Second Stage Vampires of the Shadowed Galaxy, Part I – Background

The Shadowed Galaxy game is currently taking a break – but the group has determined how the “life cycle” of the local version of Vampires works.

Stage I is the infection – and weaponization – of a material entity by a Subspace Template. There are a couple of ways that that can happen including secondary infection by a carrier, direct infection by a late-stage Vampire Core, and (no doubt) weird accidents and experiments – but the results almost always fall into one of three categories.

  • Primitive animals die. Evidently there has to be a certain level of complexity and size to support the template/infection.
  • More complex animals usually die, but some (usually animals that are already predatory, sizeable, and dangerous) will become extremely dangerous (if still mostly animalistic) vampire-themed predators with flashes of intelligence.
  • Sapient entities still fairly often die, or go mad, or suffer some other serious complication – but the survivors emerge as First Stage Vampires.

If a first stage vampire survives for long enough, or focuses on developing their abilities, or absorbs (or is granted) additional subspace energies and programming from a higher-stage vampire, they may develop into second stage vampires.

Stage II Vampires are more powerful – and are able to create groups of first stage vampire followers as well as enjoying several other social advantages. (This may not have been an original part of the design, but it has almost certainly been selected for over the generations).

A very old second stage vampire, or one that suffers “death” in some way it can’t recover from, loses it’s physical body and link to the material realm – and drifts out into interstellar space (since they are repelled by nearby planets and suns) as what was at first labeled a “Subspace Mine”. Such “mines” are drawn to ships using Warp (but not Hyperspace, Subspace, or Informational, although normalspace drives may or may not be targeted) Drives – and if they contact one in flight will attempt to infect it, disposing of the crew along the way.

The original mind may or may not survive, but even if it does… it will usually be strongly influenced by the array of expert programs that normally takes over at this point.

A Stage III Vampire – or “Haunted Ship” – is a dire presence in a multi-century long process of integrating itself with the structure, systems, and power supplies of a starship (or occasionally a space station or other vessel) and rebuilding it to suit itself. As such, it can animate the structure of the ship, direct it’s energies, weapons, and drives, drain other sources of energy, and defend itself with vigor.

At the end of the process… important systems will have been tightly integrated and compacted, the materials used for such useless items as crew quarters and life support will have been converted to extra armor, weapons, and power systems, and the new Stage IV Vampire Core will seek out a planet hosting an appropriate sapient race, land, conceal itself – and start spawning a force of Stage I Vampires.

Obviously enough, any permanent solution to a planetary vampire plague starts with destroying the vampire core or cores – but given that they are generally functioning starships as well as possessing a high-powered array of subspace-based powers that’s a difficult proposition at best.

For good or ill however… it has been long enough since the Vampire Plague was set in motion across the galaxy for both mutation and evolution to play a role. Some Vampire Cores find it difficult or impossible to maintain control of the vampires they create, others bestow bizarre variations on the usual abilities, others have lost important parts of their targeting or behavioral programming, and still others retain far more of the original hosts mind than was (presumably) ever intended. Not surprisingly, some strains have adapted to fit into, or conceal themselves in, civilizations more effectively. Some may not even really resemble the original design any more.

The group has not yet deciphered the full programming of the Vampire Cores – but has observed that they seem to treat Informational Creatures – such as “Mummies” as primary targets, and rarely attempt to exterminate other targets. There is even some indication that they intentionally “cultivate” species that can produce effective informational weaponry and/or technological starships suitable for conversion to more vampire cores – ensuring that the former remain in constant conflict (and thus producing more weapons) and that the latter continue to produce starships.

They have also discovered that Subspace Mines will not attempt to take over a ship that is already “haunted” or which already has a Vampire Core aboard. Sadly, this consideration does not extend to First and Second stage vampires.

While the exact history of the galactic wars has lost millions of years before humanity evolved, the internal evidence strongly suggests that the subspace species involved lacked direct access to the Informational level of reality – and so were drafting proxy warriors from matter-based species that had at least SOME access to that level of things.

Given that the vampires have a vested interest in the survival of civilizations with informational capabilities and/or the ability to build technological starships to possess, as well as a sizeable population to recruit from, there is a strong likelihood that they have been gradually evolving towards a symbiotic relationship with appropriate host species. The jury on the “Mummies” is still out.

The second stage vampire template got complicated enough – and took long enough to write – that I’m splitting things here. Part II will be the Template, and Part III will be some of the types.

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Gaming Harry Potter III – Blood And Fire

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

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

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

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

-Dumbledore, in The Order Of The Pheonix.

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

What’s problematic there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything which works better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, the prophecy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero System – Animate Object

Animate Object is a bit of a mess even in d20, where the spell and the resulting creatures are standardized. In the hero System, where no such standardization applies, such effects are a bit of a nightmare. Ergo, here we have Blueblood’s version – which summons up some wisps of magical telekinetic force which wrap themselves around relevant items and infuse them with a standardized amount of power – turning them into thirty point items of equipment.

While there is some enhancement involved, these are, however, fairly normal items; you can’t animate a doctors bag and expect it to heal your wounds. You can, however, animate a slab of rock and expect it to block attacks on you.

In game terms, the “Animation” is a “summon” effect – although it’s “summon an animating force” rather than “summon a creature”.

Animate Object Spell

  • STR o (-10 CP)
  • DEX 18 (24 CP): OCV 6, DCV 6 + 6 (Shrinking)
  • CON 0 (-20 CP)
  • BODY 2 (-16 CP)
  • INT 3 (-7 CP)
  • EGO 2 (-16 CP)
  • PRE 10 (0 CP
  • COM 0 (-5 CP)
  • PD 0 (0 CP)
  • ED 0 (0 CP)
  • SPD 4 (12 CP)
  • REC 0 (0 CP)
  • END 0 (0 CP)
  • STUN 2 (0 CP)

Elemental Control: Animate Object Spell (10-pt reserve); Entire creature dispelled if one or more powers disrupted or runs out): -1; Visible (Eldritch glow around item being animated. ): -¼ (4 CP)

  • Telekinesis (STR 20) with Fine Manipulation, +10; Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 lev; Only to wield the item they are conjured to animate): -1; (8 CP).
  • Shrinking-3 (DCV +6, Height 15 cm/6″); Knockback Increase: 9; PER Bonus: -6; Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (7 CP).
  • 2d6 Aid to Equipment Allowance (Item being animated) (Fade/hour, Max. 30); Range: 0; Generic Limitation (Only to pay for a specific piece of more-or-less conventional gear): -1; Autofire: 10 shots, ¾; Charges: 10, -¼; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Generic Limitation (Only GM-Approved Equipment): -1 (9 CP).
  • Force Field (15 PD/15 ED); Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (7 CP).
  • Power Defense (20 pts); Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (4 CP).
  • Mental Defense (20 pts); Add to Total; Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (4 CP).
  • +22 PRE Defense; Generic Limitation (Only to defend against presence attacks) (4 CP).
  • 12″ Flight (NC: 24″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 36; Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (5 CP).

This could be considered cheese – after all, this packs everything that the “creature” does into a single elemental control and includes several “special” powers at that – but they do all effectively cost endurance (thus the one continuing charge limitation) and it’s hard to get much more of a tightly-linked group of powers than “these are the effects of a single spell, if any part of it fails, the entire spell does” and “it’s reasonably difficult to break”.

Run 0 (-12 CP), Swim 0 (-2 CP)

Disadvantage: No limbs, speech, or normal reflexes (All the Time, Fully) (-25 CP).

Net Cost: (-38) Attributes, 38 (Powers), -25 (Disadvantage).

Basically the spell is a wisp of light that wraps itself around the item being animated and causes it to fly around and act “on it’s own”. The “Aid” power basically means that all such objects have a standard (30) point base cost and are OAF. Animated objects are generally helpful, if not too bright, and so are purchased with a +1/4’th advantage for being reasonably cooperative.

Possible Animated Objects

Large Furniture (Sofa, Dining Table, Lounge):

  • Hand-to-Hand Attack (10d6, Total 14d6) 0; Range: 0; Reduced END: Zero, +½ (22 CP)
  • Armor (3 PD/3 ED) ; Usable By Others: Simultaneous Use, +½; Usable by Others Number: 2, +¼ (8 CP).

Large furniture can kick or ram quite effectively and provides a certain amount of cover. Unfortunately, most attacks will go straight through them, with very little loss of power.

Net / Bush / Tree / Rope / Carpet / Cloth / Chain

  • +6 DC for Martial Attacks (12 CP).
    • Fast Strike (OCV +2, DCV +0, 12d6) (2 CP).
    • Flying Tackle (OCV +0, DCV -1, 10+v/5) (1 CP).
    • Choke Hold (OCV -2, DCV +0, Grab, 5d6 NND) (2 CP).
    • Martial Grab (OCV -1, DCV -1, STR 60) (1 CP).
    • Martial Disarm (OCV -1, DCV +1) (2 CP).
    • Nerve Strike (OCV -1, DCV +1, 5d6 NND) (2 CP).
    • Martial Throw (OCV +0, DCV +1, 10d6+v/5) (1 CP).
    • Weapon Bind (OCV +1, DCV +0, STR 60) (2 CP).
  • +2 levels with HTH Combat (5 CP).

Items like these are surprisingly effective, especially when “wielded” with a telekinetic strength of twenty. With multiple ends and flexibility they can strike, entangle, and squeeze in a bewildering variety of ways.

Shield / Slabs of Rock / Interposing Objects

  • Armor (10 PD/10 ED) Usable By Others: Simultaneous Use, +½ (22 CP).
  • Flash Defense (Sight, 6 pts); Usable By Others: Simultaneous Use, +½ (4 CP).
  • Power Defense (6 pts); Usable By Others: Simultaneous Use, +½ (4 CP).

Large solid objects that get in the way of attacks are simple, straightforward, and surprisingly effective. They may not be able to stop heavy attacks, but they can certainly blunt them.

Axe, Sword, Spear, Pole Arm, Etc.

  • 1½d6 Killing Attack (HTH) (3d6 with telekinetic strength); Reduced END: Zero, +½ (18 CP).
  • +2 levels with All Combat; Usable By Others: Simultaneous Use, +½ (12 CP).

Animated melee weapons are simple, straightforward, and quite dangerous – partially in their own right and partially because they are pretty good at supporting another fighter.

Statue / Manaquin / Tin Man / Scarecrow / Large Doll / Etc

  • +20 STR; Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½; Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (7 CP).
  • +20 STR (Only for HTH Combat); -½, Doesn’t Affect Figured: -½; Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (6 CP).
  • +1 level w/Overall Level (Aide); Usable By Others: Simultaneous Use, +½ (7 CP)
  • +5 levels with HTH Combat; Generic Limitation (OCV Only): -½ (10 CP).

Perhaps the most classic of all animated objects, humanoid (or at least vaguely humanoid) automatons are versatile and know no pain or hesitation, making them surprisingly good in a fight and even of some use as aides.

Fire Extinguisher

  • Multipower (45-pt reserve); Fire Extinguisher Functions Only: -½, 2 Hex Maximum Range -¼ (16 CP).
    • u-1: 3d6 Flash (Normal Sight); Area Effect (One-hex) +½; Charges: +16.
    • u-1: 6d6 Suppress (Fire); Affect: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Charges: 8, +¼; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 levels.
    • u-1: 4d6 Transform Air to a coating of Ice (Minor, Single Object); Charges: 16, +0.
    • u-1: Darkness 3″ Radius (Extinguisher Powder) versus Smell and the Sight Sense Group, 8 Charges lasting 1 Turn Each.
  • +4 levels with Extinguisher (6 CP).
  • Hand-To-Hand Attack +2d6 at 0 End Cost (4 CP).

The Fire Extinguisher is a bit silly, but it can actually be fairly effective in making life awkward for many opponents. And if all else fails, it can simply bludgeon people.

Kevlar Clothing / Light Armor / Superhero Costume

  • +10 STR; Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels, Usable By Others: Power Lost, +¼ (4 CP).
  • Armor (8 PD/8 ED); Usable By Others: Simultaneous Use, +½; Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (12 CP).
  • Running (+12″); Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels; Usable By Others: Power Lost, +¼ (10 CP).
  • Superleap (+14″); Charges: 1, -½; Continuing Charges: 1 Hour, -5 levels (4 CP).

The Living Clothing / Armor is an old joke, but if it’s durable enough, it can actually be a surprisingly effective boost.

Heavy Pistol/Bow/Crossbow/Gyrojet Pistol/Etc

  • 2d6 Ranged Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 225; Reduced END: Zero, +½ (22 CP).
  • +3 levels with Ranged Combat (8 CP).

Simple and effective, the job of this object is simply to shoot at its targets. Why the ammunition never runs out is something of a mystery, but it IS magic.

Grenade Launcher

  • Multipower (45-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Grenades only): -½ (18 CP).
    • u-1: 2d6 Fragmentation Grenade: Ranged Killing Attack; Range: 225; Explosion: +½; Charges: 12, -¼.
    • u-1: 6d6 Concussion Grenade: Stun Only Energy Blast. Range: 225; Versus: PD; Explosion: +½; Charges: 12, -¼.
    • u-1: 6d6 Inciendary Grenade: Energy Blast, Range: 225; Versus: ED; Explosion: +½; Charges: 12, -¼
    • u-1: Smoke Grenade: Darkness (Smell, Sight, 3″ radius); Range: 225; Charges: 4, -¼; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 levels.
    • u-1: 3d6 Tangler Grenade: Entangle (DEF 3): Range: 225; Explosion: +½; Charges: 12, -¼.
  • +4 level w/Grenades (10 CP).

The Grenade Launcher isn’t a very powerful weapon by Hero System standards – but it’s reasonably versatile surprisingly accurate at hitting a target hex (that telekinetic control again), and is great for dealing with crowds of mooks.

Missile Launcher / Anti-Tank Weapon

  • Multipower (60-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Missles Only): -½ (24 CP).
    • u-2: 4d6 Shaped Charge Missile Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 300; Charges: 16, +0.
    • u-2: 12d6 Plasma Jet Missile Fire Energy Blast; Range: 300; Versus: ED; Charges: 16, +0.
    • u-2: 8d6 Inciendary Energy Blast: Range: 300; Versus: ED; Explosion: +½; Charges: 16, +0.

The Missile Launcher is one of the most powerful conventional personal weapons around, but is – of course – meant to target vehicles. Trying to shoot people is surprisingly hard. Normal missile launchers don’t usually have forty-eight missiles available, but once again, magic.

Confronted with a hostile army, Blueblood has opted to learn a spell to let him deploy the equivalent of his own platoon. It isn’t – and really can’t be – enough to handle an army, but it should be useful in a variety of lesser situations.

Eclipse d20 – Dweomer, Thaumaturgy, and Wizardry

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

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

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

-Jirachi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I hope that helps!

Terminator IV T-3000, The Apo-Hypothesis

Finally, we have the T-3000 – arguably either the “Ultimate” Terminator or not really a Terminator at all.

The T-3000 is the result of infecting a human with “machine phase matter” (apparently some type of nanotech), which turns them into a improved version of the T-1000 with all their skills and memories intact. Unfortunately for Skynet, up until the transformation of John Connor all such attempts simply drove the subjects insane and killed them without creating a functional Terminator, making the attempts a waste of time.

Wait, what? You’re killing them anyway, and absorbing their memories into a computer system. Why should their sanity – or even their deaths (which are coming in moments anyway) matter? And what makes John Connor unique? Sure, he’s well-trained – but didn’t he pass that on to most of his followers? Isn’t he physically and neurologically just another human? Why waste time on something that’s been repeatedly determined not to work? Isn’t Skynet a computer?

Anyway, at the end, the T-3000 is destroyed by a prototype time machine – it being strongly implied that few other sources of magnetic fields are powerful enough, although there is some evidence that enough hits with specialized weapons could wear it down eventually.

Overall, a T-3000 acts a lot like the T-1000, but…

  • It is supposed to be stronger than the earlier model Terminators.

OK. Another bonus to Strength. There’s no problem there. After all, the latest model is generally supposed to be the strongest.

  • It can easily withstand vast amounts of damage (it can’t be infinite; energy attacks and bullets and such will destroy a few of its nanites each time, but that’s like trying to kill a human with a tiny needle. It’s going to take a lot of poking). Still, “tougher” is pretty much the Terminator theme, so the latest model is generally really tough. There’s no problem there.

So… more hit points, maybe boost the T-1000 resistance to damage a bit but make it vulnerable to attacks with magnetic properties.

  • It’s really fast.

OK; throw in Personal Haste in it’s innate enchantments. Kill some of the self-repair functions (which make no sense for it) to help make room.

  • It’s actually relatively hard to hit, since it phases through some attacks.

So it has a higher AC. Fair enough again; it IS the big boss Terminator. Buy some more AC.

  • It can use it’s magnetic field to walk up metal walls and such.

Well… OK. Given the lack of strain on the walls from this, this is probably actually purchased as really limited flight, but it still makes some sense. It could even be expanded to non-metal walls, given that a T-3000 can easily stick anchors out of its feet.

  • It can enlarge it’s “muscles”, and thus strength, in combat.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not like those “muscles” have any bones to pull against or actually do anything; it’s supposed to be moving and holding it’s shape because of a magnetic field that it generates. Wouldn’t it’s “strength” be limited by that field, not by it’s non-existent “muscles”? And why doesn’t that magnetic field attract magnetic materials when it doesn’t want to?

  • It can turn into a mist, and – in that form – move through solid matter (or at least through another Terminator).

Wait, what? It’s supposed to be made of nanomachines the size of human cells. If those moved through matter… they’d turn it into a swiss cheese of microscopic holes, destroying any older-model Terminator (and pretty much anything else solid) that it moved through.

Yet that didn’t happen. And THAT is flatly silly. Sure, it IS possible to make matter pass through other matter, but the kind of forces that involves are not going to leave nanites and electronics intact. They’re not going to leave ANYTHING intact in a considerable radius.

Magnets. How do they even work?

Well… it’s not anything like THAT.

OK; looking at what this actually seems to do… It allowed the T-3000 to stand instantly (a quick turn doesn’t matter in d20, which has no facing) and to step “through” Pops – which either briefly “stunned” him or was shown in slow motion. Judging by the other shots of this ability in use… it was probably shown in slow motion so the audience could see the neat special effect. Far more importantly… it was never used when it would actually have done something, such as getting aboard that bus. Maybe the power demand was too high to use it often?

Anyway, I’m going to assume that John Connor knew a martial art with “Instant Stand” in it and just had a nifty new special effect for it. A short range, very limited use, teleport effect may be in order too.

Overall, d20 is very appropriate for this particular template, because, while the T-1000 was physically absurd, you had to know some physics and engineering to know why. The T-3000 blatantly jumps straight into fantasy. It’s super-fast, super-strong, can only be injured by specific means, can turn to mist and reform even if you chop pieces off, it falls apart into dust when destroyed, recovers incredibly quickly from most attacks, starts “burning” and dissolving into “smoke” when exposed to it’s weakness, and is made by transforming a living human into a monster – or more precisely, by possessing a fresh corpse (even if most of the the attempted conversions fail). On the weakness side… It has trouble with areas with strong magnetic fields, can be held back by powerful magnets, has minor troubles with electrical shocks (which also generate strong magnetic fields), and suffers some (if also relatively minor) injuries from weapons with magnetic properties.

Doesn’t that sound pretty familiar? The Terminator was basically a modern version of a Golem, To quote Kyle Reese in the first movie… “Listen, and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

That’s a classical golem right there.

But the T-3000 has had a villain upgrade to Vampire, substituting (or adding) “magnets!” for “holy!” on it’s list of vulnerabilities. After all… if you shoved a supermagnetic metal pole through it, wouldn’t it be incapacitated until something pulled it out?

Not too surprisingly, this modern rendition of Dracula versus Frankenstein (complete with Frankenstein protecting the girl) winds up like it did in 1971: Dracula rips apart Frankenstein, but is then destroyed by exposure to his weakness. Of course, Frankenstein – being a good guy from the beginning this time around – winds up being thrown into a tank of magic mad scientist goop that puts him back together, while there are the inevitable hints at a Return of Dracula.

So for our T-3000 Acquired Template…

  • Attribute Modifiers: Str +8, Dex +4, Int +2, Wis -4, Cha -6 (30 CP Attribute Shift, 24 CP Purchase)
  • Immunity to Mind-Affecting Effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects of level seven or below, with a +8 bonus to saves against higher-level effects, does not work against ECM, Hacking, Computer Viruses, and other electronically-based effects (24 CP).
  • DR 6/- and 12/magnetic weapons (12 CP).
  • Energy Resistance 12, Reduced to 6 versus Electromagnetic Attacks (12 CP).
  • Celerity with Additional Movement Mode (Flight), Specialized /only to allow walking up walls and such (9 CP).
  • No Constitution (0 CP).
  • +80 Hit Points (48 CP, purchased as Immunity to Damage (Very Common, Severe, Legendary, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Specialized for Increased Effect: / provides only two-thirds the usual protection, the protection is degraded by incoming damage in a one-to-one ratio, and can only be restored by repairing it as if it was hit point damage.
  • Adds (Str Mod x 1.5) to AC as a Natural Armor Bonus, although this is not cumulative with external armor bonuses; only the best bonus applies (12 CP).
  • +2 in each save category (18 CP).
  • Low-Light Vision (6 CP)
  • 60′ Darkvision (6 CP)
  • +5 BAB (30 CP).
  • Expertise (Power Attack version) (6 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (12 CP) (up to 11,500 GP Value)
    • Advanced Military Programming: +3 Competence Bonus to Heal, Intimidate, Perception, and Knowledge (History, the Military and Weapons in particular) (1400 GP).
    • Anklet of Translocation (1400 GP). This covers the occasional “flash step” maneuver.
    • Hat of Disguise x.8 (no longer usable if the unit has taken 20 or more points of actual damage, 1440 GP)
    • Iron Strike: The user’s hands are treated as +2 Hand Axes (1400 GP). Note that this can look like a wide variety of weapons, but the default of +2 to Attacks and 1d6+2+Str Mod damage works well enough for most things.
    • Large and Heavy: Enlarge Person: Only to be considered Large for the purpose of breaking doors and other objects, grappling, and carrying things (x.5) (700 GP).
    • Lightspeed Computation: Boost Armor: Reduced Defense VII (+0 AC, -14 DC), Segmented III (+6 DC, no non-proficiency penalty), Max Dex +4 (-), Speed +10, +4 Str, +2 Reflex Saves (Net purchase DC 10 = 120 Credits or 6 GP). (This is a very cheap trick, but so be it).
    • Nanite Structure: Enhance Structure: +2d6 + 2 x Str Mod Temporary HP to a construct, x.7 no more than half of each rounds buffer is effective against any one attack, use makes it obvious that the user is not human (980 GP).
    • Personal Haste (2000 GP): +30′ Movement, +1 attack when making a full attack.
    • Weapons Catalog: Masters Touch, x.7 Weapons Only (1400 GP).
    • Secondary Equipment: Advanced Smartphone (10 GP), GPS (20 GP), Radio Scanner (10 GP), Lock Release Gun (10 GP), Rangefinding Binoculars (25 GP), Compass (2 CP), Flash Goggles (25 GP), HUD (3 GP), Military Transceiver (20 GP), Vocalizer (Voice Imitation, 50 GP), Power Backpack (5 GP), Multipurpose Tool (4 GP), Remote Surveillance Module (20 GP). High Frequency Sword (25 GP), Grenade Launcher (100 GP), Grapnel Gun (20 GP), Dual, Katanas (20 GP), Chain Saw (12.5 GP). Net total: 380 GP.
      • Net Total: 11,106 GP. There’s room enough for a few conventional gadgets if you wish – perhaps some surveillance and electronic scanning gear?
  • Accursed: Whenever a T-3000 takes extra damage from a critical hit they must make a DC 15 Fortitude save to avoid being stunned for 1 round. If the save is successful, the T-3000 is still staggered for 1 round. They remain immune to other sources of the stunned condition (-3 CP)

That’s 246 CP – a rather high-value template, up in +8 ECL territory. Fairly obviously, some major limitations are in order – and they’re going to have to be pretty serious to justify bringing that +8 ECL modifier down to something reasonable.

So what are those limitations?

Honestly, we can’t be sure. The one example we’ve seen was unique – and we weren’t given all that much information on it at all, much less a breakdown on what made it unique, or what carried over from the original person, or what it’s precise limits were. Worse, what little we got was strictly within a science-fantasy framework with no magic, psionics, or other odd methods of bending reality. Ergo, it’s going to be mix and match; take four of the Major Limitations and three of the Minor Limitations and consider the entire template Specialized – reducing it’s cost to 123 Points, a +4 ECL Acquired Template.

Major Limitations:

  • A T-3000 cannot ever truly heal; it’s nanites are the unique products of the conversion of a specific persons cells, and are irreplaceable, Otherwise, why can’t it absorb more people? And why would some conversions fail? It will require a Wish, Miracle, or some highly-specialized effect to repair any actual damage it suffers.
  • A T-3000 is effectively undead, and is powered by negative energy (it certainly has no apparent technological source of enough energy to maintain and manipulate it’s own massive magnetic field). As such, it can be damaged by holy energies, blasted with positive energy, manipulated by certain negative energy techniques, cannot be Raised or Resurrected, and is automatically evil and implacably hostile to normal life, even if freewilled. As an undead, it can infect others – but it apparently needs their cooperation to do so.
  • A T-3000 can be effectively paralyzed by a strong magnetic field and may take damage from such exposure depending on the strength of the field and GM fiat. It can also be affected by electronic jamming. Treat these as “holy” effects against the Undead.
  • A T-3000 takes 1 ½ times damage from effects with the Acid, Electricity, or Light descriptors. Like it or not, those will destroy nanites much more effectively than bullets and such.
  • A T-3000 cannot purchase magical progressions, mana, active spellcasting, psionic powers, witchery, or similar abilities. They may still take Innate Enchantments and Inherent Spells, but only to represent various pieces of built-in equipment. Of course, NPC units don’t need to worry about purchasing new abilities.

Minor Limitations:

  • A T-3000 cannot purchase abilities that represent briefly pushing past normal limits, including Hysteria, Berserker, and similar abilities, without game master approval to use them to simulate an appropriate subsystem.
  • A T-3000 cannot purchase the Leadership or Companion abilities and always suffers a -6 penalty on it’s social skill checks.
  • A T-3000 is easily detectable electronically or by other Terminators – even far more primitive models. It’s readings are simply nothing like a humans.
  • A T-3000 conversion must be paid for on the spot; the transformed creature must drop enough abilities – normally psychic, supernatural, biological, or otherwise uniquely “living being” traits – to pay for it’s new template on the spot. If it has insufficient resources to do so, it dies.

John Connor (at level five pretty much at the level cap for “badass normals”), presumably had lots of luck, a reality-editing effect, leadership, the equivalent of precognitive tactical insights, and some sort of immunity to paradox to sacrifice – effectively burning off four levels to survive picking up the T-3000 Template. Of course, his reality-editing, paradox-immune, death throes were enough to create a temporal nexus and really mess up the timeline.

Now at roughly CR 9, the T-3000 was a deadly danger to Pops/Guardian (A CR 5 T-850 model with two or three levels) and two well-prepared and trained elite humans (Level 3 to 4, and so CR 5 to 6).

Terminator III – The Life Of A Machine, the Terminator Racial Template

For a playable Terminator build… we have a problem. Terminators that do not have their learning circuits turned on are pure automatons – slaves to their programming. They can be reprogrammed and then will do exactly what their new programming says.

Once you turn on their learning circuits they may at any point learn the value of human life and start defending people instead of killing them. Apparently learning the value of art, or gardening, or wildlife conservation, or anything else that isn’t precisely the opposite of what they were made to do is not an option. Otherwise – given that there are hundreds of thousands of possible interests – only one out of hundreds that went rogue would be actively opposing Skynet, and that is not what the franchise tells us.

So… even with the learning program, Terminators have no real free will; they simply either accept or invert their programmed imperatives. Skynet is evidently smart enough not to create other self-aware machines with potentially different goals if it doesn’t have too – which is why it didn’t make a bunch of T-1000 units which (we’ve been told, if never definitely shown) DID have that potential.

You can play such a character of course. It has a standardized set of motives and a very limited array of solutions, but you can play one. Unfortunately for long term play, however, I’ve had only one player out of hundreds in nearly forty years who’s sole and only interest in gaming was tactical combat. Unless you’ve also got a player with interests that limited, a playable character really needs free will.

I’ve had a few other players create automatons of one sort or another, starting with “Mr Chips” (for Shadowrun I, in the early 1990’s). And Mr Chips was fairly typical; the player had a lot of fun trying to assassinate the party, being hacked to work with the party, and then rolling dice to see if his programming came up with what he wanted to do or if the game master decided what his character did at the moment at first – but Mr Chips got old fairly fast. Rolling to see what his character was going to do was only amusing for a few sessions since a bad roll meant that the player had no decisions to make; all he could do was eat the snacks and (possibly) make a few rolls as requested by the game master. And while seeing how Mr Chips was messing things up was funny for a while, it soon got quite boring – and the rest of the players kept trying to install programming upgrades or make sure that Mr Chips had nothing to do outside of being pointed at a target wherever there was another fiasco.

The player soon made another character (“Mr Lizard”, a dinosaur-obsessed decker who’d had his body rebuilt into a cyborg-stealth-raptor with a built-in deck and who worked out of his personal movie theater where he showed old dinosaur and giant monster movies on a continuous basis) – and Mr Chips continued as a party fire support robotic drone until he got destroyed, which no one really worried about.

Several other automaton “characters” have followed the same general trajectory since then. It’s always amusing for a bit, and that amusement always seems to run out shortly.

So player characters need to have functional minds, the ability to develop their own interests, and actual free will to be really playable in the long run – and yet we probably shouldn’t have Skynet put in an “Install Soul” button, if only because doing it would make no sense whatsoever.

So that’s step one: lightning strikes, and Number Five is Alive. Your player-character Terminator (or important NPC Terminator) has just been hit with some equivalent of “Awaken Construct” and has gone from “Extensively Programmed Automaton” to “Person” – and gets to start off by generating some attributes.

Now “normal” Terminators are mass-produced machines. There may be some variation between models, but your basic new terminator is going to have a its attributes and abilities pretty much preset. Player characters, however, get Attribute Modifiers, not specified attributes.

For a Terminator, that’s going to look something like this:

  • Attribute Shift x 5 (30 CP): Str +6, Dex +2, Int +2, Wis -4, Cha -6. The +2 Pathfinder attribute bonus goes to Dex, for a total of +4.

This would give a standard Machine Soldier-based Terminator a base attribute array of Str 12, Dex 11, Con —, Int 11, Wis 7, and Cha 7. In Pathfinder point buy that actually has a negative cost – and pretty much any common method of generating attributes is likely to result in an improvement. Presumably that’s part of why a free-willed Terminator has an advantage over the standard factory models – and why Skynet has to send specially-built hunter-killer models to get rid of rogues instead of just sending two or three (much cheaper) regular models .

The next problem comes from a lack of information. The Terminator Franchise doesn’t really include psionics, magic, or weird science beyond a bit of time travel, plasma weapons, and the Terminators themselves – and it doesn’t show us any entirely free-willed Terminators at all. Thus we have no idea of whether or not a fully-intelligent Terminator is vulnerable to mental powers or not. The d20 precedents are mixed; AI’s are, but clockwork creatures are not, living constructs are, but robots do not seem to be. And none of those really match.

I’m going to go with “not”, simply because the “emotionless and implacable” bit is a defining feature of the entire franchise.

  • Immunity (Common/Major/Great) to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects), Corrupted for Reduced Cost (24 CP) / not versus ECM, Hacking, Computer Viruses, and other electronically-based effects. This covers effects of up to level seven and provides a +8 bonus to saves against effects of level eight or higher. A freewilled Terminators mind CAN be reached electronically or by sufficient power, but it isn’t easy.

Terminators are tough to damage; they get Hardness, totaling 12. This subtracts directly from all damage taken (unless the game master feels that a particular object is especially vulnerable to something), like Generalized Damage Reduction. That fits nicely, so buy…

  • DR 6/-, Specialized for Increased Effect (12/-) versus physical attacks only. Given that armor-piercing ammunition is supposed to be more effective, and Adamantine is d20’s usual equivalent, the first 3/- (effectively 6/-) points are purchased normally (6 CP), the rest is Corrupted/Not versus Adamantine (6 CP).

According to the SRD, objects take half damage before hardness from ranged weapons – unless they’re siege weapons or the GM thinks that they should work. Of course, this is mostly talking about arrows, shuriken, and similar hand-propelled stuff and doesn’t normally apply to anything which can be classed as a “creature”, Even if it did… Terminators are full of delicate little vital components and the movies show a Terminator being speared quite effectively and some being eliminated with projectile weapons.

  • DR 6/-, Specialized for Increased Effect (12/-) versus energy attacks only. Since Terminators are shown to be somewhat vulnerable to various forms of energy (just what depends on the model), this uses the same structure as the physical damage reduction, being less effective against a some form of energy (12 CP).

Normal objects only take half damage from energy attacks BEFORE hardness – again, unless the game master feels that there is a vulnerability. On checking the letter of the rules… this probably (I cannot tell for sure) doesn’t apply even to baseline Terminators since they’re technically “creatures” even if they DO have a Hardness score and I was probably wrong to quote it earlier. I suppose that I’m just too used to high-end fantasy d20 games, where a 10d6 fireball is a fairly basic energy attack. I should have been thinking about d20 Future and the 3d10 Plasma Rifle.

Terminators aren’t alive, even in the very loose d20 sense. That’s No Constitution (0 CP), giving them immunity to ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, and effects requiring Fortitude saves unless they work on objects or are harmless. They can’t tire, and thus can move, work, or remain alert indefinitely. On the other hand they can’t be Raised or Resurrected and are instantly destroyed at 0 HP

As a note, this inherently covers immunity to disease, death effects, most necromancy effects, poison, sleep effects, death from massive damage, nonlethal damage, and stunning, as well as normal forms of paralysis given that those pretty much all involve ability damage or drain, being alive, or fortitude saves. Similarly, not being alive eliminates the need to breathe and eat. It does NOT bestow an immunity to Critical Hits. Since technologically-based (and possibly other) Terminators are full of complex, interdependent, active systems, they are subject to critical hits. That fits, since “Robot” style constructs are explicitly vulnerable to critical hits.

Terminators come with a fair number of hit points as a base. That can be purchased as…

  • Immunity to Damage (Very Common, Severe, Great, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Specialized for Increased Effect: / provides only two-thirds the usual protection, the protection is degraded by incoming damage in a one-to-one ratio, and can only be restored by repairing it as if it was hit point damage – effectively buying +40 HP (24 CP).

“Immunity to Damage” usually isn’t allowable – but limiting it to acting as extra hit points makes it reasonable enough given that there are plenty of other ways – many of the more efficient in the long run – to get extra hit points. It’s also another way to build the usual bonus for Constructs since 12 CP worth of this “Immunity” buys +20 hit points – just what a medium construct gets for upgrading its “No Constitution” modifier (for 12 CP) to get bonus hit points.

Terminators are treated as having a fair amount of natural armor; This kid of overlaps with their Damage Reduction / Hardness with a special effect of “hit but didn’t hurt” given that the entire franchise focuses on the implacable, unstoppable, war machine grinding onwards.

  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Adds (Str Mod) to (Dex Mod) when computing AC, Corrupted for Increased Effect and Specialized for Reduced Cost / limited to a maximum total of +6, treated as a Natural Armor bonus, not cumulative with external armor bonuses; only the best bonus applies (9 CP).
  • Terminators – like most constructs – have lousy base saves; the Machine Solder is presumed to have one level of Fighter, but a fully intelligent one might have something else. Ergo, +1 in each category (9 CP).
  • Occult Sense (Low-Light Vision, 6 CP)
  • Occult Sense (Darkvision, 6 CP)
  • BAB +4 (24 CP).
  • Expertise (Power Attack version) (6 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (12 CP).
  • Accursed: Whenever they take extra damage from a critical hit they must make a DC 15 Fortitude save to avoid being stunned for 1 round. If the save is successful, it is still staggered for 1 round. They remain immune to other sources of the stunned condition (-3 CP)
  • Accursed: They take 150% of the usual damage from some type of energy. For technological units, that’s usually Electrical attacks (-3 CP).

So that gives our “Terminator Template” a base cost of 30 (Attribute Shift) +24 (Mental Defenses) +12 (Damage Reduction) +12 (Energy Resistance) +24 (+40 hit points) +9 (Natural Armor) +12 (Occult Senses) +24 (BAB) +6 (Expertise) +12 (Innate Enchantment) -6 (Disadvantages) = 159 CP.

That’s maxed out +4 ECL territory – which, with +1 level of fighter – gives us our basic CR 5 Terminator.

Still, Terminators suffer from a lot of limitations as player characters in more fantastic settings that really don’t have much effect on NPC robot troopers in more realistic ones.

  • They cannot be Raised or Resurrected. This is a big one that doesn’t matter to NPC units because they’re just machines; there’s no unique personality THERE to Raise or Resurrect anyway.
  • They do not heal naturally, or via the usual spells and powers. Again, that’s unimportant to NPC units, which tend to either be destroyed in their first battle or can go in for repairs offstage.
  • They are Immediately destroyed when reduced to 0 hit points or less. Of course, for disposable troop-automatons, Skynet doesn’t need to care. For game purposes… out of action is pretty much equivalent to destroyed when it comes to disposable troops (and they have a power to get around this anyway).
  • They cannot purchase magical progressions, mana, active spellcasting, psionic powers, witchery, or similar abilities. They may still take Innate Enchantments and Inherent Spells, but only to represent various pieces of built-in equipment. Of course, NPC units don’t need to worry about purchasing new abilities.
  • They cannot purchased abilities that represent briefly pushing past normal limits, including Hysteria, Berserker, and similar abilities, without game master approval to use them to simulate an appropriate subsystem.

If all of that applies it makes the Terminator “Racial” Template Specialized – for a net cost of 82 CP, making them a +2 ECL race. Overall, a Terminator character makes a fairly strong Fighter or Rogue-type character at first, but all those restrictions are soon going to start to hurt in a fantastic game. In a realistic one… they’ll have an advantage. It will still fade at higher levels, but it will be very important early on.

After all, John Connor needed a Terminator protector until he grew up.

Next time around on this… it will be the T-3000. Sadly, that may or may not make a lot of sense; it was a unique plot device opponent with a unique “only one thing can stop it!” vulnerability, which is really a pretty big “No!” in adventure design since a bunch of player characters is far too likely to try a hundred other things, get really frustrated, and then completely overlook the one thing that will work.

Champions – Trottingham Palace

Trottingham Palace IIAnd for a break, here we have a Hero System base that’s less an adventuring accessory and more a home.

Trottingham Palace is blatantly otherworldly. It isn’t just that it’s grounds include some four square miles of beautiful, well-tended, forest, hills, streams, and fields, or the picturesque reflecting lake, or even the impractical architecture. Anyone but a botanist would find it easy to miss the fact that tropical, temperate, and northern plants grow side by side, bearing delicious fruit and beautiful foliage and blossoms all at the same time with no respect for the season. It’s the fact that the entire area is more than a little psychomorphic, responding on behalf of it’s residents and guests. For good or ill the environment supports unpredictable moments of cartoon physics, empowers cliches and tropes, provides dramatic lightning and sound effects (including background music, which makes it hard to sneak around), provides and erases paths and picnic spots and trysting nooks, and changes seasons to suit. There are far more beautiful vistas, gardens, orchards, and general landscaping, and a lot more friendly “Disney” style critters, than can reasonable be fit into the actual area.

That’s because the place has…

  • Shapeshifting. It can rearrange its rooms, grounds, and general structure as needed. Do you need a snowy ski slope? There you are!
  • Instant Change. It can redecorate, alter the landscaping, mow the lawns, provide furniture, make the plants bloom, create or remove paths, add or remove streams, fords or bridges, and set up for special events or clean things up at a moments notice.
  • Life Support. While this does provide subtler benefits (noted below), the most obvious one is that the weather and temperature are always managed and the air is always clean, pure, and pleasantly scented. Similarly, food and drinks are always quickly and easily available.
  • Regeneration. Thanks to a quirk in the rules, this can be applied to both the base itself (quickly and easily doing the maintenance and making repairs) and to the Residents – making everyone in the area effectively unkillable, swiftly healing any injuries, regenerating lost limbs, and so on. In combination with the Life Support function… diseases, radiation, and similar difficulties are all swiftly negated and aging past adulthood is slowed to a crawl.
  • “Darkness”. This effect provides privacy, ensuring that personal affairs will remain just that.
  • Summoning. This effect provides a basic staff – zero point characters (with up to 25 points in disadvantages). There are competent cooks, butlers, nannies, gardeners/garden guides, teachers, and so on.
  • Dimensional Gateway (The Amazon Worldmall): Despite it’s wilderness location, the palace is basically “handy for the shops”; residents can easily drop by the fabulous Amazon Worldmall (basically the imaginary-realm combination of Amazon.Com, assorted Darknet Markets, Ebay, and so on) to do their shopping with no delivery delay. Blueblood currently insists that family members who want to buy or sell things take along an informed escort lest they get into trouble or try to buy a dragon or something.
  • Detect Life. This is basically a combination of a security system of sorts – keeping track of who’s where on the estate – and a child monitoring setup.
  • Mind Link: Blueblood and his family have a direct link with the estate, allowing them direct control over it’s functions, letting them communicate with each other – and allowing mothers to easily monitor their kids.
  • Dimensional Gateway (the TARDIS). Since Blueblood is currently hopping around the multiverse with Cronus, he’d normally be hard to reach – but the TARDIS basically contains it’s own pocket dimension. Making this work has included spending a point on the TARDIS (to add some “personal immunity” to it’s own defenses), but it was well worth it.
  • Finally, the Aid power allows the palace to add facilities as needed – although it can only maintain 24 points worth at a time. That’s not a lot if you want to add major systems, defenses capable of stopping superheroes, or anything similar – but it’s very good for adding more or less conventional educational or recreational facilities. Have a couple of kids gotten interested in astronomy this week? An 8- (amateur) observatory / library costs a mere 1 point. Upgrading to basic university quality (11-) raises that cost to 2 points. Similarly, a sports center, film studio, daycare setup, occult laboratory, or craft center can be added the same way – and at the same cost. More complex items – a water park, carnival, fair, marina and some small boats to sail around the lake or ride the rapids in – may cost a few more points.

About the only entirely stable location is the small, semi-public campground and tangle of “nature” trails and gardens on one corner of the grounds, where hikers, passing visitors, and other guests can stay to visit. Given that a few hours visit will cure virtually any disease or injury, doing so is rapidly becoming more popular.

For Blueblood, of course, the place isn’t really a “base” for his adventures. It’s a home, a place for his herd and offspring to stay where they will have every advantage, an environment that reminds him of Equestria, and a bit of noblesse oblige. While supernatural regeneration, perfect healing, and so on is easily available in the Apex setting for those with exceptional power, plenty of money, or good health programs, such things are all too often out of reach for the poor and powerless. Ergo, there’s a corner of the estate set aside for them to come and visit for a few hours and get it for free.

Trottingham Palace

Basic Structure: Defense 6 (12P) and Body 6 (4P). Force-field reinforcement raises the defense to 17.

Area: 2,500 Hexes / 107,600 sq ft, DCV -12 (26P).

Grounds: 2,560,000 hexes (four square miles) (10P).

Location: Distant, Deep Wilderness (15P)

Elemental Control: Ward Major (22-pt reserve); Inobvious Inaccessible Immobile Base Focus (A crystal room full of runes and carvings in the basement where a nexus of ley lines comes together, -2.25).

  1. Protective Spells / Force Field (11 PD/11 ED); Hardened: ×2, ½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Generic Limitation (Does not protect occupants, only the structure): -1 (5P).
  2. Healing Aura / Regeneration (2 BODY/5 min.); Regenerate: From Death, +20; Variable Special Effects (Points can go to any damaged attribute or ability): Certain Group, +¼ (7P).
  3. Privacy Wards / Darkness (Hearing, Sight, Unusual Senses); Range: 0; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Generic Limitation (Only to prevent spying from the outside): -1; Always On: -½ (4P).
  4. Summon Staff (1 0-point creatures); Range: 0; Active Points: 45; Summon (Suitable palace staff): Limited Group, +¼; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Champions Advantage (Summons reasonably loyal staff): +¼; Charges: 16, +0; Generic Limitation (Maximum of 80) (4P). The palace always has competent (14-) teachers, child caretakers, butlers, cooks, and similar types about. They will, however, generally simply vanish (going home) if seriously attacked.
  5. 2d6 Aid to Base Facilities (Fade/day, Max. 24); Range: 0; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Mundane facilities only. Trottingham cannot add things like new dimensional gates or special powers, although it can add labs, libraries, swimming pools, and similar as needed: -1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼ (5P).
  6. Mind Link: Blueblood and Family; Minds: Related Group, +10; Number of Minds: 64, +30; Distance: Any, +5; Dimension: Any, +5; Link with: Anyone, +0; Extra Time: 5 min., -2; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½. (7P).
  7. Gate to the Amazon Market / Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: None, +0; Area Effect: 1 hex, +½; Continuous: +1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Doesn’t actually move the base, just makes a portal: -1; Open at both ends: -1 (5P). The Amazon Market is the manifested realm of Amazon.Com – where you can buy and sell pretty much anything and get it delivered instantly.
  8. Gate to the TARDIS / Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: None, +0; Area Effect: 1 hex, +½; Continuous: +1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; (Doesn’t actually move the base, just makes a portal: -1; Open at both ends: -1 (5 P).

Secondary Ward Effects (Same focus limitation):

  • Magical Housekeeping / Instant Change; “Clothes”: Any Set, 10; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Focus Mobility: Immobile, -1; Focus Type: Base, -1; Focus: Inobvious Inaccessible, -¼ (2P). On the scale of an estate, this covers gardening, landscaping, furniture, and so on.
  • Security Systems / Detect Life Forms (+6 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Touch, +0; Addition (Discriminatory): +10 (8P)
  • Environmental Control / Life Support (total) (9P). The groves and gardens provide food and water, thick stone walls (and air conditioning), and magical wards protect the occupants against most hazardous environments – and the healing aura reduces their aging to a tiny fraction of normal after adulthood and protects them from disease, radiation, and most other problems (9P).
  • Shape Shift (Limited Group); Only to rearrange rooms and layout: -1; Reduced END: Zero, +½ (7P)

Other Items:

  • Antiques, Stores, and Valuables / Money (Filthy Rich); Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Focus Type: Base, -1; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1 (4 P)
  • Entertainment Centers / High Range Radio Hearing and Internet Access; Focus Mobility: Immobile, -1; Focus Type: Base, -1; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1 (2 P).
  • We Are Not Touching This One / Diplomatic Immunity (5P). The local authorities are NOT going to chase magic ponies in cartoonland. Even if they thought that there was any point, or that it was practical, their younger offspring would never let them hear the end of it.
  • Local Police Powers (2P). Given that the place is way out in the wilderness, that Blueblood is technically a divine entity, and that the police generally are not going to go in there anyway, Bluebloods magic pony rent-a-cops may adorably scold anyone they please.

Base Cost: 155 Points

25+ Disadvantages (Cost: 25/5 = 5)

  • 15 Distinctive Features: Fabulous Fantasy Palace
  • 10 Occasional Manifestations of Cartoon Physics (Frequently, Slightly)
  • 10 Clichés and Tropes have power on the grounds (Frequently, Slightly)
  • 10 Background Effects. There is background music, dramatic thunder on que, lighting effects, and so on, making it hard to sneak and providing a +2 die bonus on presence attacks. (Infrequently, Greatly)
  • 5 Overrun with “Disney Critters” (Infrequently, Slightly)
  • 15 Watched: Local Authorities (14-)
  • 10 Watched: Local Titans (8-)
  • 20 Vulnerability: Siege Weapons (2× BODY)
  • 20 Dependent NPC: Kid or Kids (Incompetent, 11-)
  • 15 Dependent NPC: Mare or Mares (Normal, 11-)

130 Disadvantages Total