so here’s an updated subindex for pony-related material. There’s a fair amount of background and three major categories of ponies in the herd though – d20 ponies built using the Supheroic World Template (everyone gets free Mana equal to their Con Mod each round), Ponies built to Alzrius’s standards (compatible with 3.5, Pathfinder, and Ponyfinder), and Hero System Ponies (we use 4’th edition, but it’s not like NPC’s need a lot of updating).

Eclipse d20 Ponies (My Versions):

Background Material:

Building Pony Characters / Examples:

Hero System Ponies:

Thanks to terribly bad luck and some summonings, some ponies from the (normally imaginary) magical land or Equestria are running about in the current Champions game. Oh well. Superheroic Mages have turned lose much sillier and more destructive things.

  • Prince Blueblood and the Cartoon Powers Package: Prince Blueblood the Navigator, standard “Toon” powers, and why Celestia tolerates him.
  • Apple Bloom: Alchemist, trap-maker, and (very) minor earth-mage. For when you want to film “home alone” in Equestria.
  • Scootaloo: Scout, weathermage, and junior speedster. Note that – since normal humans with no wings at all can learn flight magic in the setting, this version of Scootaloo CAN fly. She just can’t steer too well yet…
  • Sweetie Belle: Junior sorceress, singer, and just too cute to stop. For all the Cutie Mark Crusaders “Awwww… We’re not in trouble are we?” moments.
  • Trixie Lulamoon and the Alicorn Amulet:  Trixie the Minor Sorceress, a discussion of Traveling Performers – and the power of the Alicorn Amulet.
  • Apex – Prince Blueblood Escapes From My Little Pony: An upgraded Prince Blueblood as a hero of the Apex setting. The role of the nobility in the government of Equestria. Blueblood finds his purpose – and it’s being an arrogant ass.

Alzrius’s Eclipse d20 Ponies:

Alzrius built his ponies so as to fit into “standard” d20 games – whereas I used the “Superheroic” world template because it would allow my builds to reproduce the things that the ponies did on the show. Of course, that means that my builds will only work well in games based on the assumptions of Equestria; they won’t do so well in basic games. For those, courtesy of Alzrius, we have…

My Alzrius-Styled Eclipse Ponies:

Alzrius Pony Notes:

If and when additional pony-related material gets posted on this blog or Alzrius’s blog, I’ll try to link it here.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition(RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.