Dead Fantasizing

November 17, 2013

Ordinarily, the characters that I convert to Eclipse stats on this blog have no commonalities between them; that is, they’re not from the same series. That’s because I want to showcase a high amount of versatility in what’s here. The stark differences between the characters contrasts, in a way that I find very pleasing, with giving them all statistics under the same game rules. It’s the same principle that goes into crossovers – these characters shouldn’t be able to interact with each other, and yet now have the means to do so.

For this post, however, I’m bending my own rule.

The reason for that is because I’ve noticed that virtually all of the characters that I’ve posted here have had levels in the single digits. There have been one or two exceptions, to be sure, but for the most part they’ve all been low-level characters. The reason for this is because while many of the featured characters have come from series that are grandiose in scope, the amount of power they wield – when held up to the objective metric of the d20 System – simply doesn’t require that many levels to adequately portray.

Given that, this post is dedicated to showing off a character that is notably powerful, and as such requires levels well into the double digits to adequately portray. As I focused on the works of Monty Oum in my previous post, I was already thinking about his epic Dead Fantasy series – my favorite of his works, and one which I linked to in the aforementioned post – and realized that it was the perfect source for picking a character of exceptionally high level!

The Ultra-Violent Femmes

Of course, this wasn’t as easy as simply choosing a character at random and translating what they do in the series into game stats. All of the characters in Dead Fantasy are from established video game franchises; primarily Dead or Alive and Final Fantasy (hence the name). As such, a stat block for any of the characters in the series would need to also speak to their source material, ideally referencing any particular powers, abilities, or other noteworthy aspects from those games that weren’t otherwise shown (as of yet) in Dead Fantasy – particularly since Monty indicated that he felt that his series was, chronologically speaking, taking place after the source materials that he drew from.

This meant that, because I hadn’t played quite a few of the games that the cast was drawn from, I wouldn’t be able to make stats for them. I haven’t played the rebooted Ninja Gaiden games, for example (save for the one on the Nintendo DS), and that eliminated almost all of the Dead or Alive cast (since there’s a lot of additional game-play, and special powers, for Kasumi and Ayane in those, along with being the only places that Rachel and Momiji appear). Ditto that for the Kingdom Hearts series and Final Fantasy X and X-2.

Rinoa's signature move

Well, she doesn’t seem that frightening…

I had played Dead or Alive: Dimensions, which was basically an aggregate of the first four games in the series, so Hitomi was a possibility…but as the one character lacking any magic at all, she seemed like a poor choice. Since I didn’t want to use any of the male characters, as they don’t really fight in their brief appearances, that left only two choices: Tifa or Rinoa.

I had played both Final Fantasy VII and VIII (and seen the original and extended versions of Advent Children), so both were viable choices. Ultimately, I decided that Tifa’s character had slightly too much baggage, as statting her up would have required also creating stats for all of the materia she uses, which was a bit further afield than I wanted to go. Since I also wanted to stat up the most powerful character in the series, that made the final choice an easy one: Rinoa.

Mechanisms and Magic

The mythology of Final Fantasy VIII describes the origins of magic in that world in a few tales. While possessing contradictory elements (much like real-world mythologies), the story they tell can basically be summarized as thus:

When the world was very young, the god known as the Great Hyne fought many monsters in order to create a place for himself. Eventually establishing his own domain, he set about arranging it to his liking. However, tired from so many battles, he decided to create a servitor race, which would later come to be known as humans. Instructing them on what he wanted done, the Great Hyne entered a long sleep.

The humans, quickly completing their original instructions, were left idle and uncertain when their god did not then wake to guide them further. Eventually, they began to make more changes to the land at their own whims, creating societies of their own and multiplying. When the Great Hyne eventually awoke, he was outraged that his creations had themselves become creators, daring to infringe upon what he felt was his exclusive right to decide how things should be.

The Great Hyne set about punishing his wayward minions, starting by destroying the smaller replicas of themselves that they had created. The humans, horrified that their awakened god had started slaughtering their children, took up arms against him. While lacking the Great Hyne’s power, they had their own means of fighting, creating tools and continuing to reproduce at a rapid rate.

Eventually, realizing that he was losing the war against the humans, the Great Hyne agreed to cease hostilities and leave the humans in peace. Moreover, he gave them half of his body in recompense. However, when the humans went to claim their prize, they found that the half of the Great Hyne’s body they’d been given – and the power it contained – could not be controlled. Instead, it vanished into the bodies of certain women, who could then use mystic abilities due to that power now residing within them.

And the Great Hyne vanished, never to be seen again.

Ostensibly, the women who have this power – called Sorceresses (or Witches) in the game, but which I’ll refer to as Hyne Witches here to avoid confusion with the character classes, or other themes, of the same name – are the only ones in that world who can use magic. The actuality of it is something else again.

For one thing, monsters are still around, and many if not most of them have magical powers. There are also powerful creatures, officially classified as “energy beings” (which sounds like another name for spirits) called Guardian Forces, that can use powerful mystical abilities. Even humans can use magic when performing a “limit break” (which is maddeningly undefined within the context of the setting, like many dissociated mechanics found within the game).

Far more notable is the “para-magic” that people have invented prior to the start of the game. This system is said to be mechanical – though how it works, what it runs on, and how people can access it seemingly without any sort of interface beyond a thought – and allows people to utilize magic in a manner akin to a Hyne Witch. It does this via the “draw” and “junction” systems.

“Drawing” magic allows the user to take magic (which, in a very Vancian manner, treats each individual “unit” of magic as a single casting of a specific spell) from monsters, though most monsters only have a few spells, and only in limited quantities. Interestingly, magic can also be drawn from specific areas of the world. (Bizarrely, magic can also be “crafted” by refining castings of spells from material items; another part of the game that’s given no real context about what’s happening from the characters’ point of view.)

By contrast, “junctioning” allows characters to take a specific spell (in all quantities currently held) and fuse them with the user. This allows the user to be empowered by them without needing to cast them – indeed, casting them lessens the amount that you have junctioned to you, weakening the overall benefit. Multiple spells can be junctioned simultaneously this way, each to a different part of the body (or rather, each to a different statistic, something The Spoony One talks more about).

Moreover, the Guardian Force creatures could also be junctioned with, albeit only one at a time, lending their immense power to a person (and even allowing them to be summoned to fight for you), though this caused gradual long-term memory loss, as they occupied the area of the brain responsible for that function.

While lacking in contextualization in several regards, para-magic is nevertheless fairly easy to model in Eclipse.

Because the system uses, as mentioned above, the Vancian idea that each unit of magic is a single casting of a single spell, we can thus model it with a traditional spellcasting progression. Since the spell list is notably small, having only fifty spells in total, but the spells in question do have considerable power, we’ll use the cheapest full progression list: clerical, without the package deal (technically, the wilder progression is cheaper, but is too limited in the number of powers gained).

Further, we’ll change around the limitations used for this particular progression. Since the spells on this list do almost nothing besides dealing damage, avoiding damage, and recovering from damage, this progression has the Restrained limitation. Likewise, because the spells need to be individually located and learned, they have the Studies limitation. Also, since this does not come from a higher power, this is treated as arcane, rather than divine, spellcasting.

Finally, the entire progression is specialized for one-half cost: spells can only be restored by finding a monster, or location, with the spell in question, and drawing it out of them as a standard action (no AoO) – each such drawing granting one casting of the spell in question.

Junctioning magic is more complicated. Presumably it would be used by having other abilities be specialized for one-half cost: they only function so long as at least one instance of a specific spell is still prepared. That doesn’t take into account the idea that multiple instances of a spell affect the overall power of the junction, but it comes close.

The Guardian Forces are specific creatures, individually designed. However, all have Blessing with the ability to bestow a particular summon monster spell, specific to them, using the channeling variant outlined in The Practical Enchanter. This ability would also be corrupted: causes gradual loss of long-term memories.

All of this functions largely as background material, since by the time she appears in Dead Fantasy, Rinoa has moved beyond many of the above limitations on magic. This is good, since the mechanical apparatus that allows for the function of para-magic likely doesn’t reach to the Dead or Alive/Ninja Gaiden series’ Earth, which is where Dead Fantasy seems to take place. (This also explains why Rinoa is not using any of the Guardian Forces – without the ability to junction them there, they simply can’t be utilized.)

Rinoa's threat

…huh, that is a bit more intimidating…

One thing that must be addressed, however, is that Rinoa is a Hyne Witch, having some of the Great Hyne’s power within her as a result of the events of Final Fantasy VIII. As with para-magic, the nature of exactly what powers a Hyne Witch has are irritatingly undefined; the status serves largely as a mcguffin throughout the game, besides granting the ability to use magic without mechanical assistance. One thing that is known is that that power will eventually physically (and, it’s implied, mentally) warp a Hyne Witch over time, unless she finds a knight who dedicates himself to her…somehow, this arrests any damaging mutations.

What’s more concrete is how the power is passed on – a Hyne Witch that is killed, or brought very close to death, will instantly and involuntarily transfer her power to the nearest “eligible” woman (what constitutes eligibility is, as you likely guessed, never elucidated). In addition to being passed on like the Quickening from Highlander, this power can also be consolidated. The last boss of Final Fantasy VIII, Ultimecia, is from the far future, where it is implied that she has absorbed all of the power that the Great Hyne gave humanity.

Given all of that, and that Rinoa doesn’t seem to use very much of this power when she receives it, we can presume that the following template is reasonably accurate:

Hyne Witch Template (32 CP/+1 ECL)

  • Improved Self-Development/+2 to one mental ability score (one-half cost due to use in a template; 12 CP).
  • +2 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/only for a specified progression, which then cannot be changed (6 CP).
  • 4d4 generic spell levels, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no form of natural magic (8 CP).
  • Any two metamagic theorems (12 CP).
  • Streamline (6 CP).
  • 4 CP for new spells.

The entire template is corrupted for two-thirds cost/the Hyne Witch suffers Wisdom loss over time, as well as physical mutation, unless she can find a Knight who dedicates himself to her. All instances of this template are lost if the Hyne Witch is brought to 0 hit points or below, passing to the nearest woman with certain unknown qualities (e.g. at the GM’s discretion).

Of course, this template can be stacked onto itself multiple times, which explains how some Hyne Witches can become beings of legendary power. As a rough guess, Ultimecia likely had ten instances of this template (which explains how she can be a force strong enough to conquer the world, and even threaten the the universe, while still being weak enough to be defeated by a party of six characters whose levels were in the early teens – too much magical power, and not enough hit points, AC, et al).

Rinoa has taken this template twice; having received this power once from Edea, and a second time from Adel. Her spellcasting ability score is Charisma, and her metamagic theorems gained from this are Amplify, Area, Easy, and Extension.

With that laid out, let’s take a look at the stat block for Rinoa herself, as she appears in Dead Fantasy.

Rinoa Heartilly, 15th-level Sorceress Hyne Witch (ECL 17)

Available Character Points: 384 (level 15 base) + 48 (levels 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 feats) + 10 (disadvantages) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (“starting traits”) = 454 CP.

Rinoa’s disadvantages are History (Her relationship with the Forest Owls freedom fighters/terrorist group), Hunted (by Ultimecia’s forces for her power as a Hyne Witch), and Valuable (as the daughter of a high-ranking military general, as well as due to her nature as a Hyne Witch).

All of these disadvantages were bought off (at a cost of 0 CP each) as part of the “epic quest” that was Final Fantasy VIII.

Ability Scores (25-point buy): Str 18, Dex 22, Con 20, Int 20, Wis 20, Cha 26.

 

Strength

Dexterity

Constitution

Intelligence

Wisdom

Charisma

Base scores (25 point-buy)

12

14

14

13

14

14

Racial bonus

+2

Level bonus

+2

+1

Template bonus

+4

Enhancement bonus

+6

+6

+6

+6

+6

+6

Total

18 (+4)

22 (+6)

20 (+5)

20 (+5)

20 (+5)

26 (+8)

Human Traits

  • Bonus feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills (3 CP).
  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Package Deal bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).

As always, this last bullet point is in reference to the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Basic Abilities (145 CP)

  • Proficient with light, medium, and heavy armor (15 CP) with the Fast (6 CP) modifier. Proficient with all simple weapons (3 CP) and the “Rinoa’s weapon’s” set (gunblade and blaster edge) (3 CP).
  • 1d20 Hit Die at 1st level (16 CP) and 14d4 Hit Dice thereafter (0 CP).
  • +11 Warcraft, specialized for one-half cost/only for attack rolls made with spells and her gunblade and blaster edge (33 CP).
  • Fort +9, Ref +9, Will +5 (69 CP).
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

Rinoa’s “set” of weapons uses the same tautological reasoning laid down in the previous article: they’re a set because she uses them, and she uses them because they’re a set.

Beyond Para-Magic Lies True Sorcery (118 CP)

  • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for purchasing levels of cleric magic progression (6 CP).
  • 17 levels of cleric (no package deal) progression (55 CP; bought at 85 CP with a 30 CP reduction from Fast Learner, above).
  • 13 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/cleric progression only (39 CP).
  • Spell Flow (6 CP).
  • Spell Pool (6 CP).
  • Fast metamagic modifier (6 CP).

As the title for this suite of abilities suggests, Rinoa has (likely by virtue of being a Hyne Witch) abandoned the use of para-magic in favor of utilizing real magic. In practical terms, this means that she has bought off the specialization for her levels of cleric progression (eliminating the need to “draw” to replenish her magic), and is using the Studies limitation to function as a spontaneous spellcaster, rather than a preparatory one. Further, she is using Spell Flow and Spell Pool to enhance her flexibility with regards to what spells she knows and can cast.

Burden of the Sorceress Power (30 CP)

  • Celerity (6 CP) with an additional movement mode (flight) (12 CP) and an additional 30 ft. of movement (9 CP).
  • Shapeshift with the Variants option, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only to be able to make her wings appear and disappear at will (3 CP).

Since Rinoa has a knight – Squall – her mutation due to being a Hyne Witch has been arrested. As such, what changes she has undergone are largely under her control, much to her benefit, as it has granted her flight.

Wishing Star (55 CP).

  • Rapid Strike with the Improved and Superior modifiers, specialized for one-half cost/must spend an action point to use (18 CP).
  • Two Bonus Attacks/gunblade, specialized for one-half cost/may only be used with Rapid Strike (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/may take a move action during a use of Rapid Strike (6 CP).
  • Split Movement/attacking, specialized for one-half cost/may only be used with Rapid Strike (3 CP).
  • Augment Attack/+3d6+1 damage, only with Rapid Strike (10 CP).
  • Enhanced Strike/Whirlwind, specialized for increased effect/may only be used with Rapid Strike, may be used for iterative attacks (6 CP).
  • Evasive/when moving through threatened areas, specialized for one-half cost/only when using Rapid Strike (6 CP).

Fans of Final Fantasy VIII will recognize this as Rinoa’s strongest limit break, and also as the move she uses inside the tornado near the end of the second episode of Dead Fantasy to decimate her opponents. This set of abilities basically allows her to take eight attacks at once – +20/+18/+16/+14/+12/+10/+8/+6 – as a full round action, during which time she can use up to a full move in increments between each attack, provokes no attacks of opportunity for moving through threatened areas, may strike each opponent in range with each attack roll, and deals an additional +3d6+1 damage on each successful hit.

This is fairly over-powered, and is only kept under control by costing an action point each time it’s used (hence why limit breaks aren’t used every single round). Further, the specialization on Enhanced Strike is ridiculously strong, to the point where I’d recommend that it not be allowed in most games.

Rinoa has apparently stopped relying on using her dog, Angelo, as a weapon in her limit breaks, having adapted Wishing Star to being one she can use herself and retrained the others away. This is just as well, as those attacks seemed quite burdensome on poor Angelo.

Cinematic Soldier (69 CP)

  • Immunity to penalties from armor (very common/minor/major) (12 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for attack rolls (6 CP).
  • Action Hero/stunts with the 2-points-per-round modifier (12 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus with the Advanced and Improved modifiers/add Charisma bonus to hit points (18 CP).
  • Damage Reduction 5/universal (12 CP).
  • Increase racial Fast Learner from one-half cost to double effect (3 CP).

These are the various background abilities that don’t really have a corresponding analogue in the series. That makes them no less important; for example, the use of damage reduction is quite clearly in play, as the girls take an obscene amount of damage while continuing to fight – that a lot of that damage isn’t getting through makes the most sense.

Trained by Squall (15 CP)

  • Augment Attack/+1 to hit with gunblade (3 CP).
  • Block/melee (6 CP).
  • Block/ranged (6 CP).

Given that Rinoa never used a gunblade before her appearance in Dead Fantasy, it makes sense that her boyfriend had been teaching her how to fight with one.

Child of a Magical World (18 CP)

  • Siddhisyoga with the Efficient and Fey modifiers (18 CP).
    • Belt of physical perfection +6 (108,000 GP)
    • Headband of mental superiority +6 (108,000 GP)
    • Cloak of resistance +5 (18,750 GP)
    • Ring of protection +2 (6,000 GP)
    • Shield effect (3,000 GP)
    • +2 competence bonus to all skills (2,100 GP)
    • Immortal vigor (2,100 GP)

The bonuses gained via Siddhisyoga come from her 410,000 GP wealth-per-level, which is why the totals are noted parenthetically; more on this below. This also requires a sacrifice of 14,288 XP (rounded up), which is virtually nothing compared to the cost of gaining a level at the higher levels on the medium XP track.

Integrated Fighting Styles (4 CP)

  • Bonus Attack, corrupted for two-thirds cost/cannot use a shield when doing so (4 CP).

This is fairly straightforward, being the equivalent of Two-Weapon Fighting; with this, Rinoa can make off-hand attacks with her blaster edge when attacking with her gunblade.

Equipment

  • “Vanishing Star,” a +5 keen gunblade (73,100 GP).
  • “Silenced Tear,” a +5 blaster edge (50,800 GP).
  • +5 glamored full plate (37,650 GP).

The last bullet point requires some explanation. The fact that she’s wearing armor is a contrivance, but that it’s glamored explains why the characters in Final Fantasy VIII can change their armor without it changing their appearance. As Rinoa has taken an immunity to the penalties for wearing armor, this doesn’t inconvenience her in the slightest.

With regards to her weapons, use the following stats.

Gunblade; one-handed exotic weapon; 800 GP; damage (S) 1d6; damage (M) 1d8; critical 19-20/x3; weight 6 lbs.; type slashing.

This is the basic, and earliest, form of gunblade – later innovations would grant it the ability to actually fire projectiles. As it stands, the gun part of this gunblade creates an explosion that strengthens a particular swing, accounting for the higher critical damage than a normal sword.

Blaster edge; ranged exotic weapon; 500 GP; damage (S) 1d6; damage (M) 1d8; critical x2; range 30 ft.; weight 4 lbs.; type slashing; special returning.

The blaster edge is essentially a mechanism that launches a chakram. Since it’s not thrown, it doesn’t get Strength bonuses to damage, but can be launched out to ten full range increments rather than five. Further, it’s built in such a way as to automatically return to the launcher at the end of the wielder’s turn.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 20 (1st level) + 12 (immortal vigor; 1st level) + 35 (14d4) + 85 (Con bonus) + 136 (Cha bonus) = 288.
  • Speed: 30 feet; fly 60 feet (perfect).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +9 (base) +5 (Con) +5 (resistance) = +19.
    • Ref: +9 (base) +6 (Dex) +5 (resistance) = +20.
    • Will: +5 (base) +5 (Wis) +5 (resistance) = +15.
  • Attacks:
    • Vanishing Star: +11 (BAB) +4 (Str) +1 (augment attack) +5 (weapon enhancement) +3 (martial arts) = +24/+19/+14 (1d12+9/17-20/x3).
    • Silenced Tear: +11 (BAB) +6 (Dex) +5 (weapon enhancement) = +22 (1d8+5).
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +14 (armor) +6 (Dex) +4 (shield) +2 (deflection) = 36 (martial arts are not included here).
  • Skill Points: 0 (purchased) + 30 (human bonus) + 75 (Int bonus) + 15 (“favored class” bonus) = 120.

Ranks

Ability   Bonus

Class   Bonus

Competence   Bonus

Misc.

Total

Acrobatics

5

+6 Dex

+3

+2

+16

Bluff

5

+8 Cha

+2

+15

Diplomacy

10

+8 Cha

+3

+2

+23

Fly

10

+6 Dex

+3

+2

+8   maneuverability

+29

Handle Animal

10

+8 Cha

+3

+2

+23

Heal

5

+5 Wis

+2

+12

Knowledge (arcana)*

15

+5 Int

+2

+22

Knowledge (geography)

10

+5 Int

+3

+2

+20

Knowledge (history)

10

+5 Int

+3

+2

+20

Knowledge (local)

10

+5 Int

+3

+2

+20

Martial Arts (explosive   sword)

15

+4 Str

+3

+2

+24

Perception

10

+5 Wis

+3

+2

+20

Perform (dance)

5

+8 Cha

+3

+2

+18

Perform (sing)

5

+8 Cha

+3

+2

+18

Sense Motive

5

+5 Wis

+3

+2

+15

Spellcraft*

15

+5 Int

+2

+22

Swim

5

+4 Str

+2

+11

Use Magic Device*

15

+8 Cha

+2

+25

Rinoa’s class skills are the twelve in the above table that have a+3 class bonus, along with Craft and Profession (in which she hasn’t taken any ranks). The three skills marked with an asterisk are gained for free, as part of her headband of mental superiority +6.

Explosive Sword (Str)

Explosive sword is an esoteric martial art centered around the early forms of gunblades. An aggressive style, it emphasizes heavy strikes for large amounts of damage, bolstering the weapon’s use of its gun components to add greater power to its blows. While it has defensive teachings, these are secondary to its offensive focus.

  • Requires: Weapon Focus (gunblade) or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defense 2, Power 2, Synergy (+2 to confirm critical hits).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Blinding Strike, Combat Reflexes, Mighty Blow, Knockback (as Improved Bull Rush, but you do not move with your opponent).
  • Occult Techniques: Focused Blow, Inner Strength, Touch Strike, Vanishing.
  • Known: Attack 3, Defense 2, Power 2, Synergy (+2 to confirm critical hits), Combat Reflexes, Knockback, Inner Strength, Vanishing.

Critical Analysis

Rinoa has the least screen time of the ten female fighters in Dead Fantasy. Even with that, however, she’s still the strongest character shown to date. Given that the fighters are all roughly equal in terms of skill – and, in game terms, all being the same level, which in this case would be 15th, the same as Rinoa – it’s worth examining why that is.

Part of the equation is simply situational. When Rinoa entered the fray, her side had the other outnumbered five to four. That gave her some breathing room in terms of being able to cast spells. Of course, part of it is also that she’s side-stepping the issue of having equal levels with everyone else by having two levels’ worth of templates.

Rinoa's lunar cry

…okay, now I’m scared.

The major reason, however, is that Rinoa is the only full-progression spellcaster in the series. While characters like Tifa have a lot of magic that they can use, only Rinoa has taken enough spellcasting levels to be able to pour on high-level spell after high-level spell. That let her control the battlefield and throw devastating effects one after another at the opposition, completely overwhelming them (which makes it odd that she’d end the fight by splitting everyone off into one-on-one pairs, as that negated the fact that her side was currently winning the fight).

There’s a fourth reason, however, and it’s worth examining in more detail: Rinoa simply got to take advantage of the entirety of her gear value, as per her use of Siddhisyoga.

None of the characters in Dead Fantasy use very much gear. What equipment they do use is likely to be notably magical, but a single weapon or two can’t account for the entirety of a 15th-level character’s gear value. So then what becomes of the rest of the equipment that they should have?

The answer to this depends on where they’re from. For the Final Fantasy/Kingdom Hearts girls – who are from highly magical realms – they can probably sink a lot of their remaining wealth into personal enchantments via Siddhisyoga, as Rinoa has done. The Dead or Alive/Ninja Gaiden girls, on the other hand, are from Earth.

Now, while their Earth is still one that allows for some degree of mystical abilities (even Hitomi, who is ostensibly an ordinary human, is performing superhuman feats of strength in the series), it’s clearly not in the same class as those fantastic realms. Hence, there’s almost certainly a limit on how much can be spent on Siddhisyoga and Innate Enchantment – if not an outright prohibition.

That means that the Dead or Alive/Ninja Gaiden girls are working with something of a handicap. They’re clearly trying to work around this – and their stats would certainly reflect that – but it is there. In fact, you can see it in the series itself; every time the playing field is level, the DoA/NG girls are the ones losing the fight.

At the very beginning of the first episode, for instance, Kasumi and Ayane quickly overcome Yuna when she’s alone; a better usage of gear value isn’t enough to overcome the difference in the economy of actions. But once Rikku arrives, she and Yuna overcome their enemies – Kasumi and Ayane are getting thrashed right before Hitomi arrives.

Her arrival unbalances the odds, and eventually (it takes longer since outnumbering your enemies three-to-two only offers a 50% advantage, rather than the 100% advantage of two-to-one) the DoA girls are triumphant…until Tifa arrives. Now that the odds are balanced again, things swing back in the FF girls’ favor – they begin to soundly wallop their enemies. The DoA girls try to take them out with one large attack, but all that does is change the battlefield.

This alone doesn’t succeed in upsetting things. Once again, the team with more magic is able to punish the team that doesn’t, and the DoA girls are losing until Rachel joins them. At that point (and with Tifa hurting and out of magic), the FF girls begin losing again…until Rinoa and Kairi join them. Now with the advantage of numbers and greater magic, it’s less a battle than an inevitability, at least until Rinoa – for whatever reason – breaks them up into one-on-one pairs.

The third episode proves the rule by reversing the trend of who has more magic. Tifa controls her fight until Hitomi, in a desperate bid for victory, manages to disarm Tifa of her materia and take it for herself. Now that she’s the one with the magic, she turns the tables on Tifa, winning the fight. The fifth episode is simply bringing the curtain down on a foregone conclusion, although Tifa does struggle mightily to try and change it (to no avail).

The fourth episode once again showcases that having more magic matters less than having more numbers. Hideously outnumbered by the Kasumi Alpha clones, Yuna summons five Aeons to her side. Even with Kasumi turning her attention to the horde of clones (as she’s long since come to hate them), it’s of little use, as they overwhelm her Aeons and would have done the same to Yuna, had Cloud not intervened just before Kasumi teleported herself and the clones away (so that she could kill them without any distractions).

The sixth episode, by contrast, puts the issue of magic tipping an otherwise-even fight front and center. Faced with the mystical abilities that Namine brings to bear, Momiji is battling uphill the entire fight, and would have lost had Ryu not intervened at the end.

Overall, Rinoa’s overwhelming power is due to a number of factors that, taken together, make her first among equals in the cast of Dead Fantasy. Hopefully, more episodes will be released soon so that we can see if that continues to hold true throughout this incredible saga.

Pyrrhic Victory

October 26, 2013

If you enjoy video games alongside your tabletop ones, then chances are you’ve heard the name Monty Oum. A high school dropout who taught himself computer animation, Monty became an internet sensation with his fan-film Haloid, before proceeding to top himself with the Dead Fantasy series (currently standing at five parts, an extended preview for the sixth part, and two music videos).

Moving through some jobs in the video game industry that the public display of his works had gotten him, Monty eventually made his way to the machinima studio Rooster Teeth, where he worked on the last few seasons of Red vs. Blue. Following the conclusion of that series’ tenth season, Monty became a leading figure in the conception and production of the studio’s new series, RWBY.

Of all of the series Monty has worked on, I’ve so far found RWBY to be the easiest to get into. His fan-films presume that the viewer has some knowledge about the video game series they’re based on (or at least, they’re more enjoyable if you have such knowledge), and by the time I found out about Red vs. Blue, it was already several seasons along, which made the idea of watching it feel like a bigger commitment than I was willing to make. I also wasn’t entirely sure if it was based on the Halo series of video games or not – it isn’t, as it turns out – which I haven’t played.

RWBY, by contrast, is very clearly an original work, and is still (at the time of this writing) in its first season. Given that, and the relative brevity of each episode, it’s very easy to get into – the entire series can, at this point, be watched in a little over an hour, without knowing anything about it beforehand.

Given that I’m enjoying RWBY, and that I’ve been on a kick of providing d20 stats for various characters using the excellent guide for class-less character-building that is Eclipse: The Codex Persona (as well as its sister book for spells and magic items, The Practical Enchanter), I thought it would be fun to stat up one of the characters from the series. Here are the results of that (also, thanks to the people behind the series’ unofficial wiki, which was very helpful in reviewing various aspects of the show).

RWBackground

Pyrrha_cleavage

She’s a professional warrior. She’s can kick my butt easily. I will not stare at her cleavage…

Set on the world of Vytal, the humans of RWBY live under threat from monstrous, soulless versions of normal animals, known as the creatures of Grimm. While the opening narration states that humans were able to save themselves from extinction at the claws and fangs of the Grimm due to the power of Dust – a crystalline substance that, particularly in powder form, contains mystical energies – the more prominent power in the show (thus far) is that of peoples’ auras.

As explained in the sixth episode, auras – the manifestation of the soul – strengthen and empower people, allowing them to achieve superhuman feats of strength, speed, and endurance. Auras can also manifest a Semblance, an elemental affinity that’s unique to each person.

World Law

Only creatures with a soul may have levels in psionic progressions. Typically, this means only creatures with the Animal or Humanoid types.

Vytal Human Racial Traits (15 CP)

  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Template bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).
  • Bonus Feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in skills for one-half cost (3 CP).
  • 1 level of wilder progression/corrupted for two-thirds cost, provides Power only (2 CP). Each individual chooses their own key mental stat.
  • Eldritch (0 CP).
  • Unity (6 CP).
  • Disadvantages: Hunted (by the creatures of Grimm) and Accursed (Power cannot be used until it is “unlocked” – this typically requires someone else with unlocked Power to make physical contact and spend Power equal to half of your total Power) (-6 CP).

Here, we’re equating “aura” with “Power,” that is, power points (aka psionic power points), and as such only creatures with a soul can use it, which we’re told are only humans (and, presumably, the human-like Faunus) and animals, but not the creatures of Grimm (which seem like creatures of the Magical Beast type). Hence, every human starts off with at least a little Power.

Since Semblances are presumably also aura abilities, that means that they use Power. This is slightly awkward, however, as Semblances seem like what Eclipse calls rune magic – that is, comparatively low-powered abilities (compared to typical d20 magic) with a single elemental theme. Since rune magic normally requires mana, we’re giving humans the Unity trait to allow them to use it with Power instead. The visually distinct display they give is covered by the Eldritch ability.

Finally, while the Hunted disadvantage is self-explanatory, the Accursed disadvantage requires a bit more explanation. As we’re shown in the sixth episode, a person who wants to use their aura needs to have it “unlocked” first, which is apparently done by someone else with an unlocked aura. Given that this is a one-time drawback that can be overcome with comparative ease, it doesn’t really seem like it qualifies as a disadvantage.

The flipside to this is that this isn’t really giving Vytal humans any benefits – saving an extra 3 CP on their racial CP total doesn’t change much when they’re nowhere near the 31 CP cutoff limit for a +0 ECL race anyway. Between that, and that this explains why ordinary mooks – like the ones Ruby trashes in the first episode – don’t have aura powers, we’ll let this slide.

Pyrrha_rifle

…crap, I stared.

As humanity has created large cities where they can live in relative peace and security, most people aren’t concerned with going through the lengthy process of learning how to weaponize their aura in this way. A few, however, elect to dedicate their lives to hunting the creatures of Grimm on behalf of the rest of humanity. These people are known as Huntsmen and Huntresses. Their profession is treated similar to most other vocations, in that it requires several years of schooling.

The series’ focus is on several girls who, having finished combat school, have been accepted to a prestigious academy to become Huntresses. One of which is…

Pyrrha Nikos, 7th-level Huntress-in-training

A new student at the Beacon Academy for Hunters, Pyrrha is already a strong warrior, having graduated from the Sanctum school of combat at the top of her class, as well as holding four consecutive victories in the Mistral regional fighting tournament. Blunt and straightforward, Pyrrha is also kindhearted and unassuming. This makes her one of the more level-headed members of the cast in general, and her team in particular.

Available Character Points: 192 (level 7 base) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (starting traits) + 24 (levels 1, 3, 5, and 7 feats) = 228 CP.

Pyrrha is, as the traits for Vytal Humans, above, hinted at, using the Pathfinder Package Deal. As an extension of that, she also receives 6 CP at each odd level, as per the Pathfinder feat progression. Likewise, she receives 6 CP at character creation for her “starting traits.”

Ability Scores (25-point buy): Str 18, Con 17, Dex 14, Int 14, Wis 13, Cha 14. Added +2 human racial bonus to Strength. Added +1 from Improved Self-Development at 4th level to Constitution. +2 enhancement bonus to Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity.

Given the semi-supernatural aspects of the setting, the high-energy combat sequences, and that series by Monty Oum tend to increase these things as they progress, using the “epic fantasy” point-buy value for Pyrrha’s ability scores seemed appropriate.

Basic Abilities (92 CP)

  • Light armor (3 CP), Shield proficiency (3 CP), all simple weapons (3 CP), and “Pyrrha’s weapons” (longsword, javelin, rifle, and shield bash) (3 CP).
  • 1d12 Hit Die at 1st level (8 CP) and 6d4 Hit Dice thereafter (0 CP).
  • +6 Warcraft (36 CP).
  • +5 Fort, +5 Ref, +2 Will (36 CP).
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

I’m cutting a few corners here. By forgoing buying up her Hit Dice after 1st level, as well as ignoring skill points altogether, in favor of using other abilities (see below) to increase her hit points and skill points, I can squeeze a few more CPs’ worth of special abilities into her build, and make her stats better represent what we see in the show without needing to bump up her overall level.

I’m also cheating slightly with regard to her weapon proficiencies. Eclipse notes that you can buy “limited sets” of martial or exotic weapon proficiencies depending on how limited they are. In this case, the “set” consists of those weapons Pyrrha already uses, which makes it somewhat tautological – they’re defined as a set because she uses them, and she can use them because they’re defined as a set. That said, this is somewhat expected when making stats for a preexisting character.

Aura (73 CP)

  • 6 caster levels/specialized for one-half cost, wilder progression only (18 CP).
  • 6 levels wilder progression (18 CP) (vigor, force screen, concussion blast, detect hostile intention).
  • 5 additional powers known (15 CP) (psionic true strike, catfall, offensive prescience, psionic jump, Perception mastery I – TPE p. 14).
  • Innate Enchantment (psionic variant) – CL 1st, 8,000 GP value, 9 CP/corrupted for two-thirds cost, innate enchantments cease to function if Power drops to 0, and lesser vitality diversion cannot otherwise be shut off (6 CP).
    • lesser vitality diversion (LV 1, may divert hit point damage to power points, at a 1:1 ratio, up to a maximum of 3 points; 1,400 GP for personal-only version),
    • enhance attribute (Strength) I (+2 enhancement bonus to Strength; 1,400 GP),
    • enhance attribute (Constitution) I (+2 enhancement bonus to Constitution; 1,400 GP),
    • enhance attribute (Dexterity) I (+2 enhancement bonus to Dexterity; 1,400 GP),
    • hide like ox (natural armor bonus of +1 plus 1/6 caster levels above 1st; 1,400 GP),
    • shield of faith (deflection bonus of +2 plus caster level/6; 1,400 GP).
  • Doubled Damage, only when attacking unattended inanimate objects/corrupted for two-thirds cost, ceases to function if Power drops to 0 (4 CP).
  • Imbuement (armor variant) with the Improved and Superior modifiers/corrupted for two-thirds cost, ceases to function if Power drops to 0 (12 CP).

Here is where we start getting into the nitty-gritty of what a person’s aura can do. The psionic powers specified are meant to cover all of the “basic” powers that Pyrrha talks about in the sixth episode, as well as approximate the ones we see demonstrated. Likewise, the innate enchantments are also set to be functions that a person’s aura performs more-or-less constantly, so long as their aura hasn’t been entirely depleted, as is her ability to imbue her armor with greater defensive properties (something that’s necessary, given her comparatively low Armor Class).

Her having Doubled Damage is to represent how she can knock aside grown trees – that alone may not be enough to quite approximate the necessary level of damage, but that’s the sort of thing that Stunts are meant to cover (see below).

The issue of a person’s aura running out is covered directly in the twelfth episode. Namely, a person’s aura can be visually measured on a bar graph (e.g. the “life bar” in various fighting video games), and is lowered simply from the course of taking battle damage (something the wiki reasonably presumes is due to it trying to protect the person’s body). This is somewhat difficult to model in the d20 System, as Power points are not hit points.

The solution to this is to use a variant of the effect that an elan uses to convert hit point damage into Power point loss. As that was modeled off of a 2nd-level spell, and we want this to be a lesser effect (particularly since it seems to be implied that this is an effect that’s always active, but only provides limited protection from any single attack), it’s easy to set this as a 1st-level spell and limit how much hp-to-pp it can convert.

Besides lesser vitality diversion, all of the powers listed are either standard psionic abilities, psionic variants of common spells, or are found in The Practical Enchanter.

Combat Prodigy (30 CP)

  • Adept/Acrobatics, Martial Arts (Spathi kai Aspitha), Martial Arts (Akontio), and Martial Arts (Oplo) (6 CP).
  • Block (melee) with the Master and Multiple upgrades/corrupted, only with her shield (12 CP).
  • Block (ranged) with the Master and Multiple upgrades/corrupted, only with her shield (12 CP).

Expert Training (27 CP)

  • Upgrade racial Fast Learner from half-cost to double effect (3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus with the Improved and Advanced modifiers/add Strength bonus to hit points (18 CP).
  • Action Hero/stunts (6 CP).

As alluded to above, Pyrrha’s having Action Hero/Stunts is meant to be a catch-all for anything we see her do in the series that her stats don’t otherwise represent.

Celebrity Status (6 CP)

  • Reputation (6 CP).

Buy Pumpkin Pete’s Marshmellow Flakes!

Equipment

  • “Milo” is a masterwork weapon that can, as a swift action, be changed between a longsword, a javelin, and a rifle. When thrown, the javelin form may expend a bullet to use the recoil to double its range increment. The rifle form has a capacity of six bullets.
  • “Akouo” is a masterwork heavy steel shield. It has been treated to function as if it had the throwing magic weapon property, dealing slashing damage, though this is a nonmagical function of its design.
  • Armor (treated as masterwork studded leather).

Pyrrha suffers from the same issue that almost all converted characters have – she doesn’t get to take full advantage of her gear value for a character of her level. As a 7th-level character, she should have (using PC wealth values) 23,500 GP worth of gear, only a fraction of which is accounted for in the above listing.

As it is, the gear that she does have is better than the standard Pathfinder equipment. Most characters have weapons that can convert from melee to firearms, and Pyrrha’s shield presumably takes advantage of similar advances in weaponry. She’s atypical in that she wears armor, even if it is somewhat skimpy.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 12 (1st level) + 15 (6d4 Hit Dice, taking the average) + 21 (Con bonus) + 28 (Str bonus) = 76.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +5 (base) +3 (Con) = +8
    • Ref: +5 (base) +2 (Dex) = +7
    • Will: +2 (base) +1 (Wis) = +3
  • Attacks:
    • Milo (sword form): +6 (BAB) +4 (Str) +1 (masterwork) +1 (martial arts) = +12/+7 (1d10+4/19-20)
    • Milo (javelin form): +6 (BAB) +2 (Dex) +1 (masterwork) +3 (martial arts) = +12/+7 (1d8+4)
    • Milo (rifle form): +6 (BAB) +2 (Dex) +1 (masterwork) +4 (martial arts) = +13/+8 (1d12/x4)
    • Akouo (shield bash): +6 (BAB) +4 (Str) +1 (masterwork) +1 (martial arts) = +12/+7 (1d6+2)
    • Akouo (thrown): +6 (BAB) +2 (Dex) +1 (masterwork) +1 (martial arts) = +10/+5 (1d6+2)
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +3 (studded leather) +3 (Imbuement) +2 (heavy steel shield) +2 (Dex) +1 (hide like ox) +2 (shield of faith) = 23, touch 14, flat-footed 21. Martial arts are not included here.
  • Power: 46 (base progression) + 6 (Int bonus) = 52 Power.
  • Skills points: 0 (purchased) + 14 (Int bonus) + 14 (human bonus) + 7 (“favored class” bonus) = 35.

Skills

Ranks

Ability Bonus

Class Bonus

Total

Acrobatics

2 (1 point)

+2 Dex

+3

+7

Climb

1

+4 Str

+5

Diplomacy

1

+2 Cha

+3

Knowledge (arcana)

1

+2 Int

+3

+6

Knowledge (history)

1

+2 Int

+3

+6

Knowledge (local)

1

+2 Int

+3

+6

Knowledge (nobility)

1

+2 Int

+3

+6

Martial Arts (Spathi kai Aspitha)

7 (4 points)

+4 Str

+3

+14

Martial Arts (Akontio)

7 (4 points)

+2 Dex

+3

+12

Martial Arts (Oplo)

7 (4 points)

+2 Int

+3

+12

Perception

1

+1 Wis

+3

+5

Polarity Casting

5

+2 Int

+3

+10

Polarity Mastery

7

+2 Int

+3

+12

Spellcraft

1

+2 Int

+3

Survival

1

+1 Wis

+3

+5

Swim

1

+4 Str

+5

Pyrrha’s class skills are the twelve on the above table that have a +3 class bonus to them (though Craft and Profession are also class skills for her). Pyrrha is currently earning two skill ranks for each skill point spent on Acrobatics and all three of her Martial Arts skills. As she’s 7th level, however, her total ranks is capped at 7. Since she’s spent 4 skill points on each of her Martial Arts, they’ll all rise to 8 total ranks without her needing to spend any more points when she reaches 8th level.

As her Polarity Casting and Polarity Mastery (her rune magic skills) indicate, Pyrrha’s Semblance is polarity, the ability to control magnetism. So far we’ve only seen her use it once in the series, and for a relatively minor effect. However, we’ve seen her peers use Semblances for greater powers (though still low-level compared to the range of power that d20 spells can have), and since Pyrrha is presumed to be their equal in most regards, I’ve given her slightly greater ranks in this than her single use of this power would, on its own, call for.

No armor check penalties are listed, as her masterwork studded leather has none. Likewise, while her masterwork heavy steel shield does have an armor check penalty of -1, Pyrrha typically stows it on her back before needing to do something that’d require a skill check.

Martial Arts forms

Pyrrha’s use of martial arts is another area where I’m bending my adherence to the source material. While Pyrrha has been to combat school – and was a prodigy there – there’s never been any in-depth look at her, or any student’s, particular style of fighting. As such, I’m extrapolating that she’d have learned formalized fighting styles for each form of her weapon. While the use of Martial Arts as a skill typically lends itself to being played up in-game, here I’m treating it as being as much of a background element as, say, her Base Attack Bonus.

Given the heavy emphasis on a person’s aura, I’ve elected not to give any of the following Martial Arts a mystic aspect to them. All of the superhuman aspects of combat are already covered by her Power-based abilities above. This prevents us from needing to make her Martial Arts dependent on her having Power above 0, or expend Power when using Occult techniques. As a side-effect of this, the prerequisites for learning each of these Martial Arts are quite low.

Spathi kai Aspitha (Str)

A variant form of sword-and-shield fighting, Spathi kai Aspitha places a strong emphasis on quickly shifting from defense to attack. At greater levels of mastery, it also teaches how to use one’s shield as an offensive weapon. It’s considered somewhat esoteric compared to more traditional martial arts that use a sword and shield, but is still taught fairly widely in certain regions.

  • Requires: Proficiencies with swords and shields or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defenses 3, Power, Toughness 2.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Breaking, Mighty Blow, Shield Boomerang (when throwing a shield at a target within 60 ft., may cause it to return to the wielder as part of the attack), Weapon Kata (shield).
  • Known: Attack 1, Defenses 2, Power, Mighty Blow, Shield Boomerang, Weapon Kata (shield)

Akontio (Dex)

Throwing away one’s weapon is rarely a smart move. Hence, Akontio, a martial art based around javelin throwing, is virtually always taught as a companion to another martial art. Focused entirely on offense, Akontio heavily emphasizes precision strikes for maximum damage.

  • Requires: Proficiency with javelins or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power 3, Strike.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Far Shot, Improved Pin (make a CMB check to cause a target that’s adjacent to a wall or similar structure to be stuck to it; item may be pulled out with a DC 15 Strength check), Precise Shot, Sneak Attack.
  • Known: Attack 3, Power 1, Far Shot, Improved Pin.

Oplo (Int)

Oplo is a rifle-specific form of gun martial arts. It teaches that sending a storm of bullets in a target’s direction is inferior to a single, perfectly-targeted shot. Consequently, this fighting style is popular with snipers and anyone else who prefers that a fight’s opening shot also be the final one.

  • Requires: Proficiency with rifles or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power, Strike, Synergy (Perception), Synergy (Stealth).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Crippling, Far Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Reload.
  • Known: Attack 4, Power, Precise Shot.

I’ve invented a few of the techniques here whole cloth (the ones with the parenthetical explanations of what they do) to better model Pyrrha’s abilities, but their power should be modest enough to fit in alongside the standard Martial Arts abilities.

Design Diary

The biggest issue with making Eclipse d20 stats for Pyrrha was trying to give her so many powers and abilities while at the same time trying to keep her level comparatively low.

The issue with wanting her to be low-level is largely due to the background assumptions made regarding ordinary people in the series, and Pyrrha’s relatively young age. Simply put, Pyrrha and her peers are notably more combat-capable than many of the ordinary adults in the series are; something demonstrated when Ruby (the youngest student at the academy) handily mops the floor with several adult men who try to rob her.

The characters who go to Beacon Academy, in other words, are a cut above normal people – they’re the best of the best. As such, they can’t be relegated to 1st- or 2nd-level. At the same time, they’re also still teenagers, and while they’ve clearly had a lot of training, they don’t seem to have had much practical experience. It’s therefore pretty logical to say that they’re nowhere near the top of their potential (e.g. 20th level).

Given that a 1st-level character can be completely outclassed by someone just a few levels above them, it therefore made the most sense to make Pyrrha somewhere in the mid-high single digits, in terms of her level. Given that she displays a wide variety of impressive abilities on top of her considerable combat prowess, this meant that in order to get her down that far – as mentioned above – I had to really stretch her CP allotment to get her down to 7th level, which seems to be the right place for someone with her degree of power. Had I not done so, she’d have ended up being about 9th level, which was higher than I was happy with.

Overall, Pyrrha is a very well-rounded character, having strong offensive capabilities and not-inconsiderable defenses, a fairly wide selection of skills with modest bonuses, and a small-but-significant number of utility powers. Along with her teammates, she’ll likely grow into a Hunter of legendary proportions; something we’ll get to see as RWBY continues!

Some Like It Hot

August 4, 2013

Back when my current Pathfinder group first got started, I was eager to show off my impressive collection of third-party supplements. Whenever new character ideas were discussed, I was eager to chime in with what sourcebook or expansion could help to flesh out an idea.

Of course, I inevitably started to run into some ideas that, try though I might, I couldn’t seem to turn into a viable character, regardless of how many different books I pulled new mechanics from. In hindsight, hitting this particular brick wall – along with the fact that most of the rest of the group looked askance at third-party supplements in general, seeing them as “unbalanced” until proven otherwise – was the beginning of what would eventually become full-on supplement burnout, of which I’ve spoken before.

Fire dancer

So many “hot chick” jokes…

One of the initial ideas that I couldn’t build a character around was for a “fire dancer.” This character idea, from what I was told, was exactly what it sounded like: someone who could control fire – or, in other words, use fire-based magic – via dancing. At the time, the best I could come up with was making a bard who took fire-based spells and made Perform (dance) her primary skill for bardic performances. That and saying that all of her somatic components for spells were dances.

There were a few other, much more specific, suggestions that I had too, but that was the gist of it. Of course, that was a fairly poor build overall, since in all mechanical respects it was the same as pretty much any other bard character. Not only did that character have no abilities that directly abetted the core concept, it had several that actually subtracted from it.

For a character that was supposed to utilize fire via dancing, for example, most of her spellcasting could be defeated by a silence spell. Most bardic abilities were likewise inappropriate. Simply put, there was a vast distance between a dancing bard that used some fire spells and a “fire dancer.”

Of course, all of that ceased to be a problem once I started using Eclipse: The Codex Persona. But of course, a group that looks askance on third-party materials had (and still has) nothing but suspicion for a point-buy character-generation sourcebook. Which is a shame, since I think the character sounds like a fun one to play.

The character below is my expansion of the initial “fire dancer” concept into a full level one build, adding a name and a backstory, alongside the mechanics.

Sharalia

Sharalia was marked as someone special from the moment she was born. While all members of her gypsy clan had night-black hair, Sharalia’s contained a streak of red, marking her as being “virishka,one who has the spirit of flames within her. Her tribe rejoiced, as it had been three generations since a virishka had been born among them.

Their joy was to be short-lived. The gypsies had always been outcasts among the more civilized people, and hard economic times had made them a popular target, particularly since Sharalia’s undisciplined older brother Pretka had a habit of causing trouble in whatever town the caravan visited. While it was usually just a bit of petty theft or being caught in a compromising position with a local girl, Pretka’s wild streak had grown as times had gotten tough.

When one of Pretka’s pranks finally went too far – he was caught stealing from the local shrine – the people’s mounting frustrations turned to all-out mob vengeance. Deciding to rid themselves of the “heathens and thieves” once and for all, the townsfolk descended on the gypsies in a fury. The tribe had little warning before they found themselves overrun, their caravans put to the torch as they were massacred.

Sharalia, who was six years old at the time, managed to survive; though the wagon she had hidden in had burned to ashes, her nature as a virishka meant that the flames did not burn her. Shattered and alone, Sharalia turned to the streets to survive. Sadly, she spent very little time there before being caught by the local watch and sentenced to slavery, freshly legalized in an attempt to boost the country’s economy.

Sharalia’s life as a slave was hard. The slave brands refused to sear themselves into her skin, resulting in the markings being applied painfully with acid instead, inflicting wounds that still cause her pain. Worse, while her initial owners were an elderly couple who wanted nothing more than menial labor from her, Sharalia grew into a young beauty; by the time she was sixteen, her owners had received many offers to buy the beautiful red-and-black-haired slave girl from them, often for a considerable sum.

Finally unable to resist the fiscal temptations any longer, the couple sold her to a minor noble, a young man who was all too eager to purchase a slave to attend to his “personal needs.” Sharalia, no fool, new exactly what was wanted from her, and hated the thought. However, she also knew the penalty that awaited slaves who tried to escape and failed. As such, it was with a growing sense of panic that she went to her new owner’s bedroom the night after her sale.

The young lord, wanting to enjoy his new plaything to the fullest, gave her an unexpected first order: to dance for him. Surprised, Sharalia slowly started to sway to the memory of an old tune her grandmother had used to hum back in the gypsy camp. Seeing the nobleman’s eyes upon her and realizing that once she finished dancing he planned to ravish her, she threw herself into an impromptu, wild flamenco.

For a few minutes, the sight of her in motion kept her owner entranced, but all too soon he got up and approached her lustily. Sharalia, however, did not cease her dancing, even as her fear and frustration grew. The young noble reached out to grab her…and Sharalia flung her hands out in a sharp motion, unleashing a gout of flame that badly seared him. Worse, it set the opulent bed and curtains aflame, and in moments the entire room was ablaze.

Shocked and terrified, Sharalia fled as her owner and his home burned. Now she had no choice but to live as an escaped slave. Fleeing blindly, it was by sheer luck that she ran into several members of an underground abolitionist movement…or rather, a group of headstrong young idealists who fancied themselves such a movement. Momentarily daunted by Sharalia’s sudden appearance, they nevertheless managed to put their self-absorbed boasting and high-minded ideas to practical use, and managed to help her evade the law.

Several weeks later, the group – mostly made up of other misfits who had unusual talents – was like a second family to Sharalia. Careful exploration of what happened that night had shown her that not only was she exceptionally difficult to burn, but that she could create and control fire…but only via dancing.

Now in control of her destiny for the first time in her life, she’s become committed to their goal of ending the practice of slavery in their lands. Moreover, she hopes to find her brother Pretka, whom she’s sure she saw fleeing into the woods the night their caravan was attacked…

Sharalia, level one Fire Dancer

Available Charater Points: 48 (level one base) + 6 (level one feat) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (starting traits) + 10 (disadvantages) = 76 CP.

Sharalia’s disadvantages are Outcast (few people trust gypsies, and escaped slaves even less), Stigmata (her acid-burned slave markings – which seem to resist magical healing – still hurt), and Valuable (a heavy bounty is paid for escaped slaves).

Ability Scores (15-point buy): Str 10, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 16. This includes her +2 racial bonus (applied to Charisma).

Human Traits

  • Bonus feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills (3 CP).
  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Package Deal bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).

As always, this last bullet point is in reference to the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Basic Abilities (29 CP)

  • Light armor proficiency with the smooth modifier (6 CP), and proficiency with all simple weapons (3 CP).
  • d8 Hit Die (4 CP).
  • +0 BAB (0 CP).
  • +0 Fort, +2 Ref, +2 Will (12 CP).
  • 4 skill points (4 CP).

Fire Dancer (32 CP)

  • Adept, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to two skills: Fire Mastery and Perform (dance) (3 CP).
  • 3d6 mana, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no natural magic options (12 CP).
  • Finesse, corrupted for increased effect – may apply Perform (dance) in place of Fire Casting/requires skill checks to successfully cast (6 CP).
  • Easy metamagic theorem with the streamline modifier, specialized for one-half cost/only for the “material” and “verbal” options (6 CP).
  • Damage reduction 6, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only versus fire damage (5 CP).

When using her rune magic to create a fire effect, Sharalia must make a Perform (dance) check to successfully cast the spell. The DC is calculated using the table on page 101 of Eclipse. For example, casting a level one spell effect would be a DC 15 check. Using a spell on the fringe of her “field” of magic adds a +15 to the spell DC.

Sharalia’s spellcasting always uses her metamagic feat to remove material and verbal components – she needs only use somatic components, which are always dances. If restrained, however, she takes a -15 penalty to her check. Worse, a failed check will have some sort of backlash, which usually means that unintended targets tend to catch on fire…

Combat Cunning (12 CP)

  • Reflex Action (Combat Reflexes variant) (6 CP).
  • Augment Attack (sneak attack) (6 CP).

Perspicacious (3 CP)

  • Upgrade racial Fast Learner to 2 skill points per level (3 CP).

Table: Skills

Skill

Ranks

Ability Modifier

Class

Total

Acrobatics

1

+2 Dex

+3

+6

Bluff

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Fire Mastery

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Knowledge (local)

1

+0 Int

+3

+4

Perception

1

+1 Wis

+3

+5

Perform (dance)

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Sharalia has twelve class skills total, plus Craft and Profession. The six skills above are class skills, with the remaining six being Diplomacy, Disable Device, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and Survival.

Sharalia’s use of Adept hasn’t quite come into play yet. Since Pathfinder characters are capped at having skill ranks equal to their level, Adept’s granting skill ranks for half-price in select skills means that she’ll gain two ranks for each skill point spent in Fire Mastery and Perform (dance)…but she has to be high enough level to gain those ranks. As such, both skills will automatically go up one more rank when she reaches second level, without her having to pay for them.

Sharalia’s use of her favored class bonus has been put into hit points, giving her, with her Constitution bonus, 10 hit points to start with.

At this point, Sharalia is essentially a rogue with a minor talent for using fire-based magic. While she’ll be well served to pick up some more mana during her adventuring career, as well as skill boosters for her rune magic skills, she’ll definitely want to better round out her abilities. Likely Imbuement, to make her weapons flaming, maybe some uses of Luck for bad spellcasting checks, and some combat tricks to use fire against her enemies more directly. Anything that plays towards her background and character theme is likely to better develop her over the course of a campaign.

Do You Believe in Antimagic?

July 4, 2013

The existence of magic in the context of a Pathfinder game world is something that will – given its nature as something that’s both provident (since it can be used with regularity and without any real risk to the user), and powerful (given what higher-level spells can do) – change everything in the fabric of a society.

Of course, this is something we’ve talked about before, both regarding the nature of magic and how local laws will codify its misuse. What we haven’t discussed is how, exactly, societies will protect themselves from magic-using threats in the first place.

While the popular answer is that they’ll higher adventurers to do their dirty work for them, that’s not a very palatable choice for the first line of defense. What if there are no adventurers around at the time? What if they don’t want to take the job? What if they’re the problem in the first place, and someone else is needed to stop them?

With questions like these, it starts to become obvious that there’s going to be some sort of law enforcement position specific to handling spellcasting threats. We aren’t going to turn to benevolent religious organizations either, as we can presume that the regional government would want state actors that answer to them, rather than to an independent organization (even if it’s a state-backed religion, it still answers to its church leaders, and its god, before it does the king, for instance).

No magic

The badass tattoo of the antimage guild.

The clearer answer seems to be that there are arcane spellcasters employed by the state who are the point-people for dealing with troublesome spellcasters, and other magical threats. Indeed, there’s likely an arm of law enforcement that trains people precisely for this purpose. Presumably, this would mean that they are not only on-call for a given area when something happens, but have a readied set of spells and abilities designed specifically to stop unlawful spellcasting in its tracks.

Of course, that rules out sorcerers, since they’re mutations that can’t really be created via training. Bards and magi are better choices, but their de-emphasis on full-progression casting makes them weaker choices to combat enemies with a high degree of spellcasting power. Witches are like clerics in that they ultimately answer to someone else besides the government, and wizards tend to be a little too focused on expanding their spellbooks.

That would seem to place us in a bit of an awkward position in regards to coming up with a character that’s specifically designed to take out spellcasters. The best we can do would be to make a new class archetype, prestige class, or base class designed around taking out spellcasters.

Of course, using Eclipse we can make such a character from scratch with little difficulty.

The Antimage

Antimages are state-sponsored actors who are called in to deal with criminal spellcasters. Beyond mere police or guardsmen, they are an elite unit trained to deal with circumstances that are beyond mundane law enforcement officials. Undergoing rigorous training, they have their own magical abilities heightened…but only those abilities that allow for magic’s disruption. Antimages don’t so much attack spellcasters as they attack the fabric of magic itself, disrupting and wounding it to the point where its practitioners can no longer call upon it reliably.

Since we’re going to be outlining a class, rather than a specific character, we’ll limit ourselves to class-based CP expenditures (and related modifiers).

Available Character Points: 504 (level 20 base) + 40 (duties) + 20 (restrictions) = 564 CP.

Antimage duties are to their government. They are usually endowed with a fairly high degree of autonomy, but this comes with commensurate responsibilities to the government. Their restrictions are much more concrete: they cannot take any spellcasting/psionic progressions, except for those outlined under Magikiller, below.

Basic Abilities (346 CP)

  • Light armor and medium armor proficiency (9 CP) and proficient with all simple and martial weapons (9 CP).
  • 20d8 Hit Dice (80 CP).
  • +15 Warcraft (90 CP).
  • +6 Fort save (18 CP).
  • +12 Reflex save (36 CP).
  • +12 Will save (36 CP, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not voluntarily fail saves against beneficial effects – 24 CP).
  • 80 skill points (80 CP).

Unlike normal wizards, antimages have fairly credible combat abilities. Many spellcasters have meat-shields defending them, after all, and some have fighting abilities of their own to fall back on. As such, an antimage learns how to hold their own in martial, as well as magical, combat.

Thaumaturgical Insight (24 CP)

  • Adept (Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), Martial Art (soul of iron), Spellcraft) (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner (6 CP, specialized for double effect/skills only).
  • Occult Sense with the Improved modifier (12 CP).

The combination of adept and fast learner means that an antimage will be able to keep maximum ranks in each of the four listed skills, allowing him to be an expert on arcane and divine magical theory, develop their magic-disrupting martial art, and understand any magic that they see, something that they’re also trained to do. Their Improved Occult Sense allows them to see magic similar to an arcane sight spell, but without the duration or range limits.

Magikiller (148 CP)

  • 20 caster levels (120 CP, specialized for one-half cost/only for clerical progression – 60 CP).
  • 20 levels clerical spellcasting progression, no package, with the conduct limitation removed (140 CP, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/no spell list except for spells from the Dispelling domain – 46 CP).
  • Domain/Path (Dispelling domain) (6 CP).
  • Spell Conversion (to Dispelling domain spells – 6 CP).
  • Countermagic, with the Empty Mind, Reflexive, and Spiral Dance modifiers (30 CP).

The Dispelling domain can be found in Paths of Power II. Like a clerical domain, it has nine spells, one of each level, that follow a theme, which in this case is dispelling magic.

This package of abilities is the main thrust of an antimage’s power. While he has spell slots, they can only be used for using Dispelling domain spells or counterspelling. Indeed, they may counterspell once per round off of their turn, and moreover can redirect a countered spell as if they were the original caster (something they do by “dispelling” part of the caster’s original casting instructions, essentially sabotaging it as it’s cast rather than fully negating it).

Beyond Magic’s Reach (46 CP)

  • Block (arcane) with the Master upgrade (12 CP).
  • Defender (deflection bonus) with the Improved modifier (corrupted for two-thirds cost/only versus magical attacks – 8 CP).
  • Luck with plus one bonus use (specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws, and corrupted for increased effect (one additional use per day)/only against magical effects – 4 CP).
  • Spell Resistance, with the Improved modifier twice (18 CP, corrupted for two-thirds cost/cannot be voluntarily lowered – 12 CP).
  • Inherent Spell (6 CP, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only as a prerequisite) plus Advanced with one bonus use (nullfield, 8 CP) (10 CP total).

Since an antimage can usually wear down a traditional spellcaster, their ability to use nullfield (which can be found in The Practical Enchanter) is usually saved as a last resort for desperate circumstances. In such cases, nullfield is used to try and stop an enemy that doesn’t seem to have a limit on how much magic they can use (e.g. someone using Path of the Dragon).

The increased effect for an antimage’s luck ability grants +50% uses. Since it can be used twice a day normally, that bumps it up to three times per day.

In addition to the above powers, all antimages are trained in the Soul of Iron martial art. While the cold iron staff is the traditional weapon of choice for this style, the form of the weapon is less important than its substance. As such, minor variants that use different cold iron weapons can be found among foreign antimages with some regularity.

Soul of Iron (Wis)

Cold iron has long been recognized for its ability to disrupt the ebb and flow of magic. For those with a similar ability, it can be used as a channel to augment and direct their ability to resist mystical powers. Soul of Iron practitioners  put this to good effect, attacking eldritch powers with a cold iron staff; while its wide, sweeping gestures look like a slow practice form to most, its users are actually dispersing the natural tides of magic around them.

Requires: Spell resistance, proficiency with quarterstaff.

Basic Techniques: Defenses 4 (+4 to saving throws vs. spells and spell-like abilities), Synergy/Spellcraft, Toughness 4 (vs. hit point damage from spells and spell-like abilities).

Advanced/Master Techniques: Arcane Strike (works with antimage spells), Battlecry (this is actually a loud ringing of the iron staff, but has the same effect), Disruptive, Sneak Attack (add +1d6 to dispel checks).

Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Ki Focus (Wisdom), Overburden, Serpent Strike.

Advancement

Antimages are already pinnacle characters with regard to defending themselves against magical attacks, and debuffing those characters that rely on magic. As such, any further advancement would be best served by expanding their abilities. Action Hero is an excellent choice in this regard, as it gives them some much-needed versatility. Berserker can help boost their combat prowess so that they can put down a spellcaster that they’ve debuffed.

Of course, an antimage’s combat abilities will never be as strong as those of a dedicated fighter-type. Companion or Leadership may be helpful in that regard, as they can provide the antimage with some much-needed muscle.  Perhaps your antimage is so opposed to magic that divinations can’t see her (Cloaking) or maybe she can shrug off some types of spells altogether (Immunity).

Further Development

Of course, none of this changes the fact that an antimage makes a far better NPC than PC. Most players won’t care to spend their actions each turn debuffing other characters’ spells and magic items. The fact that antimages can’t waive their spell resistance or saving throws against beneficial effects doesn’t help matters.

Antimages are best used as part of a strike force used against your PCs. As specialists in locking down spellcasting characters, even a single antimage – if used as part of a well-rounded party – can be used to devastating effect. Be wary about using them too often, though, as your spellcasting players won’t appreciate having their actions negated every round.

Ultimately, as the introduction laid out, antimages work best as part of the background of the campaign world, showing how things continue to function in a land where you never know who’s going to start charming the populace or use magic missiles to terrorize people. Antimages are the silent threat that helps keep magical societies functioning.

Rock Your Body

June 9, 2013
Maedar

Now that’s what I call a rock star.

The medusa is an iconic creature in D&D lore, something appropriated whole-cloth from her even more iconic position in Greek mythology (save for D&D making her a type of creature, rather than a specific individual). Far less obvious is the origin of her male counterpart, the maedar.

The maedar is something of an anti-medusa; not only is it uniquely male, but it has no snakes for hair (or any hair at all, for that matter) and no ability to petrify. Indeed, its signature power (it has several additional minor ones) is that it can turn stone into flesh; this is explained in that it will smash victims a medusa has petrified, and then de-petrify the pieces, which are then eaten.

For this post, I’m going to put together an Eclipse-based write-up for the maedar. This isn’t strictly necessary, as the maedar has 3.5 stats (found in Dragon #355) which can be used in an Eclipse d20 game without any conversion necessary, but deconstructing its abilities this way is a useful exercise in how to make races using Eclipse. One thing to watch out for is that the 3.5 stats give the maedar a level adjustment of +4, so we’re going to try and aim for that same range in its racial stats.

Of course, since the maedar isn’t Open Game Content, we’ll call this build by a more prosaic name: the male medusa (I was going to call it the “male-dusa,” but even I couldn’t stomach a pun that bad).

Male Medusa

Okay, so what powers does a male medusa have? Well, looking over its 3.5 stat block, it has 60 foot darkvision, for one.

  • Occult Sense/darkvision 60 ft. (6 CP).

It also has +3 natural armor. We’ll bend the rules here and call this one Defender; that gets less of a bonus at low levels, but more of one at higher levels, so it evens out.

  • Defender/natural armor (6 CP).

It’s immune to the poison of a medusa, as well as to paralysis, petrification, and “movement-inhibiting” magic, which is apparently meant to be indicative of magic that directly impacts movement (e.g. a slow spell) rather than spells that indirectly cause it to be unable to move (e.g. web).

Okay, we can pretty safely fold the immunity to paralysis in with the immunity to movement-inhibiting magic. The immunity to medusa poison is pretty specific, as is the immunity to petrification, so no problems there.

  • Immunity to medusa poison (uncommon/major/major – 6 CP), petrification (uncommon/severe/great – 18 CP), and movement-inhibiting magic (common/major/great – 18 CP).

Now we come to its ability scores. The listed ability scores are Str 16, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 12. That translates to the following bonuses, each with the following costs (luckily, these costs are halved, since they’re part of a racial build):

  • Str +6 (36 CP), Dex +4 (24 CP), Con +4 (24 CP), Int +2 (12 CP), Wis +2 (12 CP), Cha +2 (12 CP) (120 CP total).

Male medusae can strike with their natural weapons as per adamantine for overcoming damage reduction and hardness; hence how they’re able to smash statues. While Imbuement is usually limited to plusses, we can call this the equivalent of a +1 bonus.

  • Imbuement (adamantine) (6 CP).

Oddly, male medusae are listed as being able to fight without penalty even when below 0 hit points. On the surface, this doesn’t seem to be too intuitive; presumably it has something to do with the enduring nature of earth and stone (which these cthonic creatures are affiliated with). Still, it’s easy enough to do in Eclipse.

  • Stoic (3 CP) with Ferocity (3 CP).

It’s signature power of using stone to flesh can be done five times per day. That’s not hard to do using Inherent Spell, though we’ll need to tweak it a bit since it’s using only that power and no other.

  • Inherent Spell (6 CP) with Advanced added thrice (18 CP)/specialized for half-cost, only for a single sixth-level spell (stone to flesh) (12 CP), plus the Multiple modifier (6 CP) (18 CP total).

One of their stronger powers is the ability to earthwalk; that is, to move through solid earth and stone (but not metal) the way a fish does through water, leaving no tunnel or visual indicator of its passage.

Okay, that’s a little harder. We’ll call that a use of Celerity, since it’s a new movement mode, with a base rate of 0 ft. That means that the inital use of Celerity will get it’s speed up to 10 feet, and then we can bump it up from there to a total of 30 ft.

  • Celerity (6 CP) plus double Improved (6 CP) plus Additional (earthwalking) (12 CP).

Male medusae are treated as being regular medusa for all effects related to race. Easily done, again.

  • Privilege/treated as a medusa whenever favorable (3 CP).

Finally, male medusae have an odd ability to cheat death. If they would die when they’re in contact with the earth, they can let their life force travel through the ground until it reaches a crystal, which then becomes its new body. The crystal is trapped until mined, and at that point can move itself or anything that it’s set in.

Alright, surviving your own death is Returning, and changing your abilities like that is an instance of the Rewrite modifier, hence:

  • Returning (6 CP) with the Rewrite modifier (6 CP)/specialized and corrupted, must be in contact with natural earth, rewrite features are set (4 CP total).

Altogether, this comes out to 235 CP, which makes it a +7 ECL race. Luckily, the entire package is corrupted for two-thirds cost/male medusae are antisocial, driven to seek revenge for perceived slights, unable to reproduce except for with normal (female) medusae, and despise being subservient to other creatures.

That brings the cost down to 157 CP, which is within the 159 CP limit for +4 ECL creatures. Perfect.

As we noted, a male medusa that uses its returning power has its features set for its new incarnation. It can also reallocate up to one-fourth of its points when it does, but these are in a set amount.

In this form, the male medusa gives up its immunities to medusa poison (-6 CP) and petrification (-18 CP), since its crystal form has no Constitution score. It also therefore loses its Constitution bonus (-24 CP), Stoic and Ferocity (since it can’t survive below 0 hit points in its crystal form; -6 CP), and it can’t return to life again, sacrificing Returning and Rewrite (-4 CP).

That’s a grand total of 58 CP, or 39 CP after the reduction for the build’s corruption…which is almost exactly one-fourth of its total. Perfect again!

In exchange for these powers, it gains the following (in addition to the remaining racial traits above):

  • Occult Sense/low-light vision (6 CP).
  • No Con score (0 CP) plus size-related bonus hit points (12 CP) (these are based on the size of the item (if any) that the male medusa’s crystal form is attached to).
  • Skill Emphasis (Use Magic Device) (3 CP) and Skill Focus +3 (Use Magic Device) (6 CP), both specialized for double effect/only if the male medusa crystal is affixed to the magic item.
  • Immunity to being unable to move (very common/major/great) (30 CP). This last item allows the male medusa crystal to fly when on its own, and otherwise animate items that it’s affixed to, using its stats.

These abilities have a total cost of 57 of its 58 CP – almost an exact match – and reducing it for the corruption brings that to 39, thanks to rounding. An exact match.

To be fair, we are eliminating the damage reduction 8/adamantine that the male medusa is supposed to gain in this form. On the other hand, we’re also eliminating the restriction that it can only have a flat 5 hit points in this form, which is a far greater liability than the DR is a benefit, so that certainly evens out. There’s also nothing here about the size of the crystal that the male medusa’s life force inhabits, but that matches with the source material, since it can be anything from a tiny crystal to being set in a large statue.

Note that a male medusa crystal has the same corruption to its racial package as a normal male medusa, save only that it cannot speak, and rather than being unable to reproduce except with a medusa, it now cannot reproduce at all.

Sailing to Saturn

May 13, 2013

I mentioned in my previous post that, like many table-top gamers, I play a lot of video games. Well, to further legitimize the stereotype, I also watch a lot of anime, though, as with the video games, these days it’s not nearly as much as it used to be.

I was captivated by anime when I first discovered it, which luckily for me was during its entry into the American mainstream in the mid-late 90′s. Unfortunately, being a teenager at the time, I had little in the way of personal funds to acquire this new habit. As such, I had to make due with what was being shown on broadcast television…which at that point was very little. One of the few shows that was available to watch, however, was Sailor Moon.

Compared to the domestic animation available at the time, watching Sailor Moon was a revolutionary thing, as ridiculous as it sounds now. We take things like an advancing plotline and actual characterization somewhat for granted now, but at the time they were exceptionally rare in animated TV shows. Even considering that it was an anime which mostly featured monsters of the week, was poorly edited for American television, and was made primarily for teenage girls, it was one of the highlights of my cartoon-watching years (which are now behind me…mostly).

Eventually I acquired fansubs of the show which, along with translated copies of the manga, helped me to appreciate it more. True, it suffers in comparison to contemporary anime, but it’s still fun, even if only for the sake of nostalgia. It’s in that spirit that the next character I’m providing stats for is from this series. Here is…

Sailor Saturn

“I am Death, destroyer of worlds.”

Hotaru Tomoe is one of the youngest Sailor Senshi, being twelve years old when she’s introduced as Sailor Saturn. She’s also the most powerful, being the Senshi of Death (but not rebirth, as is often mistakenly attributed to her). She takes to the field quite rarely, compared to her fellows, and then only to face an enemy of unusual strength…and even then, she usually has little trouble dispatching them, given the overwhelming force of her attacks.

That’s…somewhat problematic. Hotaru is young and inexperienced, which in d20 terms is how you say “low-level,” something that doesn’t fit at all with the sheer destructive force she can bring to bear. True, we’re using Eclipse: The Codex Persona to generate her stats, which gives us some leeway in how we develop them, but that’s still a large gap to overcome. Particularly since Eclipse posits that children of Hotaru’s age are level zero characters!

So how can we resolve this disparity? Well, there’s one immediate answer: given that Hotaru’s powers as Sailor Saturn are something she manifests rather than something she learns, we can say that her powers are a template, rather than class levels. In fact, one of the co-authors of Eclipse already posted a generic magical girl template on his blog, so we’re going to crib that and modify it as needed for our purposes.

Available Character Points: 24 (level 0 base) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (starting traits) + 10 (disadvantages) +0 (duties) = 46 CP.

Hotaru’s disadvantages include History (her dual-persona with Mistress 9, and her connection to the Death Busters), Secret (her secret identity as Sailor Saturn; if revealed, she gains the Hunted and Valuable disadvantages), and Unarmored (like all magical girls, the Sailor Senshi rely solely on their magical abilities for attack and defense).

It’s worth noting that, after the end of the third season, Hotaru bought off her History disadvantage as part of the season’s climax. As this counts as an “epic adventure” that dealt directly with her history, it cost her no Character Points to remove; it’s listed here as a notation, to account for her disadvantage-based CPs.

Note that, being level 0, Hotaru has yet to receive any points for her duties – which include combating supernatural evils and supporting her Princess – as those won’t pay off until she grows some more. She also has yet to receive any level-based feats, though she is receiving Pathfinder’s 6 CP of “starting traits.”

Ability Scores (0-point buy): Str 7, Dex 10, Con 8, Int 11, Wis 12, Cha 15. This includes Hotaru’s +2 human racial bonus (applied to Charisma).

The number of points assigned for buying ability scores is typically set by the tone of the campaign. Given that Sailor Moon seems like a fairly typical fantasy campaign, albeit an urban one, a 15-point buy is typical (the series has its moments of “high” or even “epic” fantasy, but these are usually at the denouement of a season, and are not representative of the series as a whole).

Unfortunately, that doesn’t work here. Just like the problem we had with Gargamel, Hotaru simply doesn’t have overwhelming ability scores in any area, and indeed is notably sub-par in several areas. Given that, I’m electing to try something different here: her point-buy value has been reduced to 0 – the points she receives from her single-digit ability scores, as well as her human racial bonus, give her enough points to buy stats which, I think, accurately reflect her character.

Human Traits

  • Bonus feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills (3 CP).
  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Package Deal bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).

As always, this last bullet point is in reference to the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Basic Abilities (10 CP)

  • Proficiency with one simple weapon: spear (1 CP).
  • 2 hit points (0 CP).
  • +0 BAB (0 CP).
  • Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +1 (3 CP).
  • 6 skill points (6 CP).
Skills

Ranks

Ability Modifier

Total

Diplomacy

1

+2 Cha

+3

Heal

1

+1 Wis

+2

Knowledge (art)

1

+0 Int

+1

Knowledge (history)

1

+0 Int

+1

Perception

1

+1 Wis

+2

Sense Motive

1

+1 Wis

+2

Hotaru’s skills are something of an oddity. Since we’re using the Pathfinder rules for Eclipse, Hotaru should be able to pick twelve skills, plus Craft and Profession, as class skills. However, she can only take ranks equal to her level…but she’s level zero!

The compromise we’re making here is to allow Hotaru to take up to 1 rank in skills, but she won’t receive any bonuses for class skills. In effect, until she reaches level one, she treats all skills as cross-class.

Minor Healing (12 CP)

  • Healing Touch, specialized for increased effect/each use requires an expenditure of Body Fuel, effective level is increased by +2 (6 CP).
  • Body Fuel with the Efficient modifier, specialized for one-half cost/must use Constitution, may only be used to fuel Healing Touch (6 CP).

Essentially, Hotaru can take one point of Constitution burn (that is, Constitution damage that can only be cured non-magically) to heal – with her current statistics – 4 hit points of damage to someone. That’s exceptionally little return for such a high investment, but it fits with the source material; Hotaru is shown to heal only minor injuries, mostly cuts and scrapes, and is heavily exhausted as a result.

Ironically, as a level 0 character, Hotaru loses no hit points as a result of taking Constitution damage. I would expect that it’s still a fatiguing experience, though.

Sailor Crystal (18 CP)

  • Extraordinary Returning (12 CP) with the Rewrite (+6 CP) modifier.

That Sailor Senshi are reborn when they die is an early trope in the series, but the first season makes it seem situational; that is, they come back because they’re reincarnated/resurrected in various instances.

It’s only in the last season that they start getting into the nature of what, exactly, Sailor Senshi are, and how they’re different from normal people, that being that their soul is a “sailor crystal” that’s linked to a particular planet. It’s heavily implied that these crystals are, on their own, eternal, which in turn suggests that dead Sailor Senshi will come back to life – at some point, and possibly in a new incarnation – if slain.

Unfortunately, this is never answered out-and-out during the last season, as the final villain is more focused on conquest, corruption, and consumption than all-out genocide. Ergo, we’ll have to make an educated guess. Given that resurrection and rebirth happen so often in the series anyway, we’ll go ahead and make this an intrinsic power.

For a d20-based game, the soul is hard to definitively destroy, but it can be done, to say nothing of other methods of attacking or trapping it. Hence, this is Returning with the Extraordinary modifier. Since they sometimes return in a new incarnation that’s different, albeit only slightly, from their previous life, that’s the Rewrite modifier.

Sailor Saturn Transformation (6 CP)

  • Reflex Training, specialized for one-half cost/may be used to take a standard action once per day (3 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, specialized for one-half cost/only for half the normal GP value (3 CP).
    • Void Sheathe (700 GP), this is a variant that only functions for her “transformation pen.”
    • Sailor Senshi Transformation Sequence (2,000 GP).

The use of Reflex Training here allows Hotaru to not only transform instantly in response to a threat (needing a free action to grab her transformation pen and a swift action to invoke her transformation), but also to then take a standard action immediately. Given the comparative rarity of her fighting an enemy, however (since enemies seem to appear once a week at most), this usually isn’t needed more than once per day.

Technically, Hotaru is 200 GP over her limit for her innate enchantments here, but that’s such a small amount that we’ll waive it. Also, while the Void Sheathe spells is from The Practical Enchanter, the Sailor Senshi Transformation Sequence spell is as follows:

Sailor Senshi Transformation Sequence, Transmutation; Level 1; Components V, F (transformation pen); Casting Time 1 swift action; Range personal; Duration permanent (D). This spell changes the user’s clothing into some stereotypical battle-costume. The change is actually instant, but the spell effect gives everyone watching the vague impression of a lengthy and dramatic transformation, with background music and appropriate imagery.

All of the above are for Hotaru’s “normal” form; that is, these things are independent of her actually having transformed into Sailor Saturn. For her transformation, we’ll apply the following template:

The Sailor Saturn Template (26 CP/+0 ECL)

  • Immunity to anyone independently making the connection between Sailor Saturn and Hotaru Tomoe (very common, minor, minor) without the use of a great deal of detective work, powerful magic, or some similar method (8 CP).
  • Luck, with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • Opportunist, use Acrobatics once per round – allowing her to move up to her speed as part of the check – as a free action. This may be used to avoid an attack of opportunity (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment. All abilities are constant (e.g. unlimited use), level 1 or level 0 effects at caster level 1 (spell level x caster level x 2,000 gp), with the personal only modifier (0.7). Total cost 12,600 gp (14 CP).
    • Inspiring Word, +1 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and skill and ability checks (1,400 gp).
    • Jump, +10 enhancement bonus to Acrobatics checks involving jumps (1,400 gp).
    • Force Armor I, +4 armor bonus to AC (1,400 gp).
    • Force Shield I, +4 shield bonus to AC (1,400 gp).
    • Mending, keeps her costume in good condition (700 gp).
    • Immortal Vigor I, 12 additional hit points (1,400 gp).
    • Resist Energy, resistance 10 to all forms of energy damage (1,400 gp).
    • Void Sheathe, this is a variant that only functions for the Silence Glaive (700 gp).
    • Enhance Attribute (Constitution) I, +2 enhancement bonus to Constitution (1,400 gp).
    • Fast Healing I, regain up to (20 hp per level per day – 10 hp at level 0) hit points (1,400 gp).

Of course, the above CP costs don’t match the amount listed at the template’s heading. That’s because the entire template is corrupted for two-thirds cost. This is for several reasons: The template is only active when she’s using her Sailor Senshi Transformation Sequence spell; when it’s down, she doesn’t have any of the templated abilities (this could be a major weakness if she ever faces someone who can use dispel magic). There’s also a fairly unending cavalcade of enemies for her (and her friends) to face, even if Saturn is left on the bench most of the time. She’s also at least somewhat famous, which can be a hindrance when trying to keep her identity a secret.

Except…now we come to the issue of her attacks. Let’s go over these in more detail. In the anime and the manga, Sailor Saturn has four special powers that she can use:

Death Reborn Revolution is, in the manga, the attack the defeats Pharaoh 90, which he says is a “negative energy” attack. Hm, that does fit with her being the Senshi of Death, insofar as Pathfinder is concerned. Now, the attack looks like ribbons, but that doesn’t mean anything; at most that’s an instance of the Eldritch ability (Eclipse p. 31) altering the cosmetics of the spell.

As for the spell itself, it must be fairly powerful to take out one of the Pharaoh 90, the “big bad” of the third season. So let’s say that it’s harm…but given that it’s used at range, it must have the Extension (+1 spell levels) upgrade from the Extension metamagic theorem. It also seems to be an area effect, given that it seems to hit Sailor Saturn also (requiring Sailor Moon’s intervention to save her and reincarnate her as a baby), so let’s call that the Boost (+2 spell levels) and Hammer (+2 spell levels) upgrades from the Area metamagic theorem.

Given that harm is a 6th-level spell, that’s an additional +5 spell levels, for a level 11 spell in total. Okay…let’s say those modifiers are built into the spell itself, rather than being true metamagic. That reduces the total cost by 20%, down to +4, making it a 10th-level spell. Still very high, but we’ll take what we can get.

Silence Glaive Surprise is, in the manga, a mist-like attack that seems to confuse and frighten the Amazones Quartetto. In the anime, it’s an attack that Sailor Saturn almost uses to destroy Queen Nehellenia, but is interrupted before it’s unleashed.

Hm, this one is tricky. The manga appearance seems to imply it’s not a damage-dealing effect so much as one to cause confusion. But the anime seems to imply that it’s a powerful attack, though we never see it. The best thing here may be to split the difference. Let’s take a damage-dealing fog spell, acid fog, and throw in the Alter (negative energy) (+0 spell levels) and Infliction (confusion) (+2 spell levels) upgrades from the Elemental Manipulation metamagic theorem. That makes it deal negative energy damage in accordance with her theme of Death, as well as the Death Reborn Revolution, and has the disorienting effect as well. Since you don’t get a price break for building in +2 spell levels of metamagic, this is an 8th-level spell…that’s her weak attack, too.

Silence Wall, also called Silent Wall in the anime, is a defensive ability. It raises a dome of dark energy over Sailor Saturn, and the people near her, to protect them from incoming attacks. Okay, we can use roughly the same formula here. That’s a resilient sphere that, presumably, also has Alter (negative energy) (+0 spell levels) upgrade from the Elemental Manipulation metamagic theorem added to it. That’s slightly awkward, as changing the spell from force to negative energy seems counterintuitive. I’d say that this sacrifices the wall’s hardness (but not it’s hit points; it’s still a barrier), but in return inflicts negative energy damage to anyone touching it.

Lowering her Glaive over the world is an attack that doesn’t have a name. In fact, it’s not an attack at all, strictly speaking. She just symbolically lowers the Silence Glaive and…everyone and everything on a given planet dies.

Huh…

Okay, that’s a bit tricky. Let’s break this down as best we can. That’s clearly a negative energy attack. We could use a minor spell like inflict light wounds, since most people are only 1st-level characters with a scant handful of hit points anyway. But that doesn’t seem right, since this is supposed to kill absolutely everyone, and in some worlds there’ll be mighty heroes and powerful monsters with more hit points.

Let’s call this another instance of harm. To this we’ll add the Grandiose (+20 spell levels) upgrade from the Area metamagic theorem to cover the entire world, as well as the Verbal (+1 spell levels) upgrade from the Easy metamagic theorem to remove the verbal component. This is going to be monstrously huge…but there is one catch. When Sailor Saturn uses this power in the anime, it kills her. That’s the “dying to cast it” modifier (-4 spell levels), so that helps bring things down a bit. That’s a grand total of +17 spell levels on top of this 6th-level spell. If we build this into the spell effect though, that’s a -3 spell level reduction, bringing it all down to…a 20th-level spell.

Ouch.

So now we come to the problem. We’ve already spent all of Hotaru’s character points. Even if we find a method that doesn’t require her to buy a ton of caster levels for these spells, the spells themselves will cost far and away more Character Points than she has, or likely will for many levels. So what then do we do?

The Silence Glaive

Maybe it should be the Silence Glaive-Guisarme?

At this point, the only real answer is to turn to her weapon, the Silence Glaive, itself. Even as a relic, giving it those powers would cost far and away too much, so we’re going to go further and make it an out-and-out major artifact.

That’s problematic in more ways than one. For one thing, it moves the menace from Sailor Saturn herself, and shifts it to her weapon (which we’re not giving any restriction as to who can use it). Moreover, it strains credulity to have a zero-level twelve-year old wielding a major artifact…but if we can have a level one halfling wielding one on a trek to a distant volcano, why not here too?

That said, there are two divergences from the anime and manga that I’m going to make where the Glaive is concerned. The first is in regards to its weapon properties. Sailor Saturn never uses the Silence Glaive as a melee weapon, which is counterintuitive in a d20 game. Given its status as a major artifact, I’m going to call it a +6 spear (hence Hotaru’s weapon proficiency, in case she ever wants to make a melee attack).

Secondly, I’m not going to limit it to the four specific effects above. Rather, we’ll make it a weapon that can grant the wielder great power over negative energy, and say that the few instances that we saw in the source material (most of which were unique) are simply examples of a much wider array of powers. That’s getting away from the canon slightly more than I’m comfortable with, but I think that having that much power calls for slightly more breadth.

THE SILENCE GLAIVE (major artifact)

This five-foot polearm is composed of a single piece of black metal, the haft flaring slightly for grip. It’s blade is curved slightly, reminiscent of a sickle, with a small counter-point opposite it.

Less a weapon than a force for destruction, this +6 spear grants its wielder god-like control over the forces of death. The Silence Glaive’s wielder has access to 20 generic spell levels, which instantly replenish each round and may only be used to cast spells that utilize negative energy. These spells are always cast at 20th caster level.

Suggested Means of Destruction

  • Plunge the Silence Glaive and the Ginzuishou into the Galaxy Cauldron together, where the release of their energies will destroy both of them, as well as the Galaxy Cauldron itself.
  • Use it to kill everyone who was never born, inverting the Silence Glaive’s power over death and causing it become a normal, non-magical weapon.

In Conclusion

Overall, Sailor Saturn is…so phenomenally unbalanced that we need a new word for just how unbalanced she is.

Her stats are notably sub-par, even for a zero-level character. Even in her transformed state, she’d easily go below 0 hit points – and could likely be killed outright – with one solid hit from a level one melee-oriented character. That contrasts very poorly with her wielding such a powerful artifact; she’s essentially just begging for someone to one-shot her and take it for themselves (or, if an enemy feels bad about hitting a little girl, just making a disarm check).

This at least explains why she takes to the battlefield so rarely, and always surrounded by her friends when she does. She has a great deal of power, but that power is easily taken from her.

Special K…ombat

April 28, 2013

Like most gamers, I play a lot of video games. While I don’t play nearly the amount that I used to as a kid, I still find the time every now and then to fire up a console or a handheld.

Recently, I pulled out my old copy of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Like most kids who were teenagers in the nineties, I played the hell out of that series of games, first in the arcades and then at home on the consoles. It’s not hard to see why either; the games were very “edgy” with their gruesome fatalities, digitized characters, and completely insane storyline.

The series wound down as the nineties ended and we all grew familiar enough with the games that the novelty wore off. Unexpectedly, however, the games successfully reinvented themselves as the new millennium arrived, something that not many series can pull off (I’m looking at you, Sonic the Hedgehog). The graphics transitioned to polygons, the arena made use of 3D fighting, and the story grew much tighter.

The Mortal Kombat series recently gave itself another facelift with its 2011 reboot, but for now I wanted to focus on the last game in the original storyline, the aforementioned MK: Armageddon. Specifically, I wanted to look at that game’s rendition of the series’ most popular character:

SCORPION

"Yoga Flame! No wait, that's not right..."

“Yoga Flame! No, wait, that’s not right…”

There’s little need to introduce Scorpion; rather, its more germane to say that this write-up focuses on him as he appears during the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. By this time, Scorpion is far stronger than he was during the original Mortal Kombat, as evidenced by his greater array of powers, multiple fighting styles, and his leadership of his undead clan. This is Scorpion at his deadliest.

To reflect that, we’re setting him at 12th level. The idea for that is that the characters in the original Mortal Kombat game were all 6th level characters – the logic there being that, as The Alexandrian laid out, the greatest an ordinary person can ascend is 5th level; since the characters in that game are already breaking the limits of what humans can achieve, as demonstrated via their special moves, they’ve already surpassed normal human limits, albeit only slightly.

After that, we’re presuming that the characters all gain one level for each subsequent game, so since Armageddon is the seventh game in the series (we’re not counting all of the side-games), the characters have gained six levels. Hence, Scorpion is a 12th-level character now. Of course, we’re going to use Eclipse: The Codex Persona to generate his stats.

Having elaborated on that, as the announcer says: Fight!

Available Character Points: 312 (level twelve base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 12 (restrictions) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (“starting traits”) + 12 (fast learner) + 36 (levels 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 feats) = 394 CP.

As the above should make clear, we’re using the Pathfinder progression for Scorpion’s feats. We’re also going to use Pathfinder’s tendency to give “starting traits” to characters as well. Since these are supposed to be two “half-feats,” we’re just calling those an extra 6 CP at 1st level.

Scorpion’s disadvantages are Compulsive (to take revenge on those he feels have wronged him, his family, and his clan), History (Scorpion’s history includes his clan’s rivalry with the Lin Kuei, his hatred of the sorcerer Quan Chi, and his anger at the Elder Gods for what they did to his clan), and Unarmored (a staple for the characters of Mortal Kombat).

Scorpion’s restrictions are to not use any spellcasting or psionic progressions.

Ability Scores (25-point buy): Str 18, Dex 16, Con –, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 14. This includes his +2 human racial bonus (applied to Strength), and three instances of Improved Self-Development for reaching levels 4, 8, and 12 (applied to Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma).

We’re cutting a few corners here. The earlier games would have used a much smaller point buy, but as the story continued and things grew more and more over-the-top, a higher point-buy became more appropriate. By the time Armageddon arrived, using the highest value was much more in line with how things were going.

We’re also going to allow Scorpion to retroactively gain skill points for increasing his Intelligence score. Given how little skills seem to matter in Mortal Kombat, this doesn’t seem that unfair.

Human Traits

  • Bonus feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills (3 CP).
  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Package Deal bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).

As always, this last bullet point is in reference to the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Before we get to Scorpion’s level-based abilities, we’re also going to need to develop his “race” a little more, as Scorpion is an undead creature from the Netherrealm (aka Hell). Given that this is where evil people go when they die, it’s best to leave his human traits as they are and simply apply a template.

Since Scorpion’s powers aren’t any greater than those of other kombatants, most of whom aren’t undead creatures like him, it makes sense to say that Scorpion’s template as a Netherrealm creature adds comparatively little to his overall abilities (something that makes sense since, in later games such as Deception and Armageddon, the story modes have the main characters – Shujinko and Taven, respectively – fighting their way through Netherrealm denizens with comparative ease compared to their fights with Scorpion).

Hence, we can say that Scorpion has the following:

Netherrealm Ghost template (31 CP/+0 ECL)

All of the abilities of this template are specialized for one-half cost/the user becomes an undead monster, is vulnerable to channeled positive and negative energy, can be banished back to the Netherrealm, and loses all ability to experience positive emotions.

  • No Constitution score (0 CP). Includes immunity to ability damage (including all poisons), ability drain, energy drain, and effects requiring Fortitude saves unless they work on objects or are harmless. Does not breathe, eat, or sleep, cannot tire, and can move, work, or remain alert indefinitely. They cannot be raised or reincarnated and are instantly destroyed at 0 HP.
  • Negative Energy Metabolism (0 CP). Undead are healed and enhanced by negative energy and harmed or hindered by positive energy, instead of the reverse. As a side effect, they regain 10 HP whenever they would normally suffer a negative level, but treat positive levels as negative levels.
  • Finesse with the Advanced modifier (6 CP): May substitute their (Cha Mod) for their (Con Mod) when calculating hit points and Fortitude saves.
  • Immunity to things which affect biological processes (Very Common/Major/Epic, 22 CP). This includes paralysis, stunning damage, nonlethal damage, diseases, death effects, critical hits, and most necromancy effects.
  • Adaptation/Netherrealm (3 CP).

This template’s use of Negative Energy Metabolism is kept because the differences between positive and negative energy is one of the most fundamental ways that Pathfinder differentiates the living from the undead. However, it has little practical meaning in the Mortal Kombat universe. Likewise, undead in that universe have no blanket immunity to mind-affecting effects. Given that, Scorpion might be in for an unpleasant surprise if he finds himself in a more typical Pathfinder world!

Basic Abilities (207 CP)

  • Weapons group proficiency (3 CP): katana and rope dart.
  • 12d10 Hit Dice (72 CP).
  • +12 BAB (72 CP).
  • Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +4 (60 CP).

Notice that no skill points have been bought. Despite this, Scorpion still receives a fairly plentiful number of skill points, which we’ll go over below.

Guarded Fighting (60 CP)

  • Reflex Training (as per Combat Reflexes) with Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • Block (all three forms, all with the Advanced modifier) (36 CP).
  • Defender with the Improved modifier (+3 dodge bonus) (12 CP).

Scorpion’s Armor Class is going to be terribly low for a 12th-level character, having only his +3 Dex modifier, his +3 dodge bonus from Defender, and whatever defensive bonuses he’s getting from using one of his martial arts styles (see below). This is on purpose, as the MK cast has little use for passive defenses – most of the time they avoid taking damage by actively blocking.

Bloody Spear (12 CP)

  • Trick (corrupted for increased effect/requires a full-round action (including initial attack) – when striking someone with a rope dart, the victim is flat-footed until their next turn, and Scorpion may make an immediate pull check) (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training (may make a single attack after successfully pulling a victim) (6 CP).

Given that the bloody spear attack, Scorpion’s famous “Get over here!” move, needs to have so many different effects – the initial damage from the spear, then pulling the enemy in, and then leaving them unable to defend themselves while Scorpion gets a free hit – it was pleasantly surprising that this could be done with only 12 CP. 

A “pull check” works just like a drag combat maneuver, save that you do not move, and cause the opponent to move towards you on a success. The opponent can not move closer than being adjacent to you.

Hellfire Attacks (16 CP)

  • Augment Attack, corrupted for increased effect/as a full-round action, appear adjacent to a foe on their opposite side, making a single unarmed strike with +1d6 fire damage (6 CP).
  • Augment Attack, corrupted for two-thirds cost/as a full-round action, perform an unarmed strike with +1d6 fire damage (4 CP).
  • Trick, when performing a coup-de-grace, treat it as an unarmed attack that deals fire damage (6 CP).

These are meant to represent most of Scorpion’s remaining special moves. The first is his “hellfire punch,” where he teleports to attack a character’s back with a flaming punch; I’d recommend keeping this limited to foe that’s already very close. The second is his “backflip kick.” The third is meant to be his classic fatalty, where he reveals his flaming skull and sets the opponent on fire.

To Hell and Back (30 CP)

  • Path of the Dragon, specialized and corrupted for increased effect/Shaping (6 CP), Pulse of the Dragon (6 CP), Heart of the Dragon II (18 CP). The specialization and corruption are that these abilities are reduced to two level 3 spell effects:
  • Allowing Scorpion and one other person (unwilling, with a save) to plane shift to the Netherrealm from Earthrealm, or vice versa.
  • Raising a single column of fire beneath an opponent, 5d6 fire, Reflex save for no damage.

This is how Scorpion is able to enter and leave the Netherrealm to enter Earthrealm seemingly at will, something most Netherrealm ghosts don’t seem to be able to do. Note that we’re saying that he’s using a level 3 variant of planeshift that can only go from Earthrealm to Netherrealm and vice versa, only bring one passenger (if unwilling, they get a Will save to not be taken), though it has no focus and no off-target chance.

Technically, we should say that Scorpion’s Path of the Dragon grants another ability also: to always create a rope dart when he needs one, though they disappear a few rounds later. That’s minor enough that it costs no additional CPs.

The last bullet point is Scorpion’s “hellfire” special attack.

Mortal Kombatant (42 CP)

  • Adept (Martial Arts/Hapkido, Martial Arts/Mugai Ryu, Martial Arts/Moi Fah, and Intimidate) (6 CP).
  • Adept (Knowledge (history), Knowledge (planes), Perception, Stealth) (6 CP)
  • Convert human fast learner to specialized in skills for double effect (3 CP).
  • Martial Arts for 1d8 damage (9 CP).
  • Fast Learner (6 CP).
  • Extraordinary Returning (12 CP), Scorpion cannot permanently die unless his torment is eased by having his clan and family resurrected.

The extraordinary returning should probably have been part of another package deal that all Mortal Kombat characters get, since by the time Armageddon arrives, all of the characters who have ever participated previously are there for the final battle, no matter what fate they suffered previously.

Leader of the Undead Shirai Ryu (27 CP)

  • Leadership (6 CP) of the undead (+3 CP), with the Strength in Numbers (+3 CP), Horde (+3 CP), Born leader (+6 CP), and Emperor’s Star (+6 CP) modifiers.

This is something that’s been mentioned several times so far in this article, but might not be familiar to readers who haven’t played through Mortal Kombat: Armageddon’s story mode.

In Mortal Kombat: Deception, the Elder Gods tasked Scorpion (who had appeared before them at the end of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance) to destroy Onaga, the Dragon King. Scorpion agreed, but his price was that the Elder Gods resurrect his clan, the Shirai Ryu.

Scorpion failed to destroy Onaga, not because he could not defeat the Dragon King, but simply because Shujinko found Onaga first and successfully killed him. In MK: Armageddon, we find out that since Scorpion had tried to faithfully carry out his task, and since Onaga had been destroyed anyway, the Elder Gods granted Scorpion’s request…but because he still had not completed his mission, they twisted it. His clan had been resurrected as ghosts, like him.

Needless to say, Scorpion is enraged by this, and vows vengeance on the Elder Gods. Thus he fights on the side of evil in the final battle.

Test Your (Mental) Might

We mentioned above that despite Scorpion’s buying no skill points, he still has plenty of them. That’s due to several things. First, he’s upgraded his human Fast Learner trait so that it grants 2 skill points per level (24 total). Second, he also receives 2 skill points per level from his Intelligence (24 total). Finally, he’s gaining 1 additional skill point per level thanks to his “favored class bonus” from the Pathfinder Package Deal (12 total).

Given that, Scorpion has a total of 60 skill points. Not bad for someone who didn’t buy any directly. Moreover, he’s getting two ranks for each point he spends in the skills he purchased Adept for. Since each character receives twelve skills as class skills, plus Craft and Profession, we’ll select the following for Scorpion’s class skills: Acrobatics, Climb, Craft, Escape Artist, Intimidate, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (planes), Martial Arts, Perception, Profession, Sense Motive, Stealth, Survival, and Swim.

Let’s put these together to see Scorpion’s skill bonuses:

Skills

Ranks

Ability Bonus

Class Bonus

Total

Acrobatics

3

+3 Dex

+3

+9

Bluff

3

+2 Cha

+3

+8

Climb

3

+4 Str

+3

+10

Intimidate

12 (6 points)

+2 Cha

+3

+17

Knowledge (history)

12 (6 points)

+2 Int

+3

+17

Knowledge (planes)

12 (6 points)

+2 Int

+3

+17

Martial Arts (hapkido)

12 (6 points)

+2 Cha

+3

+17

Martial Arts (moi fah)

12 (6 points)

+3 Dex

+3

+18

Martial Arts (mugai ryu)

12 (6 points)

+4 Str

+3

+19

Perception

12 (6 points)

+1 Wis

+3

+16

Stealth

12 (6 points)

+ 3 Dex

+3

+18

Swim

3

+4 Str

+3

+10

Notice that Scorpion has taken ranks in three different martial arts. These are the ones used in Mortal Kombat: Deception and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (though programming limitations meant that his Moi Fah style was left out of the latter game). Given that martial arts can offer substantial combat bonuses, let’s flesh these out more.

Moi Fah (Dex)

This variant of kung fu focuses on making large, sweeping movements to keep enemies at bay. Moi Fah has little in the way of offensive techniques, being focused primarily on defense. It is usually learned as a back-up style for instances of facing an unexpectedly strong enemy. This presents the “base” version of Moi Fah, developed as a mundane style with no occult techniques, and correspondingly minimal requirements; many users pioneer their own variant with greater supernatural combat abilities.

  • Requires: Improved Unarmed Strike or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Defenses 4, Synergy (Acrobatics), Synergy (Bluff), Toughness 2.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Combat Expertise, Dodge, Improved Feint, Mobility.
  • Known: Defenses 4, Synergy (Bluff), Toughness 1, Dodge, Mobility, Improved Feint.

Hapkido (Con)

A relatively recent offshoot of jujitsu, hapkido teaches a well-rounded mixture of attack and defense, along with techniques for grappling. While less popular than many older forms of martial arts, its broad base of techniques makes it an excellent starting martial art for those who have little experience in unarmed combat, though variants exist for use with sword, staves, and nunchaku as well. This is the “base” version of hapkido, having no occult techniques and correspondingly low requirements to learn; no supernatural variant of the style has yet been invented.

  • Requires: Improved Unarmed Strike or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defenses 3, Power 1, Strike.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Improved Grapple, Instant Stand, Mind Like Moon, Prone Combat.
  • Known: Attack 2, Defenses 2, Power 1, Strike, Instant Stand, Mind Like Moon, Prone Combat.

We’re going to say that Scorpion’s use of Advanced Finesse, from the Netherrealm Ghost template, applies here too.

Mugai Ryu (Str)

An older form of sword-based martial arts, mugai ryu is an aggressive style. It has largely been displaced by contemporary sword forms, primarily kendo, though numerous variants of mugai ryu still exist, many of which claim direct inheritance of the “ownership” of this martial art. Most of these have improved upon the style by adding occult techniques to its roster. The version listed below is the “base” form of mugai ryu, having no occult techniques, and likewise only minimal entry requirements.

  • Requires: Proficiency with swords or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power 3, Synergy (Intimidate).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Improved Sunder, Mighty Blow, Quick Draw, Whirlwind Attack.
  • Known: Attack 4, Power 2, Synergy (Intimidate), Quick Draw, Mighty Blow, Whirlwind Attack.

FINISH HIM!

One of the reasons I chose Scorpion to be the subject of this post is that he’s one of the better examples for showcasing Eclipse’s flexibility in character design compared to “standard” Pathfinder/3.5 characters.

Try and imagine making Scorpion using only the Pathfinder rules. Even if you expanded the content you used to the various supplements, and even third-party supplements, it would be an uphill battle to make a character that not only approximated Scorpion’s special powers, but didn’t come with a great deal of extraneous powers that he didn’t have in the source material.

It’s in areas like this – for characters that have highly individualized special powers that aren’t traditional spellcasting – that Pathfinder is weakest, and Eclipse is, by comparison, strongest. Whether it’s for superheroes, anime characters, video game fighters, or something else, characters that aren’t easily fit into the mold of “class levels” are where point-buy is most obviously the way to go.

Until next time readers, may your fights end in friendship, rather than fatality.

Superdupernatural

March 8, 2013

I recently got Netflix, and I have to say that overall I’m quite pleased with the service. While it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the movies that are available, it’s an excellent resource for watching TV shows. I’m currently using it to catch up on my favorite show: Supernatural.

The best hunter since the dog in Duck Hunt.

Best hunter since the dog in Duck Hunt.

Supernatural is a television series of the “urban fantasy” genre. Set in contemporary America, it follows two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who are “Hunters.” That is, they are among the few people who know that monsters are real, and so dedicate their lives to hunting and killing the creatures that prey on humanity. There is a larger plot, of course, but that’s the essence of what the show is about.

I discovered the show during the summer of 2009, when the fourth season had just ended. I managed to catch several of the just-concluded season’s episodes during the summer re-runs, and from the fifth season onward I haven’t missed an episode (though that sometimes entails going back and finding ones whose initial airing I had missed). While wikis and synopses helped to fill in the gaps, there were still a lot of blanks from my having missed the earlier seasons.

Now I’m almost totally caught up, and I’m enjoying the show even more thanks to having a deeper understanding of the show’s progression. Armed with that knowledge, I decided that it was once again time to mix chocolate with my peanut butter, and stat out a character from the show using the brilliant d20 supplement Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

As such, allow me to present Sam Winchester, as he appears during the fourth season, for your Pathfinder game.

SuperNatural 20

The world of Supernatural is a quintessentially low-fantasy world, even taking into account it’s set on an Earth where most people have no idea that monsters and magic are real. While later seasons do turn up the proverbial dials a little bit, the show is one where the battles between monsters and those who fight them are confined to the shadows; this is a world of guns and ghosts, not fireballs and tarrasques.

In other words, this is a setting where the E6 rules are the order of the day; there’s more about what E6 is at that link, but the main idea is that characters can’t gain more than six levels. Given that, and that we don’t want to necessarily assume that Sam (the main character, alongside Dean) has already hit the limit of how far a person can advance this early in the show, I’ve decided to set him at 3rd level. Given that the show is currently in its eighth season, and has been renewed for a ninth, if we presume that the characters go from 1st to 6th level throughout the life of the show, then this seems reasonably accurate.

We’re also going to use a very conservative point-buy for Sam’s ability scores: 10 points only. Since this is the value listed for “low fantasy,” it seems to go with the theme of keeping the character – and, by extension, the game representation of the show – fairly well grounded (and it certainly helps to explain why Sam and his brother lose so many fights).

Available Character Points: 96 (level three base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 6 (duties) + 12 (levels one and three feats) + 6 (human bonus feat) = 130 CP.

Sam’s disadvantages are Accursed (he’s the chosen vessel for Lucifer), History (his family’s history of fighting evil, as well as the tampering Azazel did to give Sam his psychic powers), and Secret (his “job” as a Hunter, as well as his demon-given psychic powers; revealing his secret causes him to suffer the Hunted and Poor Reputation disadvantages).

Sam’s duties represent his life as a Hunter, which he doesn’t want to live but can’t ignore due to familial obligations and the consequences of what happens if he tries (e.g. a lot of people die).

Ability Scores (10-point buy): Str 10, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 15. These include Sam’s +2 racial bonus.

Human Traits

  • Bonus feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills (3 CP).
  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Package Deal bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).

I’ve referenced the Pathfinder Package Deal virtually every time I’ve posted a character. While I usually link back to where it was originally posted, or simply refer to a previous post with such a link, I’m going to repost it in full here, for ease of reference. To make sure that credit is given where it’s due though, I’ll reiterate that the material below was originally written over at the Emergence Campaign Weblog.

The Pathfinder Package Deal is actually a small template, which provides… .

  • +2 to an Attribute, Corrupted/the attribute is fixed by race (8 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted/only works as long as the user sticks to a particular archetype and relatively narrow plan of development chosen at level one at each level, points may only be spent on skills and additional hit points (2 CP).
  • Immunity/not being allowed to buy up their (normally maximized) level one hit die later on. Uncommon/Minor/Major (3 CP). There are several ways to get more hit points which are more effective – but Pathfinder effectively equates skill points and hit points as far as “favored classes” go, and this is the easiest way to go about that.
  • Pathfinder normally grants immunity to the experience-point cost of making magic items on the grounds that “experience isn’t something you use up”. Unfortunately this means that a long-term, campaign – where years may pass between major adventures – destroys the magic-item economy. It also misses the fact that “experience points” – some sort of magical energy that accumulates in you until it transforms you – have nothing at all to do with experiences or memories. Ergo, I’m going to substitute Action Hero (the Crafting option), Specialized and Corrupted/the user still has to spend the time, and money, and may ONLY create items by spending action points (2 CP). That will let characters use their item-creation feats without spending XP, but will limit item creation during any long stretches of downtime.
  • Pathfinder provides a +3 bonus to “Trained In-Class Skills”. This isn’t properly part of Eclipse, it’s simply an option attached to the skills system – “Characters get a +3 bonus on skills that fit their character concept”. The awkwardness in Eclipse comes in deciding which skills qualify as “In-Class” given that Eclipse doesn’t really HAVE classes. The simplest option is simply to let the character consider Craft, Profession, and their selection of a dozen other skills “in-class”. No cost.

The Pathfinder Package Deal thus has a basic cost of 15 CP – three more than you can normally get out of a package deal. Fortunately, all Pathfinder characters suffer from a major disadvantage; Accursed (must use the Pathfinder versions of spells even where those have been downgraded, may not take “overpowered” feats, -3 CP).

That gives us a net cost of 12 CP for the Pathfinder Package Deal – and it gives Eclipse-style builds an option; they can accept the Pathfinder Package Deal, or they can use another one, or none at all.

Basic Purchases (69 CP)

  • 3d10 Hit Dice (18 CP).
  • Simple Weapons Proficiency (3 CP) and Small Arms Proficiency (6 CP).
  • +3 Base Attack Bonus (18 CP).
  • Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +1 (15 CP).
  • 9 skill points (9 CP).

Between the 9 skill points he’s purchased directly, plus 3 for being human, plus 3 for his 13 Intelligence, plus 3 from his “favored class bonus” (see the second bullet point in the Pathfinder Package Deal), Sam has a total of 18 skill points.

Sam’s twelve class skills (see the last bullet point in the Pathfinder Package Deal) are Bluff, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Escape Artist, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (local), Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (religion), Perception, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth.

Sam’s skills are mostly drawn from the standard Pathfinder skills list; a few, however, are from d20 Modern.

Skills

Ranks

Ability Bonus

Class Bonus

Other

Total

Acrobatics

1

+1 Dex

+2

Bluff

1

+2 Cha

+3

+6

Climb

1

+0 Str

+1

Computer Use

1

+1 Int

+2

Diplomacy

1

+2 Cha

+3

+6

Disable Device

1

+1 Dex

+3

+5

Drive

1

+1 Dex

+2

Escape Artist

1

+1 Dex

+3

+5

Gamble

1

+0 Wis

+1

Heal

1

+0 Wis

+1

Intimidate

1

+2 Cha

+3

Knowledge (arcana)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+5

Knowledge (history)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+5

Knowledge (local)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+5

Knowledge (nature)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+5

Knowledge (religion)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+3 Skill Focus

+8

Perception

1

+0 Wis

+3 class

+4

Sense Motive

1

+0 Wis

+1

Sleight of Hand

1

+1 Dex

+3 class

+5

Stealth

1

+1 Dex

+3 class

+5

Survival

1

+0 Wis

+1

Swim

1

+0 Str

+1

A close look at the above table will show that Sam has gained 22 skill ranks from his 18 skill points. How? It’s due to his having taken Adept twice (see below). He’s spent a half-point in each of his Adept skills, which gains him a full rank in them. This is technically cheating, as skill points are treated as indivisible units, but it’s minor enough that we’ll overlook it.

Much to my chagrin, working on the above made me realize that I had forgotten to take the “favored class bonus” into account for all of the previous Eclipse Pathfinder characters I’d posted here. Given that, it’s best to presume that for each of them, any favored class bonuses are applied to their hit points.

Man of Learning (24 CP)

  • Adept/Bluff, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Escape Artist (6 CP).
  • Adept/Knowledge (history), Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth (6 CP).
  • Skill Focus/Knowledge (religion) +3 with the Stunt option (12 CP). 

This last ability is how Sam – as with many other characters – can chant incantations that can summon someone’s ghost, draw a sigil that traps demons who move through it, exorcise demons possessing someone with some words of Latin, etc. Presumably these would have DCs somewhere in the upper teens to low twenties. Likewise, Supernatural most likely doesn’t have Knowledge (planes), replacing it instead with Knowledge (religion) where required.

Hunter’s Training (12 CP)

  • Block/melee (6 CP).
  • Improvise Weapon (3 CP).
  • Martial Arts (3 CP).

As alluded to previously, given that Sam needs to make a DC 20 Reflex save for his block to be successful, this seems very apropos for how things often turn out on the show.

Dark Blessing of Azazel (22 CP)

  • Witchcraft II (dreamfaring, hand of shadows, infliction)/specialized (requires rite of chi to restore lost power), and corrupted, dreamfaring may only be used uncontrolled, showing only futures related to Azazel and those tainted by him; hand of shadows may only exert force equal to what Sam could physically handle; infliction may only be used to inflict damage to demons (not harming their human hosts) (4 CP).
  • 3 levels of wilder, no caster level/corrupted, provides power points only (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 bonus uses/specialized, requires drinking the blood of a demon (6 CP).
  • Immunity to demonic powers (uncommon/minor/major) (6 CP).

As mentioned above, these stats represent Sam during the fourth season; the powers above drive this home. At this point, Sam’s previously-displayed visions have gone dormant, though he could reactivate them if he wanted to. By this point, he’s completely focused on his ability to attack demons with his powers, without harming the person they’re possessing.

The last bullet point bears some further explanation. This is an aggregate of two things: Sam’s immunity to the psychic powers of the other children tainted by Azazel, and his immunity to demonic possession via the protective sigil tattooed into his skin. While the latter can be defeated by anything that would mar the tattoo (e.g. scarification), that doesn’t happen to Sam at any point in the show once he acquires it, and so we can overlook that here.

Finally, since we still have 3 CP left over, let’s add…

  • Contacts (3 CP).

These are Sam’s connections with other Hunters. Given how often these others die over the course of the show, these points are reallocated among new contacts fairly often.

Until next time readers, may you know the proper chant to exorcise all of your demons!

Re-clipse

February 24, 2013

Several months ago, I wrote about how I had wanted to use Eclipse: The Codex Persona to make a character in my current Pathfinder group, but was shot down by the other players. While I wasn’t ready to give up on that particular goal, I recognized that it was going to have to be put on the back-burner for a while.

Well, two weeks ago my group surprised me – they were withdrawing their objections to my using Eclipse! Needless to say, I was delightfully surprised, but also slightly confused; what had made them change their mind? As it turned out, it had been me, but not because of anything I’d done deliberately. Rather, it had been a result of my enthusiastically role-playing a dramatically weak character that I’d rolled up after my original push to use Eclipse had been vetoed.

Yeah, it was kind of like that.

This was my reaction. It was also how I was dressed at the time.

After my group had initially decided that they didn’t want me to use Eclipse, I decided to go in the opposite direction, in terms of character creation. Eclipse, being a point-buy character builder, requires that you have an existing back-story that you want to model your character around; that is, you use the flexibility of a point-buy system to flesh out an idea that you already have (as opposed to building the character organically, which is certainly doable but is much more likely to result in a character that is, conceptually, all over the place).

Opposed to this is the idea of developing a character’s mechanics first, and then creating the narrative identity around that, followed by fleshing them out through play. In other words, let the dice and the course of events determine just who the character is. This is the style of play which – as others have claimed – is how D&D was originally built around. It was also the style that I decided to play towards.

I wasn’t going to do it half-assed, either. I didn’t have any fall-back ideas for what sort of character I wanted, so I felt that using a point-buy system purely to generate ability scores (my group’s preferred method of ability score generation) was fairly meaningless here. Moreover, being one of the guys in the group with the longest history with the game, I had previously (and jokingly) mocked the use of point-buying ability scores as “not how we did it back in the old-school.” Given that, I felt fatalistic enough to let the dice choose my character for me…and I was going to let them be harsh about it, too.

I was going to roll my stats randomly, using the 3d6-in-order method of generation. No roll-4d6-and-drop-the-lowest, no re-allocating the results around to different ability scores. Just roll them randomly for each stat, and play what I got.

Needless to say, the results were exactly what you’d expect: Str 5, Dex 9, Con 6, Int 11, Wis 15, Cha 11.

Given that, as part of my “doing it old school” attitude towards this character I’d written off using any supplements or expansions beyond the Core Rulebook, it seemed that being a cleric was my only real option.

Needless to say, this was uncharted territory for me. I’d never played a divine spellcaster before; the issues with having a connection to an established religion were a burden (e.g. knowing how the religion worked, having ties to its terrestrial hierarchy and structure – especially since we were playing in the GM’s home-brew world) that I hadn’t wanted. But I was resolute, and since the GM was willing to give me some leeway in playing up my character’s religion, I went forward with the idea. As such, my cleric – Varek Tam – joined the group.

In the course of our initial adventure, Varek was (alongside another cleric in the party) our group’s healer and buffer, working to make sure that the rest of the characters (particularly the headstrong barbarian, who went below 0 hit points five times in the course of our first adventure) were able to stay up and combat-ready. This was, to me, the perfect example of having game-play and random ability scores define your character: I saw Varek as someone who was weak individually, and because of that knew the value of strength through community. His clerical domains were, not surprisingly, Community and Protection.

Things went fairly smoothly from there on out. I put all of Varek’s ability score bonuses, both racial and from hitting every four levels, into Wisdom – that seemed obvious, since it would pump up the one thing he did well, casting spells – instead of trying to ameliorate his otherwise-anemic ability scores. While I initially tried to put him right in the thick of things alongside the other characters, adopting a “come what may” attitude, it wasn’t long before I found myself keeping him away from danger so that he could continue enhancing and healing the other party members.

Unfortunately, Varek’s Hit Dice rolls each level were, on average, poor. Taking the Toughness feat, and sinking all of his favored class bonuses into additional hit points effectively cancelled out his low Constitution, but nothing could cancel out poor rolls for more hit points.

It was here that the group in general, and the GM in particular, were concerned. While I had known that they were impressed that I was going forward with such a sub-standard character, I hadn’t realized quite the degree of props they had given me. This was doubly true for the fact that I was role-playing the character’s personality to the hilt as someone who was concerned with the spirit of community and togetherness, focusing on the good of the group without being taken in by draconian measures of “individuals must suffer for everyone’s benefit” that can come with focusing too much on the collective.

The problem was that the GM had plans for all of our characters, in terms of the campaign’s storyline. The plans for my character, however, were rapidly being put in jeopardy due to the widening gap in effectiveness that was becoming more and more apparent with each level we gained. Having a few less hit points at 2nd level was one thing. Having less than half the hit points of most of the group at 6th level was something else again. The rest of the group was concerned too, since it was taking two dedicated clerics to keep everybody going (our total group size is seven PCs).

That was where Eclipse was brought back into the conversation (though again, I didn’t know that quite yet). The group’s main worry was (as I understood it) that I’d use the system to min-max the crap out of an Eclipse character and…well…eclipse the rest of the party. My willingness to play a weak character, and focus on his role-playing potential rather than his mechanics, had apparently driven home the point that I wasn’t going to do that. It’d also allow me the flexibility to fix Varek’s horrifically low hit points. The verdict was settled: I’d be given a chance to use Eclipse.

Of course, I wouldn’t just be allowed to re-spec my character. Up until this point, I had shied away from my character’s back-story – I had fleshed out who he was now, but not how he’d gotten that way. The GM decided to use this weakness as a strength, and said that my character was recovering memories that he hadn’t even realized he’d lost…and that these were the in-game use of Eclipse statistics. Given that, the GM’s plan was that each day, for a number of rounds equal to his character level, I could “swap out” using Varek’s normal Pathfinder statistics for Eclipse statistics (something the group referred to humorously as “memory mode”). The GM likewise said that, since this would be a limited ability, I shouldn’t feel bad about tricking out what Varek could do. The one caveat was that the character be re-designed around the same thematic elements as he had had so far; that is, no turning him into a martial heavy-hitter, etc.

Needless to say, I was elated! I decided to take the GM’s words to heart, and set about making an Eclipse version of Varek (who was, and still is, 6th level). Since the GM had given me permission to take the gloves off, I decided that all of Varek’s abilities were specialized (for one-half cost), due to only being able to use Eclipse for a few rounds per day. This essentially doubled how many character points I could spend on Varek, and it was easy to make an exceptionally-powerful incarnation of him.

Said incarnation lasted for one week.

The GM had changed his mind on the matter of swapping-out Pathfinder stats for Eclipse stats; while it would make Varek incredibly powerful for a few rounds, he was still a weakling the rest of the time, and far too easy to kill when he’d run out of time in “memory mode.” As such, the GM changed his original ruling, and now I was going to be allowed to use the Eclipse stats to run Varek full-time. This, of course, meant I couldn’t specialize everything across-the-board, but it meant that I could design the character with a more long-term progression in mind.

Of course, the irony was that I was told to re-spec the character to Eclipse while still playing closely towards how his Pathfinder stats were constructed. Ironically, this meant that the end result of redoing the character’s stats was, if I interpreted the GM literally, virtually indistinguishable from how Varek looked under the Pathfinder rules. After all, you can easily re-create the Pathfinder cleric in Eclipse, to the point where it’s effectively identical.

Naturally, I didn’t hew quite that closely. After all, it was far more important to address Varek’s low hit points, and related deficiencies (e.g. his low saves, etc.), resulting in some things being traded away to find ways to bump those up. The end result is below.

Available Character Points: 168 (level 6 base) + 18 (levels 1, 3, and 5 feats) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 10 (disadvantages; history, inept (Dex), stigmata) = 202 CP.

Varek receives feats at each odd-numbered level, a la the Pathfinder progression. His disadvantages play into the themes of the characters and the campaign: his ineptness builds on his physical weakness, his history is part of the campaign’s storyline with a lost age of disaster slowly returning, and his stigmata is that he had an old wound caused by negative energy over his heart – energy-aligned metals are part of the GM’s campaign world, and this plays into Varek’s ties with positive energy.

Ability Scores: Str 5, Dex 9, Con 6, Int 11, Wis 18, Cha 11. Includes Improved Self-Development (for Wisdom) and racial bonus (for Wisdom).

Human Traits

  • Bonus feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills (3 CP).
  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Package Deal bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).

As always, this last bullet point is based off of the Pathfinder Package Deal that all Pathfinder-style characters get with Eclipse.

Basic Purchases (99 CP)

  • 6d8 Hit Dice (25 hit points) (24 CP)
  • Light and Medium Armor Proficiency (9 CP)
  • Shield Proficiency (3 CP)
  • All Simple Weapons Proficiency (3 CP)
  • +3 BAB (18 CP, corrupted for two-thirds cost/does not count for iterative attacks – 12 CP)
  • +5 Fort, +2 Ref, +5 Will (36 CP)
  • 12 skill points (12 CP)

Varek’s base attack bonus was reduced to help save on Character Points. Since his low Strength means that he’ll almost never enter combat, I reduced it to one-half his Hit Dice, rather than three-fourths. Likewise, it was corrupted to remove iterative attacks, since those are of no use to him.

Special Abilities (103 CP)

  • 6 levels clerical spellcasting (no package) plus caster level (48 CP)
  • Spell Conversion (healing spells) (6 CP)
  • Shaping, specialized/increased effect (only works for prepared set of 0-level cleric spells), corrupted/two-thirds cost (must use verbal and somatic components) (4 CP)
  • Finesse with the Advanced modifier; apply Wisdom bonus to hit points instead of Constitution bonus (12 CP)
  • Channeling 3 times per day (6 CP) plus 4 bonus uses (6 CP)
    • Conversion, a set of four level three effects (9 CP), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only actually provides two effects (6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus, add Wisdom modifier to channeling intensity and magnitude (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, all abilities constant (e.g. unlimited use), personal only (x0.7 gp cost). Spell level 1 x caster level 1 x 2,000 gp. 5,600 gp value (7 CP).
    • Immortal Vigor (2d6 bonus Hit Dice, plus Wis bonus (+8) – retroactive to first level, and so are maximized (e.g. 20 extra hit points), 1,400 gp)
    • Warding Rune (1 + caster level/3 (max. +4) resistance bonus on saves, 1,400 gp)
    • Force Armor I (+4 armor (force), 1,400 gp)
    • Force Shield I (+4 shield (force), 1,400 gp)
  • Immunity, Stacking limits when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (Common, Minor, Trivial – only covers L1 effects, 2 CP).

The biggest changes in Varek’s stats here are his removing the “clerical package” option when buying his magic levels. While he did buy spell conversion so that he can spontaneously cast healing spells, the rest of the clerical domains were of little use for what they offered. This helped pay for Advanced Finesse, which lets him use his Wisdom to receive bonus hit points (this is explained as his having more positive energy in his body than normal biological processes could normally sustain – he’s simply “more alive” than his biology would normally support, something sustained by his faith).

Similarly, the innate enchantments help to round out the rest of his basic stats, providing bonuses to his hit points, his Armor Class, and his saving throws. Since he wears +1 hide armor (green dragonhide) and carries a heavy steel shield, the immunity to stacking limits for his innate enchantments is also a small-but-necessary purchase. He can also channel more often than he could before, and with greater efficacy thanks to Augmented Bonus (though I’m only mostly sure, rather than totally sure, that it doesn’t need to be Improved to apply his Wisdom modifier to both his turning intensity and magnitude).

Overall, these change Varek’s stats quite a bit.

Table: Hit Points

Source

Totals

6d8 Hit Dice

25 hit points

2d6 Immortal Vigor Hit Dice

12 hit points (1st level – maximized)

Wisdom bonus (+4)

32 hit points (includes Immortal Vigor HD)

Total

69 hit points

Table: Saving Throws

 

Fortitude

Reflex

Will

Base values

+5 base

+2 base

+5 base

Ability modifiers

-2 Constitution

-1 Dexterity

+4 Will

Warding Rune

+3 Warding Rune

+3 Warding Rune

+3 Warding Rune

Total

+6

+4

+12

Table: Skills

Skill

Ranks

Ability Mod.

Class

Total

Diplomacy

2

+0 Cha

+3

+5

Heal

1

+4 Wis

+3

+8

Knowledge (religion)

6

+0 Int

+3

+9

Perception

3

+4 Wis

+7

Sense Motive

3

+4 Wis

+3

+10

Spellcraft

3

+0 Int

+3

+6

The issue of what skills constitute “class skills” for Eclipse characters, which are class-less, hasn’t come up yet. I suspect, however, that the GM will limit me to the list of class skills for the standard Pathfinder cleric. The above skills that are receiving the “+3 class skill bonus” are reflective of that.

Table: Armor Class

 Source

 Bonus

Base

10

Dexterity

-1

+1 green dragonhide hide armor

+5

Heavy steel shield

+2

Force Shield (stacks)

+4

Force Armor (stacks)

+4

Total 24

Having said all of that, I’m still trying to figure out a longer-term plan for Varek, in terms of buying further abilities for him. He wasn’t originally meant to be an Eclipse character, and while I do have some themes in mind for him (the good of the group – healing, buffing, and maybe some defending), I’m unsure of how to properly reflect these with further powers.

Presumably he’ll want to take an immunity to having his innate enchantments dispelled or negated, and he’ll probably expand on them with some low-level boosters (e.g. some +2 stat bonuses), but I’m wondering if I should eschew his clerical spellcasting (and maybe take Superstition to reflect that he’s not devoted to a particular higher power) in favor of expanding his channeling powers.

I’d appreciate any ideas for where to take the character from here, but however he develops, it’s going to be a lot of fun using Eclipse to take him there!

Triple Solutions for Quadratic Wizards

January 1, 2013

One of the charges typically leveled against the wizard class is that it’s “quadratic” whereas the fighter (the typical baseline for classes that aren’t (full) spellcasters) is “linear.” What this usually means is that the fighter’s power (e.g. his combat potential) increases in a fairly small but steady increments over time, whereas the wizard’s power grows exponentially as they gain new spells.

Personally, I don’t think very much of those arguments. Like most armchair theory-crafting, this tends to focus on mechanical issues that look bad on paper – particularly when backed up by hypothetical game situations constructed specifically to aggrandize the “problem” under discussion – but aren’t really that bad in the course of actual play. Given that most players can’t even agree on what “balance” is, let alone how to achieve it, I think that the whole issue is overblown.

Wizard

Don’t even bother rolling for initiative, bitch.

That said, it is a truism that wizards are more powerful than they were in previous editions. Now, this is true for all classes (and monsters, for that matter), but in the case of wizards and other spellcasters, I’ve noticed that while there are plenty of new powers and abilities added, there’s another factor here – the loss of the weaknesses that were once part-and-parcel of spellcasting.

That may sound odd, but back in earlier editions of the game, there were some pretty exacting limitations involved with casting a spell. All have been subsequently removed or toned down, allowing spellcasters to (as the alarmists have described it) dominate the game at high levels. Given that, the answer to this problem seems simple – we don’t need to power-up the melee classes even further, but rather need to reintroduce the previous limitations on spellcasters in general and wizards in particular.

Listed below are three variant rules that help to check the limits on what wizards and other spellcasters can do. Each of these rules works independently of the others, but taken together they sharply dial back on the power that spellcasters will have in your game.

Segmented Casting Times

Notwithstanding a handful of spells that take a full round to cast, casting a spell is always completed during your action on the initiative order. It doesn’t matter how powerful or intricate the spell, it’s something you can do in an instant, and unless someone readied an action or got an attack of opportunity on you (tsk, you didn’t cast defensively?), then there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

That’s not how it used to be though. Before, casting times had a numerical modifier that altered your initiative, so if you rolled an initiative of 14, for example, and cast a spell with a casting time of “3,” then while you’d start casting it on a 14 in the initiative count, it wouldn’t take effect until the initiative got to 11…which could result in disaster if that enemy orc got to go on a 12.

So how do we reintroduce this limitation in Pathfinder? Easily: When casting a spell, its casting time takes a number of round segments equal to the level of the spell. This is true for all spellcasters.

Now, there are number of caveats that need to be addressed for this. First, this only affects spells with a casting time of 1 standard action – spells that already take 1 full round or more keep their original casting time; no more is added. Likewise, spells with a much quicker casting time (e.g. a move, swift, or immediate action) keep their original casting times as well; those spells are designed to be cast quickly.

The verbal component for Charm Person.

The verbal component for Charm Person.

Secondly, this doesn’t change the action used in the round when the spellcaster takes his action. A fifth-level spell that has a listed casting time of 1 standard action will, under these rules, take 5 segments to complete…but on the wizard’s turn, he still needs to spend a standard action to begin casting the spell; he just then keeps doing so for another five segments of the round. Also note that he’s still casting during this time, and so any disruptions he suffers during this time can also cause him to lose the spell.

Thirdly, spells affected by metamagic use their effective level to determine their casting time. So casting a maximized fireball will take 6 segments of a round.

Utilizing “round segments” introduces some unique problems into the game. What happens, for example, if a wizard rolls an initiative of 3 but is casting a spell that requires 5 segments to cast under the above rules? Does it go off at 0? Or do round segments go to into negative numbers? Or should it roll over to the beginning of the next round, and if so, when is the “beginning” of the next round? Is it at the highest rolled initiative, or are there segments above that? Problems like these are corner cases, certainly, but they will eventually come up.

The best way to handle this is to denote that each combat round has a specific, set number of segments in it. A good rule of thumb is 40 (twice the range of the d20), which should allow for a wide range of initiatives without spreading the action times too thin. So all actions in a round take place during a count from 40 down to 0, with the higher numbers going first.

In the event that multiple characters act on the same initiative, then whomever has the higher Dexterity score is considered to go first; if two or more characters have the same Dexterity score, then their actions are performed simultaneously.

Similarly, characters that get extreme initiative rolls act on segment 40 (if they got an initiative result of 40+) or 0 (if they got an initiative result of 0 or less). In case multiple characters get results at such extremes, they all still act on that count, but the characters with the higher results go first (e.g. as though they got a tied initiative result, and the characters with the higher scores had a higher Dexterity).

So for example, if Dirk the Rogue rolled a modified 41 for his initiative score, and Dudley the Paladin rolled a modified 47 (both are point-whoring munchkins), both characters go on segment 40 of the round (the earliest it’s possible to go) but Dudley goes first, since he rolled a higher score. Likewise, if Boris the Bumbler rolled a modified -2 for his initiative, and Natasha the Nincompoop rolled a modified -4 for her initiative, then both would go on segment 0, but Boris would act first, since he had the better roll. Only if two or more characters’ modified initiative rolls are the same would they need to check who had the higher Dexterity.

So what happens in the case of casting spells that require more segments than are left in the round – such as the aforementioned wizard whose initiative is a 3 and is casting a spell with 5 initiative segments’ casting time? In such an instance, the casting time “rolls over” to the next round, and its remaining casting time is subtracted from the subsequent initiative count. In this case, that wizard would cast his spell on the next round at 39 in the initiative count. Note that this would not change the wizard’s order in the initiative, nor use up any of his actions on that subsequent round – it just takes the spell he cast last round that long to be completed.

One issue that needs to be dealt with using this rules variant is how magic items and spell-like abilities are treated.

For magic items – regardless of whether they’re spell trigger, spell completion, or command word-activated – it’s recommended that any magic item that requires activation be subject to the above casting times. So utilizing a wand of fireballs would have a segment modifier of 3, regardless of whether you were a wizard using it or a rogue activating it via Use Magic Device.

The reason for this is that removing the “casting time” from magic items makes them eclipse spellcasters, particularly at higher levels. Scrolls, wands, and staves become the weapons of choice for high-level spellcasters, with actual spellcasting being a disadvantageous fall-back option. Subjecting magic items to this restriction keeps them on par with spellcasting abilities.

It’s possible that you may find that having “casting times” for magic items to break verisimilitude. After all, when’s the last time you heard of someone leveling a wand at their enemy, speaking an eldritch command word…and then waiting awkwardly for a little bit until it unleashed its magic at them? This problem, however, is easier to solve than it appears. Remember that this is taking place during a six-second round. Dividing a period of six seconds into forty segments means that each segment is slightly less than one-sixth of a second. In that case, if your wand of fireballs needs 3 segments to activate once you’ve spoken the command word, it’s taking just under half-a-second to activate…is that really so long?

By contrast, for spell-like abilities, it’s recommended that you take the opposite tact; spell-like abilities shouldn’t require a casting time measured in round segments, instead requiring only the usual standard action (unless otherwise noted) to activate.

Why allow that? Mostly for metagame reasons – spell-like abilities are the province of monsters far and away more than they are for characters. Most monsters have a set “screen time” before they’re hacked apart by the PCs and are gone forever. Given that, it’s best that the monsters – especially “boss monsters” that appear by themselves as challenges for the entire party – be able to maximize their potential by using their powers successfully, rather than having canny PCs set things up to disrupt them with held actions (true, PCs will try to use this on enemy spellcasters too, but those NPCs shouldn’t be solo foes, making it much more fair game).

Again, there’s also a narrative reason for having spell-like abilities take effect much quicker than spellcasting. Spell-like abilities represent a direct connection to magic, a natural ability to tap into mystical power. Spellcasting, by contrast, is an unnatural ability to tap that same power; utilizing a set of verbal, somatic, and material components to kludge together the same power – of course it’s not going to work quite as well, hence the longer casting time.

Finally, remember that both of the above are just recommendations. If you want magic items that don’t require longer times to activate, or spell-like abilities that do require round segments to active, make them work that way in your game.

Disrupted Casting

Being hit while you’re attempting to cast a spell is bad, but if you can make your concentration check, it’s not a fatal problem; you’ve still gotten your spell off.

Prepare to taste eldritch doom and please don't hit me!

Prepare to taste eldritch doom and please don’t hit me!

That’s far and away more generous than how it used to be. Back in the day, if you took damage while casting a spell, that was it – kiss your spell goodbye.

Reintroducing this limitation for Pathfinder is simple: All concentration checks are considered to automatically fail. In other words, if your PC ends up in a situation where you’d have to make a concentration check because something happened, you instantly lose the spell – there’s no check or roll, it’s just gone. This may sound harsh, and it is, but there’s one offshoot to this particular variant that makes it slightly easier to swallow: casting a spell does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

This may draw some complaints that it’s too easy to lock spellcasters down – that grappling them or entangling them, or even ensuring that they’re caught in harsh weather or are subject to “vigorous motion” is enough to make them useless, let alone being damaged in combat. The answer to this is that that’s intentional – spellcasters gain great power, eventually, but the trade-off for that power is that it’s difficult to utilize, and causes them to rely on their more martial allies to protect and aid them so that they can get their spells cast.

One particular complaint regarding this particular variant is that the easiest way to lock down a spellcaster is to have an enemy (most likely a ranged attacker) simply ready an action to attack whenever the spellcaster starts to cast a spell. This works by PCs attacking enemy spellcasters just as much as it does having NPCs target PC spellcasters.

This is not an insubstantial complaint. A dedicated ranged attacker can quickly make life difficult for a spellcaster. Ideally, a spellcaster will have things like a high AC (likely from a combination of spells and magic items), cover and/or concealment, and allies harassing the attacker to throw off such opposition.

Such things may still be lopsided in the attacker’s favor, however, in which case the following changed is recommended: soft cover stacks with itself. To put it another way, for every creature between you and a ranged attacker, you gain soft cover. So if there are three creatures between a wizard and an archer, the wizard will have triple soft cover (a +12 bonus to AC!) against the archer’s attacks. This encourages a much greater degree of tactical thinking – as well as meat-shield-style protect-the-mage tactics – in targeting enemy spellcasters. It also makes mooks good for a bit more than mere cannon-fodder.

Note that this rule holds true for spell-like abilities as well; utilizing such things may be a silent act of will, but still requires the same concentration as actual spellcasting, and so is equally vulnerable to disruption.

In regards to magic items, this variant rule applies only to spell trigger magic items (which is usually just scrolls). Using a spell trigger magic item is essentially spellcasting, with the energies contained in the scroll rather than within yourself, and so can be disrupted (and the scroll lost). Other kinds of magic items, by contrast, are simply having their imbued energies directed, rather than carefully constructed the way a spellcaster does.

Limited Learning

One of the wizard’s greatest powers is that the number of spells they can learn has no limit. True, only so many can be prepared at a time, but they can potentially learn every arcane spell out there – giving them access to potentially unlimited power, and allowing them the right tools to master virtually any situation. That has always been the real power of the wizard class.

Of course, by “always” we mean “since Third Edition.”

Believe it or not, back in earlier editions, there were caps on the number of spells that wizards could learn per spell level, based on their Intelligence. Maybe everyone conveniently “forgot” that rule, or perhaps it was simply discarded outright, but it’s notable for how potent a limit this is on a wizard’s power.

Originally, the exact limits on spells per level as determined by Intelligence was its own table, but for the reintroduction of this rule in Pathfinder, we can set a more general limit: spellcasters that must record the number of spells they learn – e.g. wizards and magi – can only learn a number of spells per spell level equal to their one-half their casting stat (rounded down). So in other words, a wizard with an Intelligence of 18 could learn nine 1st-level spells, nine 2nd-level spells, nine 3rd-level spells, etc.

A distinction needs to be made, in this case, between “spells learned” and “spells recorded in their spellbook.” While it may seem superfluous to do so, wizards and magi that want to prepare spells in their spellbook without learning them – either because they’ve already hit their limit, because they want to collect spells ahead of time and then figure out which ones to learn, or because their limit might go up later (e.g. gaining more points of Intelligence) – can do so using the standard rules for deciphering and copying magic writings (e.g. scrolls, borrowed spellbooks, etc.).

The spells that a wizard actually learns, however, should be recorded separately on the PC’s character sheet. There’s no need to institute a check for a PC to learn a spell, though if you decide to call for one a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + 1 per spell level) is a good baseline, with one check allowed per spell per day.

If using this rule in your game, you may also want to include an option that every so often (such as at 4th level and every even level thereafter) the wizard can permanently “forget” one spell that he’s learned, and replace it with another of the same level.

Note that, using this variant rule, you’ll need to decide what to do regarding wizards and magic items. With a limit on the spells they can prepare each day, most wizard and magus PCs will look to scrolls, wands, and staves to expand their repertoire. There are two ways to adjudicate this.

The first option is to allow these characters to still utilize all magic items as they would normally. A PC magus, for example, could use a scroll or a wand with an arcane spell on the magus spell list, even if it’s not one of the spells that particular PC has learned. The limiting factors here aren’t game mechanics, but rather are the GM taking care to control what magic items are available (as opposed to having anything the PCs want be available for the standard prices at “magic marts” in every town).

The other option is to play it much more strictly regarding magic items – specifically, spell completion and spell trigger magic items. In this case, the spells learned act as the PC’s entire class spell list, meaning that any spells not learned can’t be automatically utilized in corresponding magic items. In this instance, a magus PC that hasn’t learned a fireball spell won’t have any greater ability to utilize a wand of fireballs or a scroll of fireball any better than, say, the fighter would. Note that in this scenario, Use Magic Device becomes a much more sought-after skill.

Wizardly Woes

As mentioned above, each of these three variant rules can be used separately, or altogether. While individually they each introduce a sharp check on the power of spellcasting characters, altogether they can seem unreasonably harsh – particularly to wizards.

What’s key to remember is that these restrictions are meant to be the answer for spellcasters, particularly full-progression arcane spellcasters, from dominating the game at higher levels. If that’s not (anticipated to be) a problem in your game, then you won’t need many (or perhaps any) of these restrictions. On the other hand, if you think that wizards and other spellcasters are so powerful as to utterly overshadow fighters and their ilk at higher levels, then these can be very helpful indeed.

The zeitgeist of game design is that if one class or set of classes is better than another, you need to give the weaker class(es) new abilities to bump them up. With the variant rules introduced – or rather, reintroduced – here, you can instead bust the so-called “stronger” classes back down.


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