Underlying The Rules Part V – Questions And Answers

And now that I have a few minutes to start catching up on comments again, this particular comment from KrakoThunder brings up some interesting points about the d20 system and what happened to it. Admittedly, that’s starting to drift away from generic social expectations applicable to all gaming – but the difference in perception comes up quite a lot.

  • Part One in this series – The Social Contract – can be found HERE.
  • Part Two – Adjusting The Spotlight – can be found HERE.
  • Part Three – Making A Group Effort – can be found HERE.
  • Part Four – Setting Over Rules (The part that this comment was addressed to) – can be found HERE.

…Personally I feel that Setting, at least in 3.5 or pathfinder, isn’t actually that relevant…

That’s an excellent illustration of a fairly subtle point – a division in social expectations between people who are used to d20 style games and most other systems that goes back to an old marketing decision. Wizards of the Coast wanted to sell as many copies of each book as possible – and so they did something fairly innovative.

They had a reasonably universal system and so they quietly decoupled their mechanics-laden sourcebooks from specific settings and included hints in the books and online on how to squeeze the new material from each such sourcebook into their existing settings.

That was subtle, but big. There had been plenty of semi-universal systems before, but no one had ever really tried that. Chaosium’s Basic Role Playing covered a lot of things – but they never tried to make the stuff they published for Runequest fit into Nephilim or Nephilim stuff fit into Superworld. Similarly, a Hero System “Galactic Guardians” sourcebook was never meant to be compatible with a Justice Inc. game – and there was no attempt to make it so. GURPS put out world sourcebooks with no intent that their Lensman sourcebook would ever be coupled with one of their WWII sourcebooks.

Other games were less successful at it. For example, the One Roll Engine system was used for Godlike – a WWII game featuring superheroes with relatively minor powers who didn’t have too big an effect on history. But, while the setting was quite good… the One Roll Engine mechanics didn’t actually support the “relatively minor powers” or “not too big an effect on history” part. It wasn’t at all hard to build characters who broke the game, often even if you didn’t mean to do so. There are several such characters on the blog here simply because I found it amusing to make them.

Quite a lot of games weren’t that ambitious. They wrote tight systems that were deeply integrated with specific settings. Games like World Tree or Army Ants or Bunnies and Burrows could be very, VERY, good games – but you weren’t going to be able to use their systems to run a Starship Troopers game or a cold war espionage game.

But that limited sales – and so Wizards Of The Coast quietly de-emphasized “Setting”, suggesting that it was essentially unfair of game masters to disallow the use of whatever nifty new sourcebook a player had purchased and become enamored of.

This, however, turned something that had previously been a very minor problem into a major one. Sourcebooks aren’t written by an omniscient collective, and editors really can’t keep complete track of thousands of pages of rules. So if a “Voodoo Pirates” sourcebook included a “Loa Bound” ability which let each character bind with a single Loa to gain a package of distinctive magical pirate powers that they could use all they wished… well, that worked just fine in a Voodoo Pirates game. Everyone got one highly distinctive power package.

But if a player took “Loa Bound” and then (say) pulled a “Celestial Radiance” ability from some other sourcebook – perhaps a “High Gods” book of religious powers – which let a character convert innate magical effects into shields and blasts of light and combined it with a “Surging Birthright” ability from a “Mystic Talents” sourcebook that boosted innate magical powers (and was meant to be used with the relatively minor powers from that book), then suddenly the game master found himself or herself dealing with the equivalent of Marvel’s Dark Phoenix running around blasting things in his secret supernatural psychic detectives setting.

That’s an exploit. Things that were never meant to be used that way being used to break the game. Now those particular books don’t actually exist (although books along those lines with staff that breaks the game if used elsewhere certainly do) – but the pattern should be recognizable to any d20 gamer. The fact that no one can agree on just where the line between “good character design” and “abusive exploits” lies just complicates the problem.

Exploits hadn’t been a big problem before. There had been a lot of games – Brave New World, World of Synnibar, and too many more to count – who’s rules just didn’t work properly. There were plenty of games where the rules were a poor match for the intended setting too – but sourcebooks intended for particular settings had always tended to be light on mechanics, heavy on setting information, and had a much more limited range of other sourcebooks to interact with. They also were usually written by individuals or small, cooperative, groups, came out far less often, and had groups of playtesters who played in that particular setting and so were familiar with all the information for it. Most exploits got edited out well before such books were published. Most of what got through were typos or stuff that was simply ambiguously phrased if you didn’t already know what it was supposed to mean.

That meant that, up until this point, most exploits had been of individual rules that were poorly written. For example, early editions of Champions / Hero System had “Endurance Batteries” which, when combined with other flaws such as “increased endurance cost”, could make powers free to use and much cheaper at the same time. That kind of thing was easily errataed though. Endurance batteries were changed into the Endurance Reserve power, and how they worked was modified – and the exploit went away.

But changing how “Loa Bound” worked would mean rewriting the entire Voodoo Pirates sourcebook. The same might go for the Celestial Radiance from the High Gods sourcebook, while removing Surging Birthright from the “Mystic Talents” book would make half of the rest of the book useless.

And so many “optimized” d20 characters wind up taking one level each in a bunch of different prestige classes, and combining stuff from half a dozen different sourcebooks that their authors never meant to be used together no matter what the marketing department said. Unfortunately, confessing that the books were incompatible would undermine the marketing strategy and reduce profits. That was out of the question. Ergo exploits were sometimes dealt with with special rules or online errata, but were mostly left to individual game masters to deal with. This led to the era of “Handbooks”, “Optimization Boards”, and Pun-Pun. Sure, you can find some optimization advice for GURPS and such – but it tends to be fairly general and minor, or rely on specific tricks that no game master in their right mind will allow, rather than on combining stuff from fifteen different sourcebooks in a detailed twenty-level build. For d20 there are massive works covering optimization for pretty much every character class.

The problem carried over into Pathfinder as well – and Pathfinder has become even more of a “throw in anything and everything” system than 3.5 was, simply because it picked up where 3.5 left off. Ultimately however… this path is a dead end. Gaming is a social activity, and focusing on the mechanics may fill your time when you’ve got no one to play with, but trying to actually use exploits eventually reaches the point where it’s disrupting the actual game – and that really doesn’t get you much of any extra fun.

That’s one reason why Eclipse includes a checklist for deciding what abilities will fit into your setting, advice on handling over-optimized characters, systems for character personalities and motives, and no setting at all. It’s also why it hasn’t really got any “expansion” books beyond a free web supplement that covers a few items that could not legally be included in Eclipse under the intial d20 license and a few typo corrections. Eclipse II includes one additional note (that you only get half “value” for negative attribute modifiers) and a lot of “how to use Eclipse to build what you want” segments. That’s to avoid the partially-compatible sourcebooks problem, to make sure that everyone has the same list of stuff to choose from to “optimize” their characters, and to limit the time and expense of running the game.

A strong setting is needed for serious roleplaying, to hold down on rules exploits, and to give a campaign it’s own identity. A really GOOD d20 campaign… is usually much more narrowly focused than the “you can use everything!” approach allows.

…Want a spaceship? Mind Flayers had spaceships, so spaceships obviously are a thing, and given infinite universes that are all connected via Far Realm, there’s a good chance somewhere there’ll be someone who fits the criteria. You probably can’t refuel it and you won’t find much out there, but you can have it….

Well, even if Mind Flayers exist in a given d20 setting (not being OGL material they often don’t) they may or may not have spaceships or bear any resemblance to “standard” Mind Flayers. As for the example of the “Predator” character and his spaceship and support staff and why he would not work in The Forgotten Realms… we’ll have to go into some history and look at the implications of allowing such a thing.

The Forgotten Realms existed as a literary setting long before Dungeons and Dragons came along – whereupon it became the setting for a personal campaign. Other gamers got little glimpses into that setting starting in Dragon #30 in 1979 – and then TSR produced the first edition set, wherein most of the space went to description and background, rather than first editions (rather slim) mechanics. We also got Kara-Tur, Moonshae, Waterdeep, an assortment of novels, and more – but, unlike Greyhawk, there really weren’t any major sci-fi elements.

Second edition stuff for the Forgotten Realms came along in 1990 – and brought us the quasi-mesoamerican Maztica subsetting as a bonus.

The Far Realms were introduced in 1996, in The Gates Of Firestorm Peak – (written for use with the Players Option series and nothing to do with the Forgotten Realms) – and didn’t really get tacked on to most of Wizards of the Coasts other settings until 3.0 (2000) and 3.5, when the idea that “every source should be potentially usable in any game” set in.

Now, as noted, the “predator” character was proposed not long after “Predator” first came out in 1987 – years before second edition came along, almost a decade before the Far Realms were introduced, and even longer before the option to use The Far Realms was shoehorned into The Forgotten Realms. That was back in first edition days, when the Forgotten Realms were pretty much pure sword-and-sorcery on an alternate earth.

Secondarily, as also noted, “Ri’al The Huntsman” came with a starship and a support staff. That isn’t like acquiring a flying carpet. That means access to a competent starship crew – to engineers with a through understanding of power systems and weaponry up through fusion devices and starship drives, to an armory, to multiple suits of powered battle armor, to planetary survey equipment, to radio communications, to an electronic library, to scientific specialists, and (of course) to an interstellar civilization to come from. All of which had to work. That’s kind of built in to playing a predator-type; if their technology doesn’t work all you have is a funny looking fighter with an attitude.

A functioning spacecraft doesn’t just mean “access to a lot of vacuum”. It means access to enormous amounts of technology, information, and possibly weaponry.

Of course, if that stuff worked… why hadn’t the gods of artifice and world-jumpers introduced it? The Forgotten Realms don’t support slow-and-steady scientific progress. It’s a world of superhuman intellects, skills far beyond what any human has ever had, divination, dimensional travel, and gods for every topic. If it’s not being used… it probably will not work.

…How unlikely is it for heroes to be the first one to find an exploit REALLY? I mean, someone simply has to be the first. The History of Humanity has always included the very same elements that make up the computer I’m typing this on (as refined etc. as they are)… And yet, computers sure didn’t exist at the dawn of humanity…

How unlikely is it for the player characters to be the first ones to find an exploit?

  • Does the setting include entities (whether Gods, Elder Races, Dimensional Travelers, Experienced Elder Characters) who know more, or have better sources of information than the player characters do? Why have all of them missed whatever-it-is?
  • Does the setting have a long history or is it very large? (For example, in many sci-fi games… quadrillions of Galaxies, each with many races which may be billions of years old?). Even just a few thousand years generally means that a LOT of similar characters have existed before.
  • Does it have a established list of developed spells, abilities, and technologies beyond what the characters have already mastered or longer than the characters contributions and developments? Then other characters have done more research and development than they have.
  • Have there been elder civilizations or races that reached peaks beyond the current state of the art?
  • Are the Player Characters devoting their time to adventuring rather than to doing research and development? The PLAYER reading about something on an optimization board or paging through the rulebook won’t help the CHARACTER come up with it.

If ANY of those apply… then it is vanishingly unlikely that the player characters will stumble across even a single major breakthrough or “exploit” that has been missed up until now.

Someone does indeed need to be first. For computers – which are not, by the way, “exploits” (those tend to be unexpected interactions, editing failures, misreadings, and game master errors) – there were many centuries of development by tens of thousands of people making incremental advancements. I really doubt that anyone wants to play out that process. Now if they wish to be fantasy innovaters… that’s what a “Founders” campaign is about. Otherwise… making even one original discovery is kind of unlikely. More than that becomes increasingly implausible.

I do tend to make exceptions for those players and characters who possess exceptional intelligence, knowledge, skill, and power and who then use them to attempt some experiment so insanely reckless that no one in their right mind would try it in a million years – but in that case I’m assuming that the few NPC’s who achieved the power to attempt such insanity knew better than to do it. If the character survives the resulting risk of death and (un-)healthy dose of catastrophe… well, they’ve earned some new knowledge. Still, that’s just me keeping the game exciting and rewarding in-character effort and player thought about the setting – not rewarding a player who’s been poring over the rulebooks and looking on the internet.

…Eh, I can get behind most of that… At least as long as the DM allows character rerolls. There is killing off a character you don’t like (which already sucks) and then there is making a player stick with a character that sucks because you made him magically out-of-nowhere suck…

Well, we are sort of before picking a particular system in these articles; that’s why the examples are from many different games. For that matter… while there are some settings – like the aforementioned World Tree – that are tied to their rules systems so tightly that they’d be quite hard to run otherwise – the Forgotten Realms really isn’t one of them. You could use the Forgotten Realms setting just fine without using AD&D or d20. You could use Baba Yaga, or GURPS, or ACE, or any of dozens of other systems since the setting itself doesn’t really rely on a specific set of rules.

As far as “allowing character rerolls” goes. I’m assuming that you mean making a new character if you’re not happy with the old one.

Really, as I’ve already noted, the players generally have more power over the game than the game master does. If you’re not having fun with the game, why play? The game master cannot make you play at all, much less make you play a character you’re not happy with. I’ve walked out of quite a few games that were boring or nonsensical when the game master refused to address those problems. On more than onc occasion the rest of the players have followed me. For an example of that… I was one of a group of players who concluded that one game masters current extra-dimensional adventure was neither interesting, coherent, or enjoyable – and the game master was refusing to reconsider any part of it or offer any alternative. Ergo the player group announced that our characters were now having a drink at the bar in their home town, talking about how lucky they’d been to find a handy gate out of that trap-dimension, and looking for another adventure to go on – and would be doing so regardless of what the game master said was happening until an adventure that we were interested in came up.

Some game masters will accept that no one is interested and go on to something else. Others will not. In this case… that particular game master stormed out. We simply took the existing characters, picked a new game master, and started another game.

He came back a few weeks later and joined the new game as a player.

No one can game master without players – but the players can always find or pick a new game master, rotate the task, or even play without one for quite some time.

…I feel like a lot of it is a nonissue unless someone is entirely uncooperative…

Very true. Unfortunately, however, a LOT of players can be entirely uncooperative on occasion – especially if they’ve got some idea in mind.

and finally:

…(btw, are you sure he didn’t mean Top Cow from Image Comics?).

Presumably this is in reference to Ballistic (from back in 2004, 4’th edition Hero System). Since I never did actually see any of the player’s source materials I really couldn’t say.

Of course, the major problem was that Ballistic apparently came from a fairly grim-and-gritty world, where powers were rare, people might spend months in agony in hospital burn wards, thousands of people could easily be murdered and disappear without a trace, and so on. Unfortunately, she was being imported into the Emergence setting, which stated that college degrees in magic were quite normal and most professionals used at least small spells (classical hedge magic and commercially available talismans ran up to ten active points, characters with talent or professional training could hit twenty, and rituals or those with magical ancestry could go even higher), that ghosts were common and could testify in court, and so on.

This meant that pretty much any injury or normal disease could be healed in a few minutes (It did take a ritual and a few hours to restore missing limbs and such), that the ghosts of murder victims commonly went to the police to complain about their deaths, that many kids could fly, that the weak and elderly often used telekinesis spells to handle tasks, that high-rise construction workers usually carried safe-fall charms, that long-term care (and hospitals) were pretty much nonexistent, and so on. The setting simply was not grim and gritty.

The player insisted on Ballistic being pursued by an evil corporation that was secretly murdering thousands of people and successfully covering it up in pursuit of researching things that had been commonly available via magic for centuries, on having enemies who were hunting his character because he’d put them in the hospital in agony for months (despite the lack of hospitals and long-term injuries once you reached an EMT or competent tribal shaman), and on lots of other details that simply were not consistent with the setting. He never did accept the fact that the setting simply did not match up with the setting of the comic book that he wanted to emulate or that – as a consequence – many of his characters “enemies” and most of her “history” didn’t actually exist.

That, of course, was what made the player and Ballistic a good bad example. He played… but he never really caught on to the fact that the rest of the characters considered his character an occasionally-useful madwoman.

And, for those who have gotten this far… hopefully that’s been at least thought-provoking!

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Champions – Ares Reborn

The untamed violence of war is not what it was. In a world of drones, snipers, carpet bombing, trenches, machine guns, and mortars… individual strength, and courage, and personal skill means a lot less than it did. Even looking back into history, personal battle skills and the terrible joy of battle lust began to fade long, long, ago. Even at the time of the Trojan War… organized warfare under the aegis of Athena was beginning to surpass personal valor.

The Romans improved things for quite some time – but twisted things more towards the virtues of an organized soldier. There was strength in their worship – but a subtle disconnect as well.

Eventually, on the blood-soaked battlegrounds of the first world war… valor meant almost nothing. To survive, one cowered in trenches, or crawled to the attack, darting from cover to cover to avoid the machine gun fire, hoping that you would not inhale a lethal dose of mustard gas, and – preferably – killing with stealth and surprise, rather than valiant challenge.

And Ares fell to Athena, was slain, and was cast into the formless void of fallen Titans – his connection to the greater aspects of his portfolio, as well as his old persona, lost.

But then Jann – the Voice Of Ancient Sorrows, a channel for the fallen – meddled recklessly, as he so often does. He called upon powers far beyond his control or understanding – opening a way for Ares (if weakened and cut off from his original sources of power) to return to the world and bond with a new aspect of war.

Jann, for his own reasons, has cheerily set about getting this new version of Ares hooked up with a new myth – one that’s surprisingly ubiquitous, but which has never really drawn a Titan to take it up. That’s because, under normal circumstances, they are too independent for this particular semi-faceless role. Still, there’s plenty of unclaimed belief and myth there – even if Ares WILL have to put up with being mostly known as “Sarge”.

Sarge, of course, is a pragmatic, tough-as-nails, career military man. Grand strategies and determining objectives are not for him; his task is to take a squad into battle and carry out whatever mission he’s been given. Fortunately, he’s got enough weapons to equip a battalion, is an expert in small unit tactics, and is pretty tough.

Ares is not entirely happy with his new tendency to let other people set the agenda – but it’s a LOT better than the condition he was in just a little while ago and this mythos… has a surprising amount of raw power behind it (thanks to appearing in virtually every war movie ever made) and is a fabulous step up from being lost in the formless void searching for a new role to step into.

Ol’ Sarge, Incarnation of Ares

Value Characteristic Points
25 STR 15
23 DEX 39
23 CON 26
10 BODY 0
13 INT 3
11 EGO 2
15 PRE 5
8 COM -1
5 PD 0
5 ED 0
4 SPD 7
10 REC 0
36 END -5
35 STUN 0
Total 91

 

Points Powers END
0 Minor Titan Racial Package
(20) Physical Limitation: Shaped By Belief. Titans may be powerful in their fields, but they are limited to a single, and invariably fairly straightforward, domain. A Spirit of Invention makes gadgets and – possibly – provides grants and teaches. Similarly, the spirit of Memorial Day is a formidable soldier, has lots of weapons, and can operate military vehicles – but that’s about it . (Frequently, Fully)
(20) Mental Characteristic Maxima of 15 (-20 Points). People never really think that their “gods” are really much smarter, or more perceptive, or whatever, than they are – no matter what their theme is. The God of Knowledge may have a lot of knowledge skills, but he or she normally won’t actually be much smarter than the average person. If there’s any one thing that the Titans find annoying about their relationship with mortals… this may be it. (All the Time, Greatly)
(20) Psychological Limitation: Themed. Titans aren’t even CAPABLE of getting seriously off-theme. A war god won’t be negotiating, the healing goddess won’t be building gadgets, and the god of justice won’t be letting criminals go, no matter how necessary it may be (Common, Total)
(12) Regeneration (1 BODY/week); Regenerate: From Death, +20
(3) Immune to Aging
16 Domain: 15 Points worth of ablities appropriate to their domain.
(16) +2 level w/All Combat
1 Overcost on his Domain Powers, above
20 Multipower (75-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Infantry Powers Only): -½; Visible (Mystically Conspicuous to Other Titans): -¼; Side Effects (Various Hunteds): 30/Half, -½; Generic Limitation (Side Effects cannot be avoided): -½; Variable Limitations: -1, -½; Generic Limitation (Cannot subdivide the points in the reserve, even if a slot does not use all of them): -½
Portfolio Powers
u-1 2d6 Righteous Wrath: Aid to All Physical Attributes (Fade/min., Max. 20); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Generic Limitation (Aid to self only): -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Only in Hero ID: -¼; Visible (Creates quite a flare of magical power): -¼

Net: +20 Str, +2 OCV, +2 DCV, +10 Con, +10 PD, +10 ED, +2 Spd, +10 Recovery, +40 Endurance, +20 Stun.

0
u-1 2d6 Campaign Outfitting: Aid to Papers, Maps, Languages, Vehicles, More Multipower Slots, Etc (Fade/day, Max. 50); Range: 0; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Generic Limitation (Only between missions or when a source is available)): -1½; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼

In general, outfitting for a campaign will include a low-level military vehicle (Jeep, APC, or similar), maps and a GPS (Area Knowledge), the local Language, an ID and any necessary permits/orders, MRE’s, a tent, and whatever other specialty gear (or multipower weapons slots) is appropriate for the job.

2
u-1 Commando Training
(4) +4 level w/HTH Combat; Only in Hero ID: -¼; Visible (Creates quite a flare of magical power): -¼; Generic Limitation (Must be struck in melee before this can be activated): -½
(11) Hand-to-Hand Attack (6d6, Total 7½d6); Range: 0; Variable Advantage: Max. Advantage 1, +2

Total of 9d6 when Str boosted to 45. Can also just be 0 End and do 15d strikes under similar circumstances.

5
u-1 Small Unit Tactics
(15) +2 level w/All Combat; Area Effect (Radius): 128″ radius, +1; Selective Target: +¼; Increased Area: ×32, +1¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½; Generic Limitation (Only works on people who are willing to listen to his orders): -½; Generic Limitation (Lasts a maximum of five minutes after he stops shouting): -½
u-1 Plot Armor; Focus (Wrist Bracer): Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Activation: 14-, -½; Charges: 16, +¾; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev
(7) Force Field (10 PD/10 ED) 0
(4) Power Defense (10 pts)
(4) Mental Defense (12 pts)
General Equipment
u-1 Flares: Change Environment/Brightly Lit (32″ rad.); Effect: Fixed, +0; Charges: 6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev 0
u-1 2d6 Heavy Pistol/Bow/Crossbow/Gyrojet: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 150; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4 0
u-1 Entrenching Tool / Tunneling (1″ through DEF 8); Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Focus (Entrenching Tool): Obvious Accessible, -1; Tunnels: Left Behind, +0 1
u-1 6d6 Concussion Grenade Stun-Only Energy Blast; Range: 225; Versus: PD; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; OAF: -1; Charges: +12, -¼ 0
u-1 2d6 Fragmentation Grenades: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 225; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; Charges: 8, -½; OAF: – 0
u-1 6d6 Inciendary Grenade: Energy Blast (Fire); Range: 225; Versus: ED; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; OAF: -1; Charges: +8, -½ 0
u-1 1d6+1 Light Machine Gun: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 300; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Area Effect (Radius): 4″ radius, +1; Charges: 60, +½; OAF: -1; Extra Time: full phase, -½

Yes, a machine gun fires a lot faster than this, it just rarely hits the same target more than this.

0
u-1 4d6 LAW Missile Launcher: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 300; OAF: -1; Charges: 8, -½ 0
u-1 4d6 Sword: Killing Attack (HTH) (Total 5½d6); Range: 0; Focus (Sword): Obvious Accessible, -1 6
u-1 15d6 Assault Cannon: Energy Blast; Range: 375; Versus: PD; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Charges: 6, -¼; Clips: 4 0
u-1 2d6 Claymore Mine: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 375; Area Effect (Cone): 14″ long, +1; Increased Area: ×2, +¼; Trigger: Set, +¼; OAF: -1; Focus Mobility: Immobile, -1; Extra Time: full phase, -½ 7
u-1 1d6+1 Flamethrower: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 350; Area Effect (Radius): 5″ radius, +1; Penetrating: +½; Continuous: +1; Charges: +6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; OAF: -1; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½ 0
u-1 2d6 Heavy Machine Gun: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 335; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Charges: 16, +¼; Clips: 4; OAF: -1; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Focus Mobility: Immobile, -1 0
u-1 2d6 Surface to Air Guided Missile: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 3000; No Range Penalty: +½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Increased Maximum Range: ×25, +½; OAF: -1; Charges: 8, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½ 0
2 Light Power Armor Elemental Control (6-pt reserve); All abilities -.5 OIF (Power Armor), -1 (Conventional Technology Only), -.25 (Visible: power armor is pretty obvious).
a-10 Armor (12 PD/8 ED); Hardened: ×1, ¼; Always On: -½
b-2 Flash Defense (Sight, 12 pts)
c-4 Life Support Systems
(1) Life Support: High Pressure/Vacuum
(1) Life Support: High Radiation
(4) Need Not Breathe
(1) Life Support: Intense Heat/Cold
d-2 Running (+4″, 10″, NC: 20″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 12; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
e-2 Superleap (+12″, 17″, NC: 34″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 36 2
62 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
16 +2 level w/All Combat
3 Combat Driving 14-
3 Stealth 14-
3 Survival 11-
0 English (Native Accent); Literacy: Standard, 0
0 Greek (Native Accent); Literacy: Standard, 0
2 German (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
27 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

100+ Disadvantages
10 Vengeful (Uncommon, Strong)
20 Extremely Violent (Very Common, Strong)
10 Public Identity
15 Reputation (14-)
5 Rivalry: Tacticians; Situation: Professional, 5; Position: Equal, +0; Rival: NPC, +0
10 2d6 Unluck
20 Hunted: Divine Enemies (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
90 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
91 + 89 = 180 190 = 90 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
8 8 4 12 17/12 13/8 3, 6, 9, 12

 

Height: 182cm (6’0″), Weight: 73kg (161 lbs), Sex: Male, Race: Titan

Champions – Dr Cronus

Old Gods Take New Names.
A Myth Entombed In Dusty Tomes Lies Fallow.
Its Titan Bound, Its Might Fading.
While Lesser Figures Of Ancient Tales
Still Mostly Formless, And Full With Possibility.
Seize Easily On New Tales And Forms
While Elders Fade And Formlessness Creeps In.
Each In Their Turn, Across The Ages.
The Fading And Rebirth, The Cycle Turns
Old Gods Take New Names.

The shape was new, and it’s powers still limited – but the tales were many, the followers a mighty host, and legends only grow stronger as the years pass. An elder master of time, the last of a primal race of reality-masters… it was a near-perfect fit.

Old Gods Take New Names.

And at an English museum-shrine, a Titan stepped forth from a blue Police Box. Doctor Cronus – the last Doctor that would ever be needed – had come forth from legend into reality.

Doctor Cronus is fairly new to this incarnation, but so far it’s going quite well. Being stuck with the TARDIS is something of a pain though. After all, the things actual function is to separate you from most of your allies and resources, prevent you from planning ahead, dump you into potentially deadly situations where the fate of the universe relies on you with little or no information to go on, and trap you there until you fix said situation. Attracting swarms of powerful enemies is just icing on the cake. Does it occasionally acting as a plot coupon and an excuse to play tourist REALLY make up for that? Especially in a setting where time travel isn’t particularly difficult in the first place?

 

Doctor Cronus

Value Characteristic Points
13 STR 3
14 DEX 12
13 CON 6
10 BODY 0
18 INT 8
11 EGO 2
15 PRE 5
10 COM 0
5 PD 2
5 ED 2
3 SPD 6
6 REC 0
24 END -1
24 STUN 0
Total 45

 

Points Powers END
0 Minor Titan Racial Package
(20) Physical Limitation: Shaped By Belief. Titans may be powerful in their fields, but they are limited to a single, and invariably fairly straightforward, domain. A Spirit of Invention makes gadgets and – possibly – provides grants and teaches. Similarly, the spirit of Memorial Day is a formidable soldier, has lots of weapons, and can operate military vehicles – but that’s about it . (Frequently, Fully)
(20) Mental Characteristic Maxima of 15 (-20 Points). People never really think that their “gods” are really much smarter, or more perceptive, or whatever, than they are – no matter what their theme is. The God of Knowledge may have a lot of knowledge skills, but he or she normally won’t actually be much smarter than the average person. If there’s any one thing that the Titans find annoying about their relationship with mortals… this may be it. (All the Time, Greatly)
(20) Psychological Limitation: Themed. Titans aren’t even CAPABLE of getting seriously off-theme. A war god won’t be negotiating, the healing goddess won’t be building gadgets, and the god of justice won’t be letting criminals go, no matter how necessary it may be (Common, Total)
(12) Regeneration (1 BODY/week); Regenerate: From Death, +20
(3) Immune to Aging
15 Domain: 15 Points worth of ablities appropriate to their domain.
(3) Absolute Time Sense
(3) Speed Reading
(3) Lightning Calculator
(3) Resistance (+3 to EGO Rolls)
(1) Immunity to Temporal Paradoxes; Frequency: Rare
(1) Immunity to Timeline Shifts; Frequency: Rare
(1) Immunity to Temporal Distortion; Frequency: Rare
25 Timelord Multipower (50-pt reserve); Side Effects: Attracts opponents from across all space and time, has to travel by Tardis, obliged to gratuitously meddle. 60/All, -1
u-3 2d6 Regenerative Energies: Aid to All Physical Attributes (Fade/turn, Max. 20); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Active Points: 52; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Charges: 32, +¼ 0
u-1 Clairsentience (Hearing, Sight); See: Future, +20; Charges: +6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; No Conscious Control: -2; Dimensions: Current, +0; Range: 250″ 0
u-2 25″ Moment Out Of Time / Teleportation (Long Range 25″); Increased Range: ×1, +0; Long Range: 25″; Long Range (miles): 0.03; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Fixed Locations: 0; Floating Locations: 0; Charges: +16, +0 0
u-1 2d6 Aid to Knowledge Skills (Fade/day, Max. 32); Range: 0; Charges: +8, -½; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Generic Limitation (Very Limited Conscious Control; The GM picks 16 points worth of skills and the user picks the other 16 – but the user may only change his choices at one point per week. ): -1

The Doctor generally knows a lot – but, oddly enough, never enough to really derail his current adventure.

0
u-1 Shape Shift (Various Humanoid Forms) (Limited Group); Charges: 1, +¼; Continuing Charges: 1 week, -8 lev; Generic Limitation (Only to periodically take on a new appearance and personality, which will then last for years or decades. ): -2; Difficult to Dispel: ×16, + 0
u-2 4d6 Telepathy; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Transdimensional: Any Dimension, +1

The Doctor occasionally receives messages, or gets into touch with someone, across space and time.

0
u-2 Warp Probability: Luck (10d6); Charges: +8
u-1 Summon TARDIS (1 100-point creatures); Range: 0; Summon: Single Type, +0; Generic Limitation (Always the same TARDIS, so problems carry over): -1; Generic Limitation (Only works when convenient for the plot or the current plotline is resolved. ): -1; Charges: +4, -1 0
u-2 Detect Dimensional Location and Structure (+20 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Ranged, +5
u-1 1d6 Mental Manipulation: Transform (Minor, Limited Class); Range: 0; Cumulative: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; No Range: -½; Autofire: 5 shots, ½

This is routinely used to acquire languages if the convenient “tardis translation effect” is not available.

0
u-2 +40 PRE; Charges: +8, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Turn, -2 lev
u-2 1d6 Tinker: Transform random bits to any needed device (Major, Limited Class); Range: 245; Cumulative: +½; Autofire: 10 shots, ¾; Charges: 125, +¾ 0
7 Elemental Control: Timelord Powers (10-pt reserve); Side Effects (Often recognized, attracts weirdness): 30/Half, -½
a-4 Life Support (total); Generic Limitation (Greatly slows the effects of hostile environments, diseases, etc, and mitigates the effects to some extent, but does not stop them.): -2; Generic Limitation (Only works against things that a normal human would find survivable for at least a minute. ): -2
b-2 Detect:Temporal Effects and Locations (+5 to PER); No Conscious Control: -2; Side Effects (Has difficulties dealing with fixed points in time, paradoxes, etc.): 30/Half, -½; Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5
c-7 Armor (7 PD/7 ED)
d-7 Enhanced Perception (all) (+7 to PER)
e-7 Mental Defense (22 pts); Add to Total
79 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
40 +4 level w/Timeline Selection / Overall Level
10 Eidetic Memory
3 Immunity: Any distinction between attribute rolls and skills; Frequency: Common

This is downright abusive. On the other hand… you can achieve exactly the same result with a small Aid to Any Skill, or a Skill Power Pool, or in several other ways – and skills generally aren’t all that important in a setting where actual powers appear.

3 Simulate Death
56 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

Cost Equipment
But where is the sonic screwdriver? It’s a penlight case, filled with a bunch of random bits and pieces. Thanks to his “Tinker” power it can be readily transformed into any needed small gadget up to a maximum of 25 active points. This also keeps it from being used for EVERYTHING, since he has a limited number of uses of that ability each day.
0 Total Equipment

 

100+ Disadvantages
5 Dependent NPC: Random Companion (Normal, 8-); Skills: Useful, -5

These actually appear on a 14- or so, but often do not get into trouble, merely providing a target for more exposition.

20 Hunted: Daleks, Cybermen, Etc. (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
15 Code of Chivalry (Common, Strong)
15 Honorable (Common, Strong)
15 Overconfidence (Very Common, Moderate)
5 Prankster (Uncommon, Moderate)
15 Reputation: Timelord (11-, Extreme)
10 Watched: Practically Everyone (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
100 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
45 + 135 = 180 200 = 100 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
5 5 4 22 12/7 12/7 4, 8, 12

 

The Doctor is annoyingly omnicompetent, and can pop up anywhere to be a bother – but he really isn’t all that powerful in superhero terms; in a lot of ways he’s more of a pulp hero than anything else – albeit an intellectual version rather than the usual two-fisted fighter.

 

Eclipse d20 – Playing With The Pulps Part V; Narrative Feats

  • For Part I – the Basic Pulp Hero and Advanced Pulp Hero Templates – Click HERE.
  • For Part II – Advanced Pulp Powers Part I – Click HERE.
  • For Part III – Advanced Pulp Powers Part II, Pulp Drugs, and Pulp Archetypes – Click HERE.
  • For Part IV – Buying Pulp Vehicles – Click HERE.

The situation looks hopeless! The spiked ceiling is descending, a vile henchman is taking the captured heroes out to sea to drop them overboard, or they are trapped in a warehouse, almost out of ammunition, and the army of thugs is closing in. Whatever the details, it looks like their tale is at an end. The only thing that can save them now is some contrived deus ex machina as the raw force of their heroic narrative carries them through. Will a henchman abruptly pull off a mask, revealing that he has been an ally “all along”? Will the cavalry arrive at the last moment? Will the Tyrannosaur eat the Raptors? For some pulp heroes, the answer is usually “Yes!” – no matter how unlikely that coincidental rescue may be.

So how do you spend your bonus pulp feat to focus narrative forces on your life like that? Well, there are a variety of possibilities for making your life more like an old-time Republic Serial or piece of… pulp fiction. You can buy…

  • Crazy Prepared: Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (six floating CP)/only to buy Immunities to particular unique characters, specific types of monsters, or similar groups, requires that the user do research and practice special techniques against the target group. In general, Uncommon (against a particular villain type), Severe (they do tend to kill you), and Minor (protects the user against twelve points of damage from each of the enemies attacks and from effects of up to level three (with a +4 bonus on saves against higher-level effects) as well as allowing the user to bypass up to ten points of damage reduction or other minor defenses). That costs 6 CP – and will give your hero quite an advantage against their chosen foe.
  • Destined Hero: Backed by either some supernatural force or bad writing, some pulp heroes make a habit of pulling off astounding (and usually never-to-be-repeated) stunts – albeit mostly only when backed into a corner or involved in a cliffhanger. This is usually Action Hero (Stunts), but Karma (which is more easily renewed, if far less versatile) may be a better choice in a slower-advancement game. If a character wants the forces of destiny to be even more reliable than that… he or she will want Luck with Bonus Uses, Specialized in a particular application such as saving throws, attacks, or skill checks.
  • Force Of Narrative: 1d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only for Reality Editing, only to cause for unlikely plot twists (6 CP). This talent will let you do almost anything in the way of twisting the plot – albeit not very often. If you want to pull your tricks as a routine thing… you’ll want a far more specialized ability or to invest more points in Mana an in Rite of Chi with Bonus Uses to get the Mana back in a reasonable length of time.
  • Man of Mystery: Access to two Occult Skills (6 CP) – most likely two of the Action Skills from the Shadowed Galaxy setting. (I’d recommend that Stealing The Scene be one of them). This will basically let a Pulp Hero start off every session with a personal special effects budget – allowing him or her to reliably pull off a few special stunts every session.
  • Mirror Dance: Whether you have an archenemy, oppose some sinister cult, are a hunter of monsters, or are locked in battle with some conspiracy, whether you are driven by rage, an oath, or vengeance, you have a personal rogues gallery of enemies who appear over and over again – and whom you have become very, VERY, good at opposing. Take Favored Enemy or Favored Foe (6 CP).
  • Oathsworn: Your word is more than your bond; your oaths – whatever they’re sworn by – have genuine power. They influence events, sustain you in times of need, and shape reality on your behalf, driving you to fulfill your oath regardless of the cost. Inherent Spell/Questing Oath (A form of Malediction from The Practical Enchanter. Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / Only usable on yourself, only intervenes seven times, for a level nine base effect. A Questing Oath allows the user to swear to complete a specified and (relatively) immediate task – holding off a dragon, holding a pass, getting a group of villagers across a desert – as long as the task will (or at least should) take a month or less to complete. For the duration of the oath you only need a quarter of the usual food, drink, and sleep and will be assisted as needed by a level four spell effect of the game masters choice up to seven times – possibly including turning you into an undead if that seems required. You can only be sworn to a single task at a time and renouncing an uncompleted oath will cause the remaining spell effects to cause trouble for you at the worst possible times and keep you from swearing another oath for a year and a day – or until you undergo some suitable ritual ordeal of atonement and purification.
  • Signature Device: Do you have a mystic blade, some weird piece of alien technology, a compass that points towards your hearts desire, a key that opens any door, or some similar device? Buy Create Relic (Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only with points from Enthusiast, three point relics maximum, limited to a maximum list of (Int/3) specific relics (2 CP), Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for use in creating relics, only for (Int/3) specific relics, all relics must carry a disadvantage (4 CP). If someone swipes your special gadget the special effect is usually that you get it back somehow (rather than just dissolving and recreating it) between adventures, but the effect is pretty much the same.
  • Soliloquy: Some heroes – especially in western graphic novels – can do astounding amounts of talking in the time it takes to throw a punch. If you happen to be one of those, and want to have the action pause while you make a dramatic speech, attempt some negotiation, or offer a bribe, then what you want is Reflex Training/Three extra actions per day variant, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (you get to make a full speech and observe the reactions) / only for communications actions.

Obviously enough many other abilities can fit a Pulp Hero – take Acrobatics to allow even more impressive stunts, Adept for those academics who want to have heaps of skills, Augmented Bonus to boost your existing talents, Berserker for the great brawlers, Cloaking for those never-unmasked mystery men, a Companion to gain a mighty mount, Damage Reduction or Grant of Aid to be tough as nails, Lore to become known as “Mr Exposition”, Mana with the Resilience option to power Martial Arts C’hi Powers, Mystic Artist to inspire with Oratory, Reflex Training to keep escaping explosions and death traps, Returning to come back again and again, Sanctum to build your own secret base, Traceless to leave no clues behind, Track to shadow your opponents through the streets, and various Combat Enhancements to be even more badass. You can even learn a little Channeling to repel the supernatural. Study the use of Ritual Magic, and learn the Martial Arts – but that’s about as far as it should go. Beyond that point… you are crossing over into superhero territory. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, the point was to be a pulp hero, not a comic book super-hero.

For the game masters side… you’ll want mad scientists of subtle, creepy, mystics instead of flashy super-powers, hidden lands filled with creatures and cultures from the distant past, weird vehicles, foreigners, criminals, and traitors who are undermining the heroes good, upright, and proper culture and morality, individual heroes versus swarms of faceless thugs with weird unique leaders, cliffhangers, occult mysteries, and ancient tombs/temples/ruins full of traps. If you need a list of sources, TV Tropes has a lot of them – but it also has a tendency to suck up hours of your time, so proceed with caution.

And that’s really about it for the pulps – unless I happen to have the urge to build some pulp heroes or there are some questions to inspire a further article.

Apex – Prince Blueblood Escapes From My Little Pony

And today… I’m going to turn Prince Blueblood of Equestria into a hero in the Apex setting – mostly because the thought amuses me.

Equestria… `is a patchwork nation. Why not? It’s inhabited by a species of instinctively-harmonious, spontaneously-helpful, extremely mobile, rather high powered, and incredibly productive creatures that exercise an astounding level of control over it’s environment. It’s rather gently ruled and guided by a very powerful, prophetic, several-thousand-years experienced, and incredibly tolerant and kind, near-immortal. Equestria doesn’t really NEED efficiency, large-scale organization, or to iron out the wrinkles in their government. The country works just fine as a collection of geographically-organized city-states that just let the magic of harmony manage their public affairs.

After all, if Harmony can organize dozens of ponies, and the local wildlife, and weather, into spontaneous, intricately choreographed, musical numbers… organizing a gathering, or traffic patterns, or a rescue operation, is no great task.

Thus every local system – and silly title that ponies have used to try and impress each other over the last couple of millennia (not counting the confused length of time spent in the Age of Discord) – has continued through the centuries because there’s no reason to change the traditions.

And so we have Blueblood the 42’nd, Prince of Canterlot and Environs (and thus City Administrator and Gala Organizer, as if either of those jobs actually calls for him to do anything), Commander of the Canterlot Guard (all eighty-odd of them; ponies aren’t big standing armies so they mostly function as city staff), distant relative of Celestia and Luna (inevitably, after several millennia, sharing that honor with most of the rest of the country – although his bloodline is close enough to show some minor enhancements), Duke of Burgandneigh, Keeper of the Sapphire Keys, Supreme Mugwump, and a half a dozen other meaningless titles. He’s a competent mage (in a city hosting dozens of brilliant mages, Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, and the Royal Sisters themselves), a decent tactician and military commander (in a society that generally has no wars or even border disputes), a fair diplomat (although any important ambassador deals with Celestia and Luna directly), a magical scout and pathfinder (in the center of civilization in a well-explored and thoroughly pegasi-mapped world), a reasonably good manager (in a world that needs no management) – and generally entirely useless. He can’t even organize fire services (pegasi make rain to do that) or the rescue of cats from trees (any unicorn can do that). About his only real “task” is pointing the occasional stray kid back to where they’re supposed to be, playing crossing guard (which means a lot less in a world where most deliveries are by air, there are no riding animals to act up, and there are no powered vehicles), soothing the occasional upset or drunk pony, and tossing pies at the Flim-Flam brothers until they go away.

Blueblood spent a lot of time stewing in his own juices, getting drunk, indulging his vanity, and making fools of pests (Sadly, he automatically assumed that Rarity was a status-seeking pest) for his own amusement. Why is he a arrogant, entitled, snob? What else is his job FOR? His only ACTUAL function is to be annoying and thus ensure that everypony will be thankful that Equestria is run by Celestia and Luna instead of the traditional nobility. Utopia doesn’t NEED governmental competence. It just needs enough petty annoyances to maintain a proper emotional balance.

Then, during yet another pointless day, he sensed a NEW Path. A crack in the barriers for him alone, a way… from imagination into reality.

And Blueblood walked that path – and on Apex he found a realm where there was finally a USE for his talents. A world where people actually NEEDED guidance, and organization, and rescue, and negotiations, and patrons. A realm where he was a powerful mage with rare abilities, where his wealth genuinely meant something – and where he could antagonize people simply by existing.

In fact, his ability to find any desired route soon made him a valuable pilot for Cronus, A.K.A. “The Doctor”, since he can usually get the TARDIS to where they actually want to go.

He’s still a douche though.

Bluebloods talents include being a wealthy aristocrat (for him that’s actually a power – a basic part of his portfolio as a Titan; he has wealth, fine houses, local contacts, and contacts with various magical forces everywhere he goes), a selection of minor abilities that go with being a Titan and a Cartoon, and his Unicorn Magic – Telekinesis, the ability to enhance himself that goes with his strong Alicorn Bloodline, Pathfinding, and a selection of cartoon magic spells capable of causing many silly effects.

Blueblood is pretty powerful for the setting; he’s using a bunch of cheap “aid” powers to squeeze in a bunch of perks, his cartoon spells, and some attribute boosts without paying much for them. On the other hand, he’s got a fair number of points sunk into things like High Society, “”Bureaucratics, Immunity to Hair Damage, Always Looking Good, Background Music and Sound Effects, exotic languages to snub people in, being resistant to attempts to get rid of him, and so on. He’s an adventurous socialite, not a combat specialist.

Princeps Augustus Blueblood II

Value Characteristic Points
18/30 STR 8
14/18 DEX 12
18/24 CON 16
8/14 BODY -4
8/20 INT -2
8/14 EGO -4
18/30 PRE 8
8/32 COM -1
6/12 PD 0
4/10 ED 0
3/4 SPD 6
10/16 REC 0
24/48 END -6
32/44 STUN 0
Total 33

 

Points Powers END
0 Minor Titan Racial Package
(20) Physical Limitation: Shaped By Belief. Titans may be powerful in their fields, but they are limited to a single, and invariably fairly straightforward, domain. A Spirit of Invention makes gadgets and – possibly – provides grants and teaches. Similarly, the spirit of Memorial Day is a formidable soldier, has lots of weapons, and can operate military vehicles – but that’s about it . (Frequently, Fully)
(20) Mental Characteristic Maxima of 15 (-20 Points). People never really think that their “gods” are really much smarter, or more perceptive, or whatever, than they are – no matter what their theme is. The God of Knowledge may have a lot of knowledge skills, but he or she normally won’t actually be much smarter than the average person. If there’s any one thing that the Titans find annoying about their relationship with mortals… this may be it. (All the Time, Greatly)
(20) Psychological Limitation: Themed. Titans aren’t even CAPABLE of getting seriously off-theme. A war god won’t be negotiating, the healing goddess won’t be building gadgets, and the god of justice won’t be letting criminals go, no matter how necessary it may be (Common, Total)
(12) Regeneration (1 BODY/week); Regenerate: From Death, +20
(3) Immune to Aging
15 Domain: 15 Points worth of abilities appropriate to their domain.
(10) Money (Wealthy)
(5) Member of Aristocracy
7 Elemental Control: Cartoon Powers (15-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Cartoon Pony Powers Only): -½; Always On: -½
a-10 Armor (12 PD/12 ED)
b-7 Regeneration (1 BODY/Turn); Regenerate: From Death, +20

Note that – with two DIFFERENT forms of regeneration from death – it’s almost impossible to make Blueblood STAY dead.

c-4 Images: Background music and sound effects (Hearing, 16″ radius); Range: 150; Observer PER Penalty: 0, +0; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; No Conscious Control: -2 0
d-7 Life Support (total)
e-7 Power Defense (30 pts)
f-7 Cartoon Immunities
(1) Looking Good: Immunity to being messed up for more than a few seconds; Frequency: Fairly Common
(1) What Gravity? Immunity to Falling until lack of support is brought to his attention; Frequency: Fairly Common
(1) In My Pocket, Why? Immunity to having to have pockets to carry stuff in.; Frequency: Common
(1) Sure I’m Perfectly Normal (Immunity to Species Prejudice)l: Gets treated as just another human in most non-comedic ways; Frequency: Common
(1) Clothing? Immunity to being considered insufficiently dressed; Frequency: Fairly Common
(1) Rated G: Immunity to Indecent Exposure; Frequency: Fairly Common
(1) The Sounds of Harmony: Immunity to the need to compose or practice topical songs; Frequency: Fairly Common
(1) I Can Handle That: Immunity to not having normal hands; Frequency: Common
(0) All Devouring: Immunity to reasonable limits on how much they can swallow at one time.; Frequency: Rare
(0) There’s A Hole: Immunity to solid matter provided that it LOOKS like there is a hole in it and the user is not responsible for that.; Frequency: Rare
(1) Yes, It’s Suitable: Immunity to having to wear appropriate clothing to stay warm, dry, etc.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(0) It’s a permanent: Immunity to hair damage save by bladed weapons; Frequency: Rare
(1) Immunity to Over-Indulgence, Hangovers, and Similar Consequences; Frequency: Fairly Common
(1) Immunity to Communications Problems (Can be understood in any language provided he speaks slowly, gestures, etc) ; Frequency: Common
(1) Immunity to Paradox; Frequency: Fairly Common

Often a necessity when traveling with Cronus.

(1) Immunity to Not Getting His Messages; Frequency: Common

Blueblood gets his mail. texts, and email wherever and whenever he goes!

(1) Immunity to not having tickets; Frequency: Fairly Common

Blueblood can always get into nightclubs, shows, concerts, and theater performances.

g-5 2d6 Aid to Equipment Allowance (Fade/week, Max. 30); Range: 0; Extra Time: 1 hour, -2½; Generic Limitation (Only to pay for role-appropriate, provided, or generally available gear): -1; Activation: 11-, -1; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Generic Limitation (Only GM-Approved Equipment): -1 3
25 Multipower: Cartoon Unicorn Magic (50-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Unicorn Pony Magic Only): -½; Generic Limitation (Easily disrupted by a blow to the horn, horn restraints, or similar): -½
Basic Telekinesis
u-2 Telekinesis (STR 15); Range: 240; Manipulation: Fine, +10; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
u-2 8d6 Energy Blast: Telekinetic Blast; Range: 250; Versus: PD; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 2
u-2 Force Field Dome (8 PD/8 ED); Area Effect (Radius): 3″ radius, +1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½ 0
u-2 Hand-to-Hand Attack (12d6, Total 18d6); Range: 0; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 2
Arcane Aristocrat
u-1 2d6 Important Personage: Aid to Local Contacts, Favors, Followers, and Privileges (Fade/week, Max. 24); Range: 0; Active Points: 48; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½ 1
u-1 2d6 One Of The Best People: Aid to Local Perks, Vehicles, Languages, Local Knowledges, and Bases (Fade/week, Max. 24); Range: 0; Active Points: 48; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½ 1
u-1 Detect Social Events and Appropriate Behaviors (+12 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5
u-2 2d6 Royal Lineage: Aid to All Attributes (Fade/hour, Max. 12); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 2
Pathfinder
u-1 Detect Route (+6 to PER); Variable Special Effects: Certain Group, +¼; Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Ranged, +5, Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1
u-1 Detect Distance and Direction to desired item (+3 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Ranged, +5; Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1
u-2 Change Environment: Manipulate Direction and Distance (16″ rad.); Champions Advantage (Limited Variable Effect): +¼; No Range: -½; Trigger: Set, +¼; Reduced END: Half, +¼

While employing his signature spell Prince Blueblood may, once per segment, gratuitously either expand or reduce the distance between two things within his area of effect by up to 8″. For example, he could decree that a character was 8″ further from the center of that fireball that had just gone off, or that the evasive martial artist was 6″ closer (and thus effectively adjacent) to his friend the brick, or that someone was off to the side of that attack that would have otherwise hit them.

2
u-2 10″ Teleportation (Long Range 160″); Increased Range: ×16, +20; Long Range: 160″; Long Range (miles): 0.20; Mass Multiplier: ×4, +10; Fixed Locations: 0; Floating Locations: 0 2
Advanced Arcana
u-1 Atherium Lens; Detect Magic (+5 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory): +5
u-2 13d6 Dispel Magic; Range: 245; Affects: Any Single Power of Special Effect, +¼ 5
u-2 6d6 Suppress Magic; Range: 225; Affect: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Reduced END: Half 2
u-2 2d6 Student of Magic: Aid to Multipower Slots (Fade/week, Max. 24); Range: 0; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼ 1
Common Cartoon Magics:
u-1 +45 Hammerspace Mallet: PRE; Generic Limitation (Only for Presence Attacks): -½; Charges: 12, -¼

As a rule, the “mallet” provides +3d6 for Exhibiting a Power and Extremely Violent Action, but only works on small groups. He can also try to induce a song-and-dance number, but this often takes negative modifiers even after he gets a couple of bonus dice for his personal background music and special effects.

u-1 Portable Hole: Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: None, +0; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Continuous: +1; Side Effects (Opens both ways; things can climb out of the hole just as easily as they go in.): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Side effects cannot be avoided.

Yes, this is classic, inconsistent, cartoon; things go in, sometimes they come back out at full speed with no time passing when the hole is put down again, other times you can hide. It mostly depends on what’s funniest at the moment.

5
u-1 Picture Travel: Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: None, +0; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Continuous: +1; Side Effects (Opens both ways; things can climb out of the hole just as easily as they go in.): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Side effects cannot be avoided.): -½

Yes, this spell allows the user to run into paintings, television programs, and similar artistic creations.

5
u-1 Pocket Palace: Extra-Dimensional Movement (Wonderland); Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: None, +0; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Continuous: +1; Side Effects (Opens both ways; things can climb out of the hole just as easily as they go in.): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Side effects cannot be avoided.): -½

Well, you wouldn’t expect him to travel without a comfortable bed and a place to keep his stuff would you?

5
u-1 I’ll Hide In Here: Shrinking-5 (DCV +10, Height 4.125 cm/1.62″); Mass: 0.0022583 kg/0.00 lbs; Knockback Increase: 15; PER Bonus: -10; Charges: +6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; Generic Limitation (Only allows the user to hide in absurdly silly ways – putting on a lampshade and pretending to be a lamp, ducking behind small trees or into boxes, or even just draping a tarp over themselves. It has no other effects. ): -2

This is “The Life Of Brian” hiding. The mechanical effect is becoming tiny and ducking behind a chair leg or some such. The Special Effect is more “hang a lampshade over his horn, strike a pose, and pretend to be a lamp” – whereupon everyone overlooks him.

0
u-1 Emigrate To Equestria: Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: None, +0; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Area Effect (Radius): 8″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4, +½; Generic Limitation (Only works on living creatures): -1; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½

The “Defense” is not wanting to get out. This is very good for rescue work and such though. Two hundred kids trapped in a burning nightclub? Spend +10 endurance to push this to a 64 meter radius and everyone who doesn’t want to burn winds up in a happy cartoon utopia until brought back to safety.

5
u-1 Making Camp: Change Environment / Comfortable Habitable, Power On, Etc (8″ rad.); Effect: Fixed, +0; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1 0
u-1 2d6 Pie In The Face / Flash (Normal Sight); Range: 200; No Normal Defense (Versus vision able to see through pie): +1; Charges: 6, -¾ 0
u-1 1d6 Toonification Transform (Cosmetic, Limited Class); Range: 250; Cumulative: +½; Area Effect (Radius): 8000000″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000000, +5½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Autofire: 10 shots, ¾; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½

This transform gives things a cartoonish aspect. People often become funny animal people, buildings get silly floor plans, and EVERYTHING looks like a cartoon. This is basically appearances-only, and has a big “based on personality” factor, but it can transfer up to 5 points to a relevant ability – either set by the user or by the nature of the transformation. Thus if someone becomes a raven-person, they may trade around a few points to pick up 5 points worth of Gliding.

This is also often used to “adopt a pony”…

0
u-1 10d6 Described Reality / Mental Illusions; Visible (Mental Illusions can be seen by others): -¼; Charges: +12, -¼; Generic Limitation (Illusions must be described verbally, and will not work on targets outside the range for such or who are unable to hear.): -¾; Generic Limitation (Requires a Persuasion skill check at it’s base rank.): -¼

This is a classic “modify reality around the target” effect – imposing a bit of the malleability of a cartoon on reality. Unfortunately, the effect is very fragile; a strong will can easily overcome it.

0
u-1 1d6 High Speed Work; Transform (to finished project) (Major, Limited Class); Range: 0; Cumulative: +½; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; No Range: -½; Charges: 120, +¾; Extra Time: full phase, -½

This, of course, allows him to build small projects, board up windows, rebuild car engines, and so on at incredible speeds.

0
u-1 Summon Balloon Animal (1 50-point creatures); Range: 0; Summon: Limited Group, +¼; Charges: 12, -¼; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Visible (Loud Squeaky Noises): -¼

This basically covers any kind of normal animal, even if they are cartoonish and summoned by making balloon animals at high speed.

0
u-1 1d6 Raiding The Thought Bubble / Transform Thought-Images to Supplies (Major, Limited Class); Range: 0; Cumulative: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; No Range: -½; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Incantation: Instant Power, -¼; Activation: 14-, -½

Someone envisions what they need – and Blueblood reaches into their thought bubble and pulls it into reality.

0
u-1 On Every Channel: High Range Radio Hearing; Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1; Armor Piercing: 4, +2; Focus (Lapel Microphone): Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Charges: +4, +¼; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 lev, Concentrate: ½ DCV, -¼

Yes, this allows him to get on every display and speaker within a nigh-unlimited radius that isn’t quadruple-hardened against interference or behind a force wall that blocks mental effects.

u-2 Change Environment: Genre (16″ rad.); Effect: Fixed, +0; Charges: 6, +¼; Continuing Charges: 5 Minutes, -4 lev; Champions Advantage (Those who do behave in accordance with the new genre suffer a -2 to their rolls and DCV): +½; Champions Advantage (Limited Range of Variations): +¼

Yes, it can become a musical, and everyone must sing and engage in spontaneous choreographed dances, or you can make it a western, or various other genres.

0
u-2 5d6 Unluck / Murphy’s Law of Commentary; Ranged: +½; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Charges: +16, +0

“Oh yeah, like THAT’S going to work…” – and then, of course, things go terribly wrong.

0
u-2 11″ Umbrella Transport / Flight (NC: 88″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×8, +10; Non-Combat (MPH): 131; Charges: 8, +½; Continuing Charges: 5 Minutes, -4 lev; OAF (Umbrella (Produced with each casting, but must be held to fly)): -1

You unfurl an umbrella, grasp it firmly, blow into it – and are carried off into the heavens. periodic further puffing is expected.

0
u-2 10d6 Unicorn Healing 5
u-2 Cartoon Violence / Tactile Images (Normal Sight, Unusual Senses, 1″ radius); Range: 250; Observer PER Penalty: 10, +30; Charges: 6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev

This produces an illusory energy attack and makes the target thereof FEEL like they’ve been horribly injured or maimed. That goes away a few minutes later. The usual effects are things like being run over by a truck, having a huge rock fall on you, or being exploded.

0
13 Running (+4″, 10″, NC: 40″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×4, +5; Non-Combat (MPH): 24

Well, he IS an equine.

2
118 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
10 +2 level w/With Multipower
3 High Society 15-
3 Conversation 15-
3 Bureaucratics 15-
3 Persuasion 15-
3 Seduction 15-
3 Tactics 13-
3 Bump of Direction
1 Singing 8-
1 Dancing 8-
1 Time Machines
0 English (Imitate Dialects); Literacy: Standard, 0
24 Common Important Personage Perks
(0) Followers: Assorted Minor Staff (1, 0 pts, 0 Disad.); Number: 1, +0
(3) Well-Connected
Primary Contacts
(3) Chronus; Usefulness: Extremely, +2 11-
(2) Purity; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 7, +0; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(2) Healing; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 7, +0; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(2) The Arts; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 7, +0; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(2) Wealth; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 7, +0; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(2) Construction; Usefulness: Very, +1 11-
Secondary Contacts
(2) (The) Authorities; Usefulness: Very, +1; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 3, -¾; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(1) Occultists; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 3, -¾; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(1) (His) Cult; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 3, -¾; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(1) Corporate (Investor); Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 3, -¾; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(1) Business Community; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 3, -¾; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(1) (The) Upper Crust; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 3, -¾; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
(1) Celebrity; Usefulness: Normal, +0; Champions Advantage (Organizational or Conceptual Contact): +1; Charges: 3, -¾; Recoverable Charges (Must do return favors): -2 lev 11-
24 Common One Of The Best People Perks
(5) Diplomatic Immunity / Considered A Minor Divinity
(5) Splendid Mansion: 25
(3) Impressive Mode of Transport

Depending on the current era, this may be a fine carriage, a splendid yacht, a chauffeured limousine, or any of a dozen other conveyances. There’s always at least a minibar though.

(2) Private Investigator License
(1) Press Pass
(3) Linguist
(1) French (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
(1) German (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
(1) Japanese (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
(1) Spanish (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
(1) Mandarin (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
34 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

Cost Equipment
18 Lucky Charms (Luck) (10d6); OAF (Assorted Good Luck Charms): -1; Fragile Focus: -¼; Linked (With Unicorn Magic): -½
2 Telescopic Sense (Sight, +2 to PER) ; Focus (Monocle): Obvious Inaccessible, -½
2 Elemental Control: Enchanted Royal Armor (5-pt reserve); OIF (Symbolic Barding): -½; Visible (Magic Armor): -¼; Generic Limitation (Passive Protective Effects Only): -½
a-2 Armor (4 PD/3 ED)
b-2 Mental Defense (13 pts) ; Add to Total
c-2 Flash Defense (Sight, 10 pts)
1 High-End Smartphone (0kg)
29 Total Equipment

 

100+ Disadvantages
5 1d6 Unluck
5 2d6 Unluck (Only for being spotted by children and dogs); Generic Limitation (Only to be noted by children, dogs, etc.): -1
15 Overconfidence (Very Common, Moderate)
15 Vain Snob (Common, Strong)
20 Code Against Killing (Common, Total)
10 Distinctive Features: Cartoon Character; Concealability: Concealable, 10; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0
18 Half Value Due To Temporal Restrictions; Generic Limitation (Only applies in some time periods): -1
(8) Considered a walking blasphemy against most of the worlds major religions. (Common, Strong); Situation: Common, +10; Intensity: Strong, +5; Generic Limitation (Only applies in some time periods): -1
(5) Public Identity; Generic Limitation (Only applies in some time periods): -1
(5) Hunted: Fans who dislike him (8-); Capabilities: Less Powerful, 5; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0; Generic Limitation (Only applies in some time periods): -1
88 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
33 + 152 = 185 188 = 88 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
6 6 / 16 5 13 28/16 25/15 3, 6, 9, 12

It is a law of nature, known since ancient times. There can be but one Titan to one Concept. Myths and tales may speak of a hundred different Thunder Gods, but all of them are aspects of the Storm Titan. There may be some subordinate entities – the Spirit of the Alps may maintain it’s independence of Towering Stone, the Titan of Mountains, for the moment – but it is local, lesser, and all too likely to be soon absorbed. Once a role is filled… there is no space for another to enter in.

Thus the others could not come. Sun, Moon, Love, Scholarship, Magic, Honesty, Strength, Loyalty, Speed, Kindness, Mercy, Generosity, Art, The Trickster, even Greed, Darkness, Jealousy, Illusion, Nightmare, Chaos, Ambition, and even Jealousy… all those roles are long since claimed. There are no openings for them to use, no cracks for them to use to pour themselves out of the realms of the imagination and into reality. Such roles… are merely taken up by the existing Titans.

And thus I have surpassed the others at last.

Until now there has never been a Titan of Arrogant, Entitled, Wealthy, Assholes. No sizeable group of people has ever found it necessary to join together to imagine a magical embodiment of such folk – perhaps because blatant examples are all too common in reality. Even today, many of them appear in tales, books, radio broadcasts, movies, and television programs, but most of those reach limited audiences – or have a real actor playing them to bar the way for any would-be taker of the role.

But now that I am here… as a Unicorn I have more associations than just arrogance, wealth, and a touch of Noblesse Oblige. I am a Guardian of the Innocent, an Avatar of Purity and Healing, and a Channel for the Magic of Light – and Cartoons.

Regardless of how annoying I am… You Shall Not Harm Them.

Princeps Augustus Blueblood upsets quite a lot of people. While more than a few “My Litttle Pony” fans are pretty upset that, of all the characters from the show, HE is the only one who has managed to manifest – and that that situation is all too likely to continue.

Far more fundamentally however… most of Apex’s major religions revolve around the worship of various Titans – and Bluebloods mere EXISTENCE says some pretty blasphemous things about where Apex’s gods have come from, how they have developed, and the sources of their power. While Blueblood may not actually be at fault for dragging all that into the open, there’s still a good bit of “shoot the messenger and forget the message” going on.

Height: 132cm (4’4″), Weight: 74kg (163 lbs), Sex: Male, Race: G4 Unicorn Pony

Appearance: Blueblood normally – and not at all surprisingly – looks a LOT like the stock images of Prince Blueblood from My LIttle Pony because that’s who he is. He has, however, added a monocle, just to be contrary.

 

Eclipse – The Dabbler

Since Christopher West’s site is still among the missing – he may have a new one, but, if so, either he hasn’t put his Eclipse builds on it or them or Google hasn’t found them – so here’s another one, albeit as adapted for my notions and updated since 2012.

The Dabbler isn’t a blaster, or master of metamagic, or even particularly good at being a wizard – but he or she is astoundingly flexible.

The commoners don’t say anything unpleasant about the nobles. No matter how egregious their behavior or how much you may resent their privileges and extortionate taxes… to defy or insult one is to defy or insult the crown, and can lead to execution. To assault one almost certainly will. Even their important servants enjoy some of that protection, since they represent their masters.

Their lower-ranking men-at-arms, lesser servants, local tax collectors, inspectors, and so on are, however, fair game for insults – and their positions are not hereditary, so their kids and relatives have to scramble like everyone else. If their parents are unpopular enough… it can be rough. If their kids also happen to be awkward, overweight, and intelligent enough to find most village pastimes less than fascinating… it can be very rough indeed.

Harkin had been an excellent tax collector. Intelligent, enough to identify every taxable item, to keep track precise track of every coin owed, and to know better than to ever cheat, take bribes, or short the local Lord on his due. Not surprisingly, however, that had made him wildly unpopular throughout the manor.

When his wife died producing his second child – a stillborn daughter – he never remarried. In his bitterness his young son was given (more than enough) food and care by the house-servants, but was emotionally starved – and so young Berne grew into an overweight, socially awkward, and isolated youngster. He ate, he played, he did some reading with the local priests, the local farmers kids saw that he was smarter and had more time for book-learning than they did, he got beaten up on his way home from class, and he ate some more. He complained to his father sometimes, but the old man just said “Are they cheating on their taxes? No? Then what do you want me to do about it? If you want lessons in fighting, go train with the militia!”

That was no help at all, and only made him feel like a fool. Not to mention that being overweight and out of shape made training with the militia very awkward indeed.

When Berne was thirteen he was poking around in the attic. There might be rats, bats, and spiders up there, but there was no one to hit him – and there was all kinds of interesting junk in dirty worm-eaten boxes that had been left as tax-surety and – for one reason or another – had never been picked up.

This time, buried in the bottom of a box of rubbish… he found a dusty old book. Some sort of personal journal, filled with pages and pages of sketches of monsters, arcane symbols, carefully drawn maps, notes about creatures and places in several languages, sketches of tombs and ruined temples and caverns, and more. A handwritten adventurer’s journal, and one full of secrets. Berne took it back to his room and studied it for days – tracing the strange symbols, marveling over the maps and other images, and sounding out cryptic words and hidden names.

And he felt POWER in those words, and names, and symbols. Power enough to defend himself, to rise above his birth, and perhaps even enough to accomplish great deeds. When the other children cornered him in an alley to beat him up again a few weeks later… he laid his hand across the journal in his pouch of oddities and stood firm, even if his voice trembled.

Stand back you fools! I am a Wizard!

They laughed, and closed in – and Berne screamed, and thrust out the hand that wasn’t clutching the journal – and fell back as ill-shaped magic flared. When his eyes cleared the brick walls were blackened, pieces of trash were burning, one of his assailants was down with severe burns, and the rest had fled – scorched and screaming.

Berne reached down to make sure that the unconscious boy did not die – that might get him into serious trouble! – and, once again, the magic answered.

This time his once-hesitant voice was certain.

I AM a Wizard!

Berne left the alleyway with a newly-confident stride and returned home to gather some supplies from the attic and the pantry – and then to set forth. Adventure, Wealth, Fame, and perhaps even Destiny awaited!

So as for the actual build:

Berne… isn’t a Wizard, Sorcerer, Bard, Cleric, Druid, or any other kind of formal spellcaster. He simply has a good deal of Mana, a vivid imagination, and a surprisingly strong will – making him a user of Unskilled Magic. Since that’s rather stat-dependent, he’ll need an attribute array – in his case 14, 14, 14, 14, 12, and 8. So… Str 8, Dex 12, and everything else 14 (20 point High Fantasy Pathfinder attribute buy). So…

  • 3d6 (11) Mana with the Unskilled Magic option, Specialized for Increased Effect (only costs 1 Mana per Spell Level) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only usable for unskilled magic, calls for Gestures (limiting him to light armor, , Incantations (although incoherent screaming works), and a spell component pouch (although light or medium armor and one free hand is acceptable), and a Spell Component Pouch (12 CP). That will let him use any Arcane Spell (fortunately for the burned kid Cure Light Wounds is on the Bard list) at the cost of 1 Mana per Spell Level.
    • His Casting Level equals his Level or (Mana Spent + Int / 3), whichever is less.
    • His maximum level of effect is his base Will Save Bonus or (Wis / 3), whichever is less.
    • Keeping the side effects (normally of the same level as the spell attempted or one level less) down to inconvenient effects rather than dangerous ones requires a Cha check at a DC of (6 + 2 x the Mana Used). The side effects are always up to the game master.
    • He MIGHT (GMO) gain “free” mana to use if under great emotional stress.
    • He may invest an extra one mana point per level of the spell in a spell he’s cast that has a duration to keep it running until he drops it, something dispels or negates it, or he chooses to recover that mana. This is, however, limited to a maximum of (Con/3) levels of spells.
      • This function is actually only loosely defined in the Unskilled Magic section – which means that it’s got more than a bit of “negotiate with your game master” built in. This is his variant – and while it’s ultimately limited, it will let him keep several minor boosts running once he has a little more Mana. At the moment… Force Armor and Force Shield might be good.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only recovers at 1d6 per half-hour of rest or sleep (6 CP).
  • +2 to his Base Will Save (6 CP).

That’s a total of 24 CP – and is actually pretty effective at first, although it will drop off rapidly at higher levels unless he’s very clever. Given that the “level” for natural magic like this is based on the user’s hit die, it might be worth buying an extra hit die or two – boosting his caster level and potentially allowing him to use second level spells. Our Dabbler doesn’t get unlimited cantrips though – even if he can cast two per point of mana used.

What else do we need?

  • At a minimum… probably a d4 Hit Die (0 CP), +0 BAB (0 CP), +0 on Reflex and Fortitude Saves (0 CP), and Proficiency with a Limited Set of Simple Weapons (he probably did get some minimal training from the militia, 2 CP). That’s only 2 CP. With Int 14 he has eight skill points to spend – and I’d put at least one into a Specific Knowledge of what’s in the Journal. That gets him all kinds of clues and pointers to adventures to go on. A bit of a defensive Martial Art (to represent practice in avoiding getting hit) wouldn’t be out of line either. Otherwise… he’s likely got a point or two in Profession: Clerk or Profession: Tax Collector since he’d have been expected to assist his father to at least some degree
  • Given that he got beaten up a lot… I’d give him two bonus d4 hit dice (16 CP) – getting his basic caster level up to three and his spell usage up to level two spells. That also lets him start off with at least eighteen hit points, which isn’t bad at all for a “Wizard”.
  • That leaves him with 6 CP to spend, even before taking a package deal, using his first level bonus feat, or applying modifiers for whatever race we give him. That can go to six skill points, buying a +1 BAB, getting some DR to make him REALLY tough, picking up proficiency with light armor and shields, getting some Luck with Bonus Uses specialized in Saves, or getting some handy Innate Enchantments. You could even buy him some Contacts and Social Privilege since the local nobles may well invest a little time and effort in cultivating a good relationship with an up-and-coming spellcaster showing that much raw talent.

Further development? More Mana, more Rite of Chi, and more Will Save Bonus. Boosting his attributes (and possibly buying Augmented Bonus on those Cha Checks) will be in order too. He could even add a second mana pool with similar limitations devoted to Divine Magic in order to add in more healing and support powers. Perhaps Reflex Training to let him throw up defensive spells to block incoming attacks?

In any case, our Dabbler has enormous flexibility, but also has those bothersome backlashes to deal with – and will start falling behind the raw magical power of a full caster at higher levels. Still, a Dabbler’s magic doesn’t require the point investment of a full caster, allowing them to readily develop other abilities, such as mystic artist talents, physical combat skills, shapeshifting, or roguish abilities, to supplement their spellcasting.

As Christopher noted, “this was a character idea I had way back in early stages of 3.0 d20… but it works kind of well in Eclipse though.” I rather like it too; a purely intuitive mage with backlash problems can be all kinds of fun – and if you don’t want to fool around with spellbooks, and lists of spells known, and having a mentor, or spell research, or metamagic… then here you have a spell caster who can be effectively played with a very limited knowledge of the spell list and no preparation at all.

Underlying The Rules Part IV, Commandment The Fourth: Setting Over Rules

The request was for an article on what I thought of the social dynamics of gaming groups before you get to looking at particular sets of rules. I’m still not sure that I was the best one to direct it to, or whether there will be more – but here’s part IV anyway.

  • Part One in this series – The Social Contract – can be found HERE.
  • Part Two – Adjusting The Spotlight – can be found HERE.
  • Part Three – Making A Group Effort – can be found HERE.

This entry has taken a lot of time (admittedly, mostly spent awaiting inspiration), and is once again more than a bit rambling – but here it is at last; Part IV – Setting Over Rules.

A part of the social bargain that’s specific to role playing games is a tacit agreement that the game master will present a reasonably coherent setting and that the players will accept that their characters live in it. A part of this pretense is normally pretending that the setting exists beyond the player characters; it has a long history before they arrived and that things go on in it that they are not involved with. That is only a pretense of course – but it’s very important for the role-playing part. Good characters need cultures, traditions, and regions to come from, histories to give them depth, and events to react to and to make it seem like the world is alive when they’re not watching it.

Sadly, the fact that this is specific to role-playing games means that a lot of players aren’t very clear on it – and so this bit probably causes more arguments than anything else so far.

The first step in accepting that your characters live in the setting is making one who could plausibly have come to exist in it. Unfortunately… there are a lot of ways to refuse to do this.

  • There’s “I want to be of a species that doesn’t exist in the setting/is always the enemy/cannot communicate/makes no sense as a player character”.

For example, thirty years ago it was fairly common to hear “I want to play a Predator!”no matter what the game setting was. Now I did allow Ri’al The Huntsman – who was pretty much the same thing (albeit with a detailed racial and technological background) – but that game was an open setting with creatures and items potentially being brought in from across the multiverse. That character – and his starship and support staff – really wouldn’t fit into, say, The Forgotten Realms. Similarly, a cheerful singing whale-bard will not work in Dark Sun. We managed to squeeze a Runequest Elven Mage and a Barbarian with a magic sword into Call of Cthulhu – but that was because the game master wanted to swap from Runequest to Call of Cthulhu and the final Runequest scenario involved some of the characters staying in the Call of Cthulhu setting to seal the gate through which Lovecraftian Horrors were oozing into Glorantha. (hey had some reliable magic and were used to monsters, but needed sanity checks for things like high-speed car chases and didn’t understand all the technology… they did give the party a much wider range of options than usual in Call Of Cthulhu though).

But if you’re playing Legend Of The Five Rings… somebody who insists on playing a pistol-packing cowboy, or a Star Trek Gorn with a phaser rifle will not fit in. If you’re playing in the Atheria setting or World Tree – where the universe is entirely made up of structured magic – then demanding to play a totally nonmagical character simply will not work. Some of those players got quite upset when told that it simply was not possible to play such a character, but that they could be delusional if they wanted to – but what they were asking for simply did not work in the setting.

The setting does not have to accommodate any creature you want to play – and you should not be asking it to do so. Asking that the setting to be redesigned just to suit your idea… is being a greedy, selfish, !@#$%^&*. You’re demanding that the game master devote a lot of extra time to fitting everything around YOU.

On the personal-background level there’s “I want to be from a culture that doesn’t exist in the setting/I have been psychotically murderous and have dealt with every situation by charging into battle to the death since I was a small child (or am otherwise suicidally insane)”/”I insist on being hunted by enemies who do not exist for reasons that would not apply in the setting“/”I wish to build my character around being trained from youth to in an ancient art using equipment that does not exist on the setting”/and even “I am a force-sensitive who goes into berserker rages at the drop of a hat, but have made it to age forty without a problem” (but who falls to the dark side without managing to get through an entire in-game week in actual play).

That’s another “no”. Admittedly, in the case of the Star Wars game it became “you may not make force-sensitive characters any longer” since the player was more or less incapable of showing any trace of restraint and had his characters respond to any frustration by going berserk (You! Street Merchant! I need clothing!” “Ur… I sell fruit drinks… There’s a shop that sells used clothing two blocks dow… Ow! AAAAGGHHHHHH!!! Burble…. Die” (character falls to the dark side, player has them try to kill the entire population of the planet in a mad rampage through the streets, gets overwhelmed and killed by the rest of the party) – but your character history needs to make sense in the setting too.

On the other hand, it’s up to the game master to try and accommodate the unusual. Player characters are OFTEN lost heirs to ancient kingdoms, have stumbled across mysterious bits of ancient lore, possess strange powers and talents, have mysterious mentors, are the subjects of cryptic prophecies, and employ strange arts – and that’s just fine. Game settings really should be large and varied enough to have plenty of room for all kinds of oddities lurking in the corners. The more of this stuff that the players some up with, the more fodder for adventures, discoveries and plot twists the game master will have.

The trick here is that it the players shouldn’t demand that this sort of thing have any game effect. So the character is actually a young dragon, utterly transformed by some powerful curse and with amnesia? And the transformation is so powerful that only a game master plot device can detect or undo it and – barring that – the character is in all ways a normal elven child? And no one knows about this?

That’s interesting, and can inspire odd plots and strange mysteries – but it only matters if the game master feels that he or she can fit it in. Most game masters will fit those weird details into the game given time. Juicy plothooks like that are hard to pass up. Still, if the party never goes on the proper quest, and so never finds the ancient crypts that will open only to the hand of the lost heir… than that bit won’t make any difference either, and no one should be upset about that.

Step two is accepting the setting around your characters.

The most blatant form of this is insisting that rules from elsewhere apply to the setting.

The most stubborn examples of this that I’ve ever encountered were (and are) weapons enthusiasts of one kind or another – although the players who want to bring in secondary sources from things like the Star Wars Expanded Universe (all the books and such) come in a close second.

Yes, you may have build a crossbow expert who specializes in sniping for the d20 game – but d20 is intentionally designed to avoid easy, repeatable, one-hit-kills against major targets (such as player characters), to allow characters to confront their attackers, and to have all kinds of countermeasures to various attacks. Insisting that your sniper should be able to pretty much control a battlefield, take out opponents instantly with headshots, and that crossbow bolts are extremely lethal because you think that’s “realistic”… is attempting to apply an only-in-your-head version of real-world rules about sniping (and not even a very good model of those rules) to a setting where they simply do not apply – and rage-quitting because other people said “Wall”, “Wind Wall”, “Protection from Arrows”, “There are no rules for called shots and I’ve got enough hit points to take twenty of your shots”, “Invisible”, and so on… gets you nowhere.

OK, it produced a very dramatic (if totally irrational) rant, but it still got nowhere.

Similarly, in a setting where Dragons were spirit-beings who reinforced and animated convenient masses of rock as “bodies” like a puppeteer – and so could only be briefly inconvenienced by mere physical force, no matter how enormous – complaining that “This is bull! The hydro-static shockwave from that missile hit will have turned that dragons insides to mush even if it’s scales are some kind of handwavium super-tough stuff!”meant absolutely nothing.

The outbursts along those lines from that particular military-enthusiast player got quite tiresome. It was his privilege to have his characters dislike “magic”, or “psionics”, or whatever reality-bending was called in the settings that he played in, but it was NOT his privilege to insist that his opinions about how destructive weapons were override the rules of the setting. Similarly, the rest of the game was NOT obligated to relegate the settings special abilities to a ghetto of “a few guys can do weird shit, but I don’t have to pay attention to it” just to oblige him

The players who insisted that – because an expanded universe book said so – forensic analysis would not be able to tell a hundred small explosions from one big one, or that they wanted to use the Sun Crusher, or that the Ancients sourcebook for Traveler said that “Black Globe Generators” existed and that therefore they could buy one, were being just as silly. No you may not have Stormbringer just because it was listed in the first edition Deities and Demigods book (even if I do have a copy with it in there), Similarly, you may not have psionics in a no-psionics setting just because it has a section in the SRD.

There are a lot of other ways – ranging from dragging in political, economic, or military ideas that do not work in the setting, refusing to admit the existence of pre-human intelligences in settings that feature such histories, refusing to admit the existence of problems with your favored plans, insisting that you can so make gunpowder (and that it will be revolutionary) in settings that either don’t include it or use locally more-effective methods, but they’re all the same basic strategy. They’re “I don’t like some feature of this game – so rather than running my own game, or asking “why” and accepting the answer, or trying actual persuasion, I’m just going to try and blackmail the rest of the group into changing it by being as disruptive as possible until I’m placated” – one of the most direct possible ways of being a greedy, selfish, !@#$%^&*.

You have to play the same game that everyone else is playing. Of course, that’s incumbent on the game master too. If the game master has some group of non-player characters doing something that is popularly believed to be impossible – and which the players were not offered the opportunity to be able to do – then the game master MUST give the players enough clues to let them figure out how it’s done within the rules of the setting – and must also provide BOTH a chance for the player-characters to learn to do it if they wish AND a reason why the trick, whatever it is, isn’t commonly known or used. Suddenly solving the problem with a super-invention, or dropping a Green Lantern into your Call of Cthulhu game, or revealing that the reason that Sherlock Holmes and Company could not solve the case was because the murder was committed with a voodoo doll… is just as much a cop-out as “it was all a dream!”.

Sure, you can do that sort of thing once in while, but you need to set it up in advance. “One gift I can give… Once every century the Dreamstone of Ithlia can grant a Questing Dream. If you can accomplish your task in the dream… then it shall become real. If you fail… then you will re-awaken here, and may attempt the task waking. Beware though! This gift I cannot grant again until the full century has passed!”.

Then send them to the Tomb Of Horrors. Maybe they can get far enough in the dream to help them pull it off on their second, “real”, try.

The other major form of this particular problem is extreme gamism – often known as “breaking the game”. It usually appears when someone wants to “win”(despite the fact that – in a RPG – this is actually losing) instead of socializing and cooperating on building a narrative. In Stormbringer it may manifest in creating a Noble Melinobonean character with massively powerful demon armor, a demon weapon, and a dragon steed while everyone else is making young kingdom mercenaries. In d20 you find infinite wish loops, hulking hurlers doing more damage than there are atoms in the universe, and – thanks to their being so many sourcebooks – hundreds of other “I Win!” buttons.

Sometimes it’s accidental. In Nephelim I gave my character loads of past lives (an idea I found irresistible, given how many time periods I found fascinating) – and found that that meant having most of your skills at “master” and knowing almost all the spells and systems of magic in the game. Sure, you lost raw magical power and host quality with each life and so she was a weak caster with a lousy social position to start with – but you got to roll for a power increase with each relevant casting and the character had spells for pretty much everything. Her power grew at a monstrous rate with no need to even adventure, while characters who started off with fewer lives, but much more raw magical power, gained strength very slowly since they rarely had a relevant spell to use and didn’t have a lot of skill with either magic or mundane abilities.

The game didn’t last very long anyway (no one could really find a reason to go out and do things instead of sitting in the library doing magical research) – but the game was obviously broken by the third session, even if no one really cared.

The principle here is pretty simple. It’s Setting Over Rules. If the setting says that Dragons are terrible avatars of destruction and almost unstoppable – but the rules say that a combination of three cheap and common items/powers/spells/whatever (likely from three unrelated sourcebooks since that sort of rules interaction accumulates as more stuff is published) can, if combined cleverly, take out any dragon with ease… then either those items do not exist or their interaction does not work that way. If the setting has a lengthy “history”, then – no matter WHAT the rules say – there are no quick and easy routes to infinite personal power or vast wealth or other silliness because they would be in common use. Similarly, you cannot accidentally destroy the world with common effects or it wouldn’t be there to adventure in.

Sure, the player characters are always special – but if they really want to achieve cast cosmic powers, or destroy the world, or defeat evils that were old when the current universe was young, or some such… they will, at the very least, have to work on very hard within the setting. If it was EASY they wouldn’t be the first.

This one applies to the game master and the players equally; if some application of the rules would leave the setting making no sense… then it doesn’t matter what the “rules” (or an optimization thread or handbook) says; the game does not work that way. There won’t be any special exemptions for the villains, just as there won’t be for the player characters. EVERYONE has to work for things.

If there is a fifth installment on this… it may be devoted mostly to examples. This is approaching the point at which things start to get game-specific – which is a bit beyond the intended scope of this series. On the other hand, if I think of something, or someone asks a question that requires extensive explanation… then there may be a fifth segment yet.