Theurgy of the Eternal Darkness

October 19, 2014

The 2002 GameCube game Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is one of those games that is unequivocally art. Its story is an epic tale of Lovecraftian horror, its “insanity effects” are an innovation that remains unparalleled to this day, and its magic system is remarkable to the degree to which it’s defined within the context of the narrative.

It’s this last point that we’re going to look at more deeply here, using the rules from Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

Magic of the Ancients

In Eternal Darkness, all magic derives from the power of the Ancients, three primordial beings that were long ago banished from the universe. Each of these three godlike aliens has mastery over a different aspect of reality – Chattur’gha havng dominion over physical matter, Xel’lotath representing the twisting of the mind, and Ulyaoth commanding the magic of the planes. Notwithstanding power drawn from another Ancient, there are no other forms of magic to be found within the universe of Eternal Darkness.

The magic of each Ancient can be called upon to affect things within their area of control. In doing so, one invokes their name, identifies what it wants to be done, and the thing it’s to be done to; in other words, the spellcaster uses a name-verb-noun combination. So casting a spell to protect yourself from physical damage would be “Chattur’gha Bankorok (“protect”) Santak (“self”).”

In essence, this is a customized variant of the theurgy magic found in Eclipse.

Given that this magic is often used throughout the game to oppose them, one has to wonder why the Ancients let their power be used so freely. Perhaps they’re unable to regulate its use, their power “bleeding” out of them due to wounds suffered when they were banished – indeed, this power might be metaphysical “bloodstains” that were left behind when they were cast out.

Alternatively, the Ancients might allow the use of their power because each casting brings them a little closer to returning to the corporeal universe. In that case, even those who use their magic for just ends bring Creation a little closer to the Eternal Darkness.

The list of names (or rather, “essences,” since they describe the aspect of the noun that’s being targeted), verbs, and nouns available in the universe of Eternal Darkness are as follows:

Essence

Chattur’gha (physical)

Xel’lotath (mental)

Ulyaoth (magical)

Verb

Bankorok (protect)

Tier (summon)

Narokath (absorb)

Nethlek (dispel)

Antorbok (project)

Noun

Magormor (item)

Redgormor (area)

Aretak (creature)

Santak (self)

In game terms, the use of an essence aspect to the usual noun-verb nature of theurgy means that you need to take skill ranks in each essence that you want to be able to use, as well as the theurgical nouns and verbs. Likewise, when making a skill check to use this type of theurgy, you add in your skill ranks in the essence used to those of the worst verb skill involved and worst noun skill involved.

Note that while you can still mix multiple nouns and verbs – going beyond the relatively simple level of theurgy found in the game – you can only ever use one essence skill at a time when casting a spell. The opposed nature of the Ancients means that you can never mix their powers.

Moreover, the nature of the Ancients is inimical to not only mortal life, but the entire structure of the cosmos. As a consequence of this, using their power is more difficult than that of the benign spellcasting in other universes – the DC for successfully casting a spell using this form of theurgy is 7 x (spell level +1).

The magic of the Ancients is unsubtle in its application. While it requires no verbal, somatic, or material components, a successful casting causes a glowing glyph of each word to appear in a circle around the caster’s feet (the color of each rune depending on the name used in the casting – red for Chattur’gha, green for Xel’lotath, and blue for Ulyaoth), and a voice speaks aloud each glyph as it appears.

When casting spells of 4th level or above, an instance of Pargon (see below) will appear and be spoken for each spell level above 3rd.

These visual and audial effects manifest only when the spell is cast, whether successfully or not, and vanish once the caster’s turn has ended. They can never be suppressed – doing so causes the spell to automatically fail.

Pargon

The above rules apply to spells of 3rd level or below cast using this form of Theurgy. Beyond that level, the universe actively resists allowing more of the Ancients’ power to enter. Doing so requires having the strength to force more power through.

In game terms, any theurgic spell that would be 4th level or higher requires having ranks in the Pargon (“power”) theurgic skill. Pargon is not an essence, verb, or noun – rather, it simply denotes the level of intensity that one can bring to bear when utilizing the power of the Ancients; spells above 3rd level require having ranks in Pargon equal to (spell level +1) x 2. No additional check is required, and ranks in Pargon are not added to the theurgy skill check made when casting a spell.

Even with ranks in Pargon, however, this form of theurgy cannot cast spells above 7th level. Spells of that much power require special measures in order to bring forth the requisite power – typically this involves great monuments being constructed, extremely rare planetary conjunctions, and/or large-scale human sacrifices. (Of course, the caster must still have the requisite ranks in Pargon for such a high-level spell as well.)

Mantorok

The fourth great Ancient, Mantorok is the one that banished the other three beyond the bounds of the universe. Dominant over all, it has since been trapped between dimensions, its flesh impaled by massive spikes enchanted with its own magic. Slowly dying – or perhaps already dead, but still active – Mantorok’s power nevertheless remains considerably greater than that of the other Ancients, for Mantorok represents all aspects of existence, rather than merely a part of it.

Casting a spell using Mantorok’s essence (which results in purple glyphs) skill allows for effects that are physical, mental, or magical in nature, as the caster chooses. However, each such spell requires double the number of spell levels that would normally be used; Mantorok’s overwhelming hunger requires a great deal of energy to fuel.

Eclipse and D&D Fifth Edition – The Wizard

August 3, 2014

The last of the four classes in the Basic version of D&D Fifth Edition is also the one with the oldest direct pedigree. The wizard predates even the D&D game itself, having debuted back in D&D’s progenitor game: Chainmail. Alongside the hero and the super-hero (which were basically fighters, where the hero was equal to four normal men and the super-hero was equal to two heroes), the wizard helped to set the foundation for what players could expect in their medieval fantasy games.

The Wizard

No one had the heart to tell Jim that he’d misunderstood the instructions to “make a Basic wizard.”

While many of its specifics changed across the editions (including its name, as its been the wizard, the magic-user, the mage, etc.), the basics have remained the same. The wizard eschews everything outside of their ability to cast spells, allowing them access to the most powerful magic in the game. While certain areas of magic may be outside of their purview (healing spells are notable, here) no other class has the versatility that wizardly magic allows.

This tradition remains true in Basic 5E. While the wizard has an expanded array of class features, all of them complement their spellcasting, rather than dilute it in favor of diversification. Using the point-buy mechanics in Eclipse: the Codex Persona, we can break the class down to get a better understanding of how it compares not only to its fellow Basic 5E classes, but against its 3.5 counterpart as well.

The Basic 5Eclipse Wizard

Available Character Points: 504 CP (level 20 base).

Basic Abilities (48 CP)

  • Hit Dice: Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for Hit Dice (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: small group of simple weapons (daggers, darts, light crossbows, quarterstaffs, slings) (2 CP).
  • BAB: +6 Warcraft, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to weapons that you have proficiency with, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (12 CP).
  • Saves: +6 to two saving throws (36 CP).
  • Skills: +6 to two skills (12 CP).
  • Restriction: May not wear armor (-20 CP).

We’re using some cost-saving measures right out of the gate, for reasons we’ll discuss at the end of the article. At this point, the big savings are using Fast Learner to bump the wizard’s Hit Dice up to a d6 at each level, and the restriction on wearing armor.

That restriction would normally be dubious, given that the wizard isn’t taking armor proficiency anyway, and that it’s also using the components limitation on its spellcasting (see below). What justifies its inclusion here is that, in Basic 5E, wearing armor causes arcane spellcasting to fail utterly; no check allowed. Since Eclipse normally defaults to the 3.5 rules, which allow a % chance to succeed when casting arcane spells in armor, we’re using this restriction to model Basic 5E’s tougher stance.

Wizard Spellcasting (242 CP)

  • 20 levels wizard progression (Intelligence-based; spontaneous casting; arcane magic; studies, components, and restrained limitations), corrupted for two-thirds cost/reduce the spells per day at each level by two-thirds (round up), specialized for increased effect/may rearrange spells known each day with spells from spellbook, cannot use any metamagic theorems (100 CP).
  • 20 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/only for wizard progression (60 CP).
  • Occult Ritual, specialized for increased effect/does not require a skill check; may only be used with certain spells in your spellbook to mimic their effects (6 CP).
  • Gain two spells at each level after 1st (76 CP).

The wizard’s spellcasting progression is subject to the same issues that were brought up for the cleric. As such, we’re using the same modifications to make it do what we need it to do. The biggest change is that, since the wizard has a slightly better spell list, it’s specialization requires a slightly larger weakness, in that it requires pulling the wizard’s Spells Known each day from their spellbook, rather than from their class spell list directly.

Another point that needs to be noted is that we’ve added a third limitation here: restrained. This reduces the cost of the magic progression by 3 CP at each level – from 11 down to 8 – as discussed on p. 11 of Eclipse. We then apply the corruption, reducing that down to 5 CP per level.

The restrained limitation is meant to model another aspect of Basic 5E, albeit an implicit one. Specifically, that the wizard’s spell list is limited to what’s presented in the Basic 5E rules, and nothing else. Unlike earlier editions of the wizard, a Basic 5E wizard doesn’t have hordes of splatbooks, magazine articles, and third-party products to massively expand what spells are out there. They’re limited to the rather small list in the Basic 5E rules, and that’s it. For the sake of convenience, the spell list is reproduced below (modified where necessary to the most-similar 3.5 or Pathfinder spells):

0-level: acid splash, dancing lights, ghost sound, light, mage hand, prestidigitation, ray of frost, shocking grasp.

1st-level: burning hands, charm person, comprehend languages, detect magic, hydraulic push, identify, mage armor, magic missile, shield, silent image, sleep.

2nd-level: arcane lock, blur, darkness, flaming sphere, hold person, invisibility, knock, levitate, spider climb, suggestion, web, wink (as blink, but for 1 round only).

3rd-level: dispel magic, fireball, fly, haste, lightning bolt, major image, protection from energy.

4th-level: arcane eye, dimension door, greater invisibility, ice storm, stoneskin.

5th-level: cone of cold, dominate person, dream, passwall, wall of stone.

6th-level: chain lightning, disintegrate, irresistible dance, globe of invulnerability, mass suggestion, true seeing.

7th-level: delayed blast fireball, finger of death, mage’s sword, teleport.

8th-level: dominate monster, maze, power word stun, sunburst.

9th-level: foresight, imprisonment, meteor swarm, power word kill, time stop.

Alternately, if you don’t want to be quite so strict, you could allow each spell level to have one more spell – two at most – that could represent original research, forgotten magics, or some other minor expansions. Anything more than that, however, would likely compromise having the restrained limitation.

Class Features (174 CP)

  • Arcane Recovery: Rite of Chi, specialized for one-half cost/may not restore more spell levels than one-half the character’s total levels, corrupted for increased effect/3d6 spell levels recovered; requires a one-hour rest to activate (3 CP).
  • Ability Score Improvements: +10 ability score improvements (120 CP).
  • Spell Mastery: Shaping, specialized and corrupted (only as a prerequisite) (2 CP). Pulse of the Dragon II (18 CP). Heart of the Dragon II, specialized for double effect and corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for a specific 1st- and 2nd-level spell, which can be changed each day (12 CP).
  • Signature Spells: Invocation with the Split modifier, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/may only be used for two 3rd-level spells (3 CP). Two instances of Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must rest at least one hour between each use (16 CP).

The Spell Mastery power is surprisingly expensive. That’s because Eclipse has very few ways to allow for unlimited usage of magical abilities – which is what that ability calls for – and those that it does have are sharply checked by price. All the more so if they’re as variable as Spell Mastery is.

Evocation Tradition (42 CP)

  • Evocation Savant: Spell Shorthand, specialized for one-half cost/only for Evocation spells (3 CP).
  • Sculpt Spells: Sculpting metamagic theorem, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for the Targeting metamagic ability, may only be used with Evocation spells (2 CP). Streamline, specialized and corrupted for triple effect/only for the Sculpting metamagic theorem, only with the Targeting metamagic ability (6 CP). Fast metamagic modifier (6 CP).
  • Potent Cantrip: Amplify metamagic theorem, double-specialized for one-fourth cost/only for the Augment ability (modified; deals one-half damage on an opponent’s successful save) which can be used only for Evocation cantrips (1 CP). Streamline, specialized for double effect/only for the Amplify metamagic theorem, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only with the Augment metamagic ability (4 CP).
  • Empowered Evocation: Ability Focus (Evocation – variant; adds bonus to damage instead of DC), corrupted for increased effect/grants damage equal to Intelligence modifier (12 CP).
  • Overchannel: Buy off one of the specializations on the Amplify metamagic theorem, so that it can also use Maximize (2 CP). Glory metamagic modifier, specialized and corrupted for increased effect/only for Maximizing spells of 5th-level or below; may be used at will, but the second time each day deals the user 2d12 damage per spell level, with each subsequent use per day increasing the damage by 1d12 per spell level (6 CP).

The majority of these powers were unexpectedly difficult to build. Leaving aside that we had to build in some exceptions to the “no metamagic” specialization on the wizard’s magic progression levels, the most suspicious purchase here is likely the double-specialization on the Amplify metamagic theorem for the Potent Cantrip ability. Normally double-specializing is something that should be disallowed as a matter of course, but we’re talking about an ability that allows for one-half damage to be dealt on a successful saves versus Evocation cantrips only…that’s a seriously weak ability. Presumably this is meant to apply to casting the cantrip in a higher-level spell slot for a scaled-up effect.

Totaling up the wizard’s expenditures comes to a final tally of 506 CP out of an allotment of 504. That’s technically over budget, but close enough that it’s essentially balanced; take a disadvantage at character creation and it all works out.

For a closer look at what’s bought when, use the following table:

Every Level: restriction/may not wear armor (-1 CP), +1 caster level, specialized in wizard progression (+3 CP), 1 level wizard progression (three limitations), specialized and corrupted (+5 CP) = 7 CP.

Level Cost Purchases
1st 44 Fast Learner, specialized (6 CP). Proficiency with small group of simple weapons (2 CP). +2 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (4 CP). +2 to two saves (12 CP). +2 to two skills (4 CP). Occult Ritual, specialized (6 CP). Rite of Chi, specialized and corrupted (3 CP).
2nd 28 Spell Shorthand, specialized (3 CP). Sculpting metamagic theorem, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). Streamline, specialized and corrupted (6 CP). Fast metamagic modifier (6 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
3rd 11 Gain two spells (4 CP).
4th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
5th 21 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
6th 16 Aplify metamagic theorem, double-specialized (1 CP). Streamline, specialized and corrupted (4 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
7th 11 Gain two spells (4 CP).
8th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
9th 21 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
10th 23 Ability Focus (variant), corrupted (12 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
11th 11 Gain two spells (4 CP).
12th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
13th 21 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
14th 19 Buy off one specialization on Amplify (2 CP). Glory metamagic modifier, specialized (6 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
15th 11 Gain two spells (4 CP).
16th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
17th 21 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
18th 43 Shaping, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). Pulse of the Dragon II (18 CP). Heart of the Dragon II, specialized and corrupted (12 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
19th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
20th 30 Invocation with the Split modifier, specialized and corrupted (3 CP). Two instances of Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for two-thirds cost (16 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).

A close reading of the above will make it clear that, compared to the other Basic 5E classes, the wizard is vastly more powerful than its earlier-edition counterparts. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that, compared to other classes, the wizard loses relatively little in the transition to Basic 5E. They didn’t have that much in the way of Base Attack Bonus, skill points, or even save bonuses to give up. Ergo, they didn’t free up many Character Points by imposing new limits on how high those bonuses could rise. Even lowering their spell slots at the higher levels didn’t save all that many CPs.

The other reason is in contrast to that; the new suites of class abilities presented a substantial power-up, just like for the other Basic 5E classes. The big offender here is the +10 ability score improvements being built into the class’s expenditures, with the rest being the icing on the cake. Luckily, Basic 5E brings back some of the stricter limitations on wizards from earlier editions, such as a highly-restricted spell list and a blanket prohibition on spellcasting in armor. These, together with buying up their Hit Dice via Fast Learner, were just barely enough to rein the Basic 5E wizard back in.

Eclipse and D&D Fifth Edition – The Rogue

July 26, 2014

I mentioned in the previous article that the cleric was something of a hybrid between the archetypes of the fighter and the wizard. That’s true, but the cleric has the status of being one of the three original D&D classes – the same cannot be said for the rogue.

Rogue

“Stabbing a back is philosophically the same as picking a lock.”

While initially appearing in a fanzine shortly after Dungeons and Dragons’ original release in 1974, the rogue – then called the thief – formally debuted in Greyhawk, the first supplement for D&D. It was divisive right from the start, as it’s percentage chances of performing certain actions highlighted the exception-based nature of the rules. After all, if thieves had a class ability to open locks 75% of the time, didn’t that mean that other class must therefore have a worse chance of being able to do so (if they could at all)?

Despite this, the thief became a mainstream part of the game, appearing alongside its predecessor classes from then on. It remained largely unchanged until the advent of Third Edition, which not only changed its name to the rogue (for reasons that continue to escape me) but its role in the game as well. Whereas the thief had been focused on special actions that it could undertake, with combat ability as a secondary concern; the rogue, by contrast, reversed the order in which those roles were valued – it was a skirmisher first, and a talented problem-solver second.

As for the Basic version of the D&D Fifth Edition rogue, let’s take a look at its stats, broken down via Eclipse: the Codex Persona, and see which of its historical presentations it more closely adheres to:

The Basic 5Eclipse Rogue

Available Character Points: 504 CP (level 20 base).

Basic Abilities (167 CP)

  • 20d8 Hit Dice (80 CP).
  • Proficiencies: Light armor (3 CP), simple weapons (3 CP), thieves’ weapons (hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords) (3 CP).
  • BAB: +6 Warcraft, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to weapons that you have proficiency with, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (12 CP).
  • Saves: +6 to two saving throws (36 CP).
  • Skills: +6 to four skills (24 CP), and +6 to Disable Device and Open Lock, specialized for one-half cost/require thieves’ tools (6 CP).

The rogue not only starts off with more skills than the other Basic 5E classes, but it has proficiency with thieves’ tools, letting it apply its proficiency bonus to any check that uses those tools. Since thieves’ tools are traditionally used only for disabling devices and opening locks, it makes the most sense to simply buy ranks in those skills normally, and then specialize them as requiring thieves’ tools to use.

In a game that uses the Pathfinder skill system, this would only be applied to Disable Device (as that has Open Lock as part of its functionality), saving the rogue 3 CP.

Class Features (271 CP)

  • Expertise: Four instances of Skill Focus, specialized for double effect/must be applied to a skill you have ranks in and does not provide a higher bonus than your current ranks in that skill (24 CP).
  • Sneak Attack: Augment Attack for 10d6 (when the enemy is flanked, flat-footed, or denied their Dexterity bonus to AC), specialized for one-half cost/only once per round, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only with “finessable” or ranged weapons (10 CP).
  • Thieves Cant: Speak Language 1 rank (1 CP).
  • Cunning Action: Three uses of Reflex Training (dash, disengage, and hide), all corrupted for two-thirds cost/cannot be strung together with other Reflex Training actions (12 CP).
  • Ability Score Improvement: +12 ability score increase (144 CP).
  • Uncanny Dodge: Damage reduction 5, specialized for double effect/only versus physical damage and only for one-half the total damage inflicted, corrupted for increased effect/must be aware of attacker, uses an attack of opportunity (12 CP).
  • Evasion: Improved Fortune (Reflex) (12 CP).
  • Reliable Talent: Luck with +12 Bonuses Uses, specialized for double effect/only for use with skills, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not re-roll or take 20; instead treat a result of 9 or lower as a 10 (16 CP).
  • Blindsense: Occult Sense (detect hidden or invisible creatures), specialized for one-half cost/only within 10 feet of you, corrupted for two-thirds cost/auditory-based (2 CP).
  • Slippery Mind: +6 to third saving throw (18 CP).
  • Elusive: Awareness with the Flankless modifier (12 CP).
  • Stroke of Luck: Luck with +4 Bonuses Uses, specialized for half cost/only for attack rolls and Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for half cost/only for skill and ability checks. Both corrupted for two-thirds cost/each can only be used once before requiring a one-hour rest (8 CP).

We’re making a few compromises here in favor of fewer abilities granting absolutes. For example, Uncanny Dodge as written removed half of the damage you took, regardless of how much that was. It was essentially removing one-half of infinite damage. Since Eclipse (by design) has very few unlimited abilities, we’re instead granting that as a limited form of damage reduction, which does make more sense overall. After all, it’s one thing to halve the damage from the swipe of a claw or an axe – it’s another thing to suggest that a power can halve the damage of anything, up to and including a planet being dropped on you, because you’re that good at dodging.

We’re also reinterpreting instances that would “grant advantage” in combat where things like Sneak Attack and Elusive are concerned. Since these are clearly meant to be referring the circumstances from Third Edition such as being flanked or flat-footed, we’ll simply tie them back to those circumstances directly.

Thief Archetype (39 CP)

  • Fast Hands: Three uses of Reflex Training (Sleight of Hand, disarm a trap or open a lock, or use an object), all corrupted for two-thirds cost/cannot be strung together with other Reflex Training actions (12 CP).
  • Second-Story Work: Immunity to speed penalties when climbing (uncommon/minor/minor) (2 CP). Skill Focus (Jump), specialized for double effect/only applies to a running long-jump (6 CP).
  • Supreme Sneak: Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, specialized in Hide and Move Silently checks for one-half cost, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only when moving at one-half speed or less (6 CP).
  • Use Magic Device: Immunity to class, race, and level requirements to activate magic items (common/major/major) (9 CP).
  • Thief’s Reflexes: Reflex Training (the first round of combat), specialized for increased effect/take an additional round’s worth of actions, second turn goes at initiative -10; corrupted for two-thirds cost/only works when not surprised (4 CP).

The rogue’s abilities come to a grand total of 477 CP out of 504. That’s just over a level below their total allotment, and slightly lower than the Basic 5E cleric and fighter, which also spent less than their total CPs, but not by quite so much. Interestingly, while this is a few feats’ worth below the Pathfinder rogue, it’s almost exactly as much as the 3.5 rogue spends.

The level-by-level breakdown for the Basic 5E rogue is as follows:

Every Level: d8 Hit Die = 4 CP.

Level Cost Purchases
1st 53 Proficiency with light armor (3 CP), simple weapons (3 CP), rogue weapons (hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords) (3 CP). +2 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (4 CP). +2 to two saves (12 CP). +2 to four skills (8 CP). +2 to Disable Device and Open Lock, specialized (2 CP). Two instances of Skill Focus (12 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP). Speak Language (thieves’ cant) (1 CP).
2nd 16 Three instances of Reflex Training (dash, disengage, and hide), corrupted (12 CP).
3rd 25 Three instances of Reflex Training (Sleight of Hand, disarm a trap or open a lock, or use an object), corrupted (12 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP). Immunity to speed penalties when climbing (2 CP). Skill Focus (Jump) (6 CP).
4th 28 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
5th 30 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to four skills (4 CP). +1 to Disable Device and Open Lock, specialized (1 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP). Damage reduction 5 (12 CP).
6th 16 Two instances of Skill Focus (12 CP).
7th 17 Improved Fortune (Reflex) (12 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP).
8th 28 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
9th 24 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to four skills (4 CP). +1 to Disable Device and Open Lock, specialized (1 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP). Luck with +8 Bonus Uses (Hide and Move Silently), specialized and corrupted (6 CP).
10th 28 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
11th 21 Luck with +12 Bonus Uses (skills), specialized and corrupted (16 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP).
12th 28 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
13th 27 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to four skills (4 CP). +1 to Disable Device and Open Lock, specialized (1 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP). Immunity to class, race, and level requirements to activate magic items (9 CP).
14th 6 Occult Sense (detect hidden or invisible creatures), specialized and corrupted (2 CP).
15th 20 +5 to third saving throw (15 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP).
16th 28 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
17th 25 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to three saves (9 CP). +1 to four skills (4 CP). +1 to Disable Device and Open Lock, specialized (1 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP). Reflex Training (the first round of combat), specialized and corrupted (4 CP).
18th 16 Awareness with the Flankless modifier (12 CP).
19th 29 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP). Augment Attack, specialized and corrupted (1 CP).
20th 12 Luck with +4 Bonus Uses (attack rolls), specialized and corrupted (4 CP). Luck with +4 Bonus Uses (skill and ability checks), specialized and corrupted (4 CP).

Looking over the above table, we can see that the rogue is, perhaps surprisingly, focused more on being a skill-monkey than on being a combatant. Their repeated use of Reflex Training for their skills allow for the rogue to make skill checks – which will almost certainly be successful thanks to so many uses of Luck – even in the midst of other activities. Their only major offensive ability is their signature sneak attack; virtually all of their other combat powers are defensive in nature.

Of course, the Basic 5E rogue can only afford to dip so heavily into skill-boosting abilities and still afford to have combat enhancements because of how much it, as a 5E class, skimps on BAB, saves, and skill points compared to its 3.5 and Pathfinder counterparts. Compared to its fellows, however, this new rogue might actually manage to strike a balance between combat and skills. Though it would be better served to spend the missing levels’ worth of CPs to help it do so.

Eclipse and D&D Fifth Edition – The Cleric

July 19, 2014

I’ve always thought of clerics as being among the D&D game’s – and by extension, all of fantasy role-playing’s – first attempts to deal with the issue of multiclassing. The cleric stands between the two great archetypes of fantasy – the muscle-bound fighter hacking his way through enemies with sheer strength and toughness, and the old wizard calling on eldritch magic to deal with his foes – combining aspects of both, and compensating for this versatility with diminished capabilities in each area.

Cleric

50% bashing. 50% healing. 100% god-approved.

Of course, the cleric has its own tropes too. The idea of being a servant of the divine, imbued with powers of your god, is one rich with mythological and literary traditions. More specific to D&D, clerics have had power over the undead, as well as near-exclusive dominion over healing spells, since the beginning.

These are traditions that continue in the Basic version of D&D Fifth Edition. The cleric here seems to be a fairly direct call-back to its presentation in earlier iterations of the game, such as 3.5 and Pathfinder. As such, we can break it down using the point-buy rules in Eclipse: the Codex Persona and see how it compares to its counterparts.

The Basic 5Eclipse Cleric

Available Character Points: 504 (level 20 base).

Right off the bat, we’re going to break from tradition for clerical characters, and not say that it has duties for +2 CP/level. In this case, the cleric will not find himself burdened with ecclesiastical responsibilities, and will be able to spend the whole of his time adventuring. Which is sort of how PC clerics tend to act anyway.

Basic Abilities (155 CP)

  • 20d8 Hit Dice (80 CP).
  • Proficiencies: Light and medium armor (9 CP), shields (3 CP), and all simple weapons (3 CP).
  • BAB: +6 Warcraft, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to weapons that you have proficiency with, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (12 CP).
  • Saves: +6 to two saving throws (36 CP).
  • Skills: +6 to two skills (12 CP).

It’s fairly obvious at this point that, in terms of basic abilities, most Basic 5E characters are going to look the same in their presentation. More specifically, the last three bullet points will be the same for each class – only their Hit Dice and weapon and armor proficiencies will be different. Between this and the low ceiling on these numbers, it’s not a bad idea for keeping things “balanced,” even if it may seem a tad restrictive.

Clerical Spellcasting (126 CP)

  • 20 clerical levels magic progression, no package (Wisdom-based; spontaneous casting; divine magic; studies and restrained limitations), corrupted for two-thirds cost/reduce the spells per day at each level by two-thirds (round up), specialized for increased effect/may rearrange spells known each day, cannot use any metamagic theorems (60 CP).
  • 20 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/only for the wilder progression (60 CP).
  • Occult Ritual, specialized for increased effect/does not require a skill check; may only be used with certain prepared spells to mimic their effects (6 CP).

The clerical spellcasting table in Basic 5E is somewhat troublesome to recreate, for several reasons. The first is that the number of spell slots it grants per day are highly limited compared to clerics from previous editions. Counting 0-level spells, by 20th level it grants a total of twenty-seven spells totaling 91.5 spell levels. The clerical progression in Eclipse, by contrast, at 20th level grants a total of forty-five spells totaling 181 spell levels. In other words, the Basic 5E cleric is casting about half as many spells as its counterparts from earlier editions.

Normally we’d simply specialize the clerical progression so that it grants half as many spell slots per level to simulate this, but I’ve elected to go with a corrupted version instead. That’s because halving the spell slots per level would be a fairly severe imposition at the lower levels, only evening out at the higher ones. This way, we’re giving a bit of a boost to the guy who elected to play a cleric at the beginning, when those spells are arguably most needed.

The other issue is the manner of how the cleric’s spells are prepared. Clerics (and wizards, for that matter) in Basic 5E are essentially spontaneous spellcasters, as they get to determine what their daily spell slots are for as they cast them, choosing from among a list of spells known. The difference is that they get to change what their spells known are each day, picking a total number of spells equal to their Wisdom modifier plus their class level (with no regard for the levels of those spells).

Here, I’ve elected to simulate this by just using the spontaneous version of the clerical spellcasting progression, and specializing it for increased effect. This doesn’t grant quite the freedom that comes from picking your spells known without worrying about having to divide them among a level progression – though you can get that by spending 6 CP to purchase Spell Flow – but I think that’s a good thing. Otherwise you’re likely to overspend on either high-level spells (leaving your lower-level spell slots useless) or low-level spells (which are a waste of your high-level slots, even if the effect automatically scales as per the old Heighten Spell feat).

As for the degree of versatility that comes with being able to change your Spells Known each day, that’s gained by specializing the entire progression for increased effect. Giving up all access to metamagic is a fairly big loss for an Eclipse-based spellcaster, so that should be sufficient for being able to pick their Spells Known off of their class spell list each day – though of course, each GM will have their own opinion regarding whether or not that’s a sufficient sacrifice. That said, since Basic 5E spellcasters don’t get metamagic anyway, it works perfectly here.

One minor additional note is that since this uses the studies limitation (being a spontaneous spellcaster), we’re adding that in place of the conduct limitation that most divine spellcasters would have. This is in deference to the fact that Basic 5E – at least in its alpha release – has no gods listed for clerics to serve. Between this and the lack of a duties restriction, the Basic 5E cleric functions less as an evangelical priest than as an ecumenical mystic on behalf of unspecified (or perhaps highly personal) spiritual forces.

Class Features (152 CP)

  • Channel Divinity: Turn Undead: channel energy [3 + (3 x Charisma bonus)] uses per day, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not use more than three attempts before needing a one-hour rest (14 CP). Base intensity as character level +4 (6 CP).
  • Ability Score Improvements: +10 ability score improvements (120 CP).
  • Divine Intervention: Inherent Spell with two uses of Advanced, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only as prerequisites (6 CP). One further use of Advanced, corrupted for increased effect (miracle)/may not be used again for 7 days after use (6 CP).

The use of the turn undead rules as presented in Eclipse subsume several of the Basic 5E cleric’s class abilities, specifically those related to destroying the undead. The mechanics are slightly different, but not so much that we need to worry about altering the abilities to try and get an exact match.

Divine Domain: Life (62 CP)

  • Domain Spells: Domain (healing) (6 CP).
  • Bonus Proficiency: Heavy armor proficiency (6 CP).
  • Disciple of Life: Ability Focus/healing spells (variant ability, granting +2 hit points of healing rather than +2 DC) (6 CP).
  • Channel Divinity: Preserve Life: Conversion – mass cure moderate wounds (12 CP).
  • Blessed Healer: Grant of Aid with the Mighty modifier, specialized for double effect/only for hit points, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only used when casting a healing spell on others, restoring no more than (2 + spell level) hit points each time (6 CP).
  • Divine Strike: +2d8 damage, triple cost – always with your deity’s favored weapon, specialized for one-half cost/only once per round (12 CP).
  • Supreme Healing: Amplify metamagic theorem, specialized for one-half cost/only grants the Maximize effect, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may only be used on healing spells (2 CP).

We’re slightly bending some things here to approximate the effect’s of the Basic 5E cleric’s life domain abilities. For example, we’re not worried with changing the domain spells that this domain grants – that’s a minor variant. Likewise, we’re not going to be too worried about Preserve Life’s specifics regarding only being able to heal those under half their hit points, etc.

A few specific notes would be that it’s simpler to roll all of the dice for Blessed Healer at the beginning of the day, and then parcel the hit points out as the ability is used. Likewise, we’re specifying an exception on this class’s prohibition to metamagic for its domain ability. Normally that’d be the GM’s prerogative, but we’ll allow it here.

All of these features together bring us to a grand total of 495 CP, which is within a single level of the 504 CP allotment for the class. Once again, the Basic 5E classes are quite balanced overall.

For those that prefer it, here once again is a level-by-level breakdown of the Basic 5E cleric’s abilities:

Every Level: d8 Hit Die, +1 caster level specialized in cleric, +1 level of clerical spellcasting (no package) specialized and corrupted as above = 10 CP.

Level Cost Purchases
1st 69 Proficiency with light and medium armor (9 CP), shields (3 CP), and all simple weapons (3 CP). +2 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (4 CP). +2 to two saves (12 CP). +2 to two skills (4 CP). Domain (life) (6 CP). Heavy armor proficiency (6 CP). Ability Focus/healing (variant) (6 CP). Occult Ritual, specialized (6 CP).
2nd 38 Turn Undead. [3 + (3 x Charisma bonus)] uses per day, specialized for one-half cost/may not use more than one attempts before needing a one-hour rest (10 CP). Base intensity as character level +4 (6 CP). Conversion (mass cure moderate wounds) (12 CP).
3rd 10
4th 34 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
5th 20 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP).
6th 16 Specialization on number of uses per day for Turn Undead increased to two attempts before needing a one-hour rest (0 CP). Grant of Aid with the Mighty modifier, specialized for double effect/only for hit points, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only used when casting a healing spell on others, restoring no more than (2 + spell level) hit points each time (6 CP).
7th 10
8th 46 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP). +2d8 damage, triple cost – always with your deity’s favored weapon, specialized for one-half cost/only once per round (12 CP).
9th 20 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP).
10th 19 Inherent Spell (miracle) with two uses of Advanced, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only as prerequisites (6 CP). One further use of Advanced, corrupted for increased effect/may not be used again for 7 days after successful use, specialized for one-half cost/requires a successful d% roll equal to or less than your level (3 CP).
11th 10
12th 34 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
13th 20 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP).
14th 10
15th 10
16th 34 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
17th 34 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Amplify metamagic theorem, specialized for one-half cost/only grants the Maximize effect, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may only be used on healing spells (2 CP). Streamline, specialized for double effect/may only be applied to Amplify, corrupted for increased effect/only applies to maximizing spells (6 CP). Fast modifier (6 CP).
18th 14 Specialization on number of uses per day for Turn Undead bought up to corruption/three attempts before needing a one-hour rest (4 CP).
19th 34 +2 ability score improvement (24 CP).
20th 13 Buy off specialization on final Advanced modifier for Inherent Spell (3 CP).

There are some interesting things to note when comparing this cleric to the 3.5 and Pathfinder versions. The 3.5 cleric has the aforementioned religious duties that grant him an extra 40 CP. The Pathfinder version makes a few minor changes, but the big one is that it spends 6 CP to buy Fast Learner, specialized for double effect in domain abilities; that’s a net gain of 34 more CP over twenty levels – even more than that when you realize that it paid for that 6 CP by dropping some other things.

The take-away from that is that the Basic 5E cleric is actually working with far fewer Character Points than clerics from earlier editions of the game. Of course, that’s self-evident due to the seriously-reduced BAB, save, and skill progressions, as noted above. Beyond that, using a corrupted version of the no-package clerical spell progression, rather than an uncorrupted version of the with-package progression, is the cause of the remainder of the savings. Even expanding the domain abilities (and taking a heaping helping of ability score improvements) can’t account for all the unspent CPs.

Eclipse and D&D Fifth Edition – Races

July 6, 2014

Continuing in our series of converting the character options of Basic 5E to Eclipse: the Codex Persona, we take a look at the various PC races presented in the Basic rules.

The Basic version of D&D Fifth Edition restricts the options for PC races to the classic four: dwarves, elves, halflings, and humans. All of the half-breed races (half-elves and half-orcs) as well as the outre races (dragonborn, tieflings, and apparently gnomes) are relegated to the full version of the game.

In a forward-thinking move, options for various sub-races are built into the main racial presentations, rather than presenting single default standard for each race. Humans are the exception here – two completely different versions of human racial traits are presented, and unlike the sub-racial options for the demihumans, there’s no in-game flavor text that presents the option of having two different “breeds” of humans in the game world (though there’s certainly no reason you can’t do so).

Given that, let’s see how Basic 5E’s presentation of the classic four races compares to their 3.5 and Pathfinder counterparts under the Eclipse rules.

Dwarves (25 or 31 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • +2 Constitution (12 CP).
  • Occult Sense/darkvision (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws against poison, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (4 CP).
  • Immunity to poison (uncommon/major/trivial – reduces poison damage by 5), specialized for one-half cost/reduces the damage by 5 or one-half, whichever is less (1 CP).
  • Proficient with dwarven weapons (battleaxe, handaxe, throwing hammer, and warhammer) (3 CP).
  • 6 skill ranks in Craft (smithing), Craft (brewing), or Craft (stonemasonry) skill checks (pick one), specialized for one-half cost/does not stack with existing skill ranks, corrupted for two-thirds cost/requires artisan’s tools (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the speed reduction from heavy armor (common/minor/trivial), specialized for one-half cost/only reduces the penalty by 5 feet (1 CP).
  • Speak, read, and write Dwarvish (1 CP).
  • Sub-racial package (choose one):
    • Hill Dwarf:
      • +1 Wisdom (6 CP).
      • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for Hit Dice (6 CP).
    • Mountain Dwarf:
      • +2 Strength (12 CP).
      • Proficient with light and medium armor (9 CP).

The basic suite of abilities for dwarves is 30 CP, just barely within the cutoff for a +0 ECL race. Adding in the sub-racial traits, however, pushes things far over the limit, with hill dwarves and mountain dwarves having, respectively, 42 and 51 CPs’ worth of abilities. That’s solidly in +1 ECL territory.

To rectify this, we’ll say that the entire race is corrupted for two-thirds cost/dwarves tend towards being greedy, dour, stubborn, and slow to trust – tendencies that are well-known to other races. That reduces the costs to 28 CP (hill dwarves) and 34 CP (mountain dwarves).

That’s enough to bring hill dwarves down to +0 ECL territory, but mountain dwarves are still over the line. Luckily, there’s one more change to implement. The entire race also has the Slow disadvantage/-5 feet to their base speed, but this does not stack with the penalty for wearing heavy armor (-3 CP). That lowers their speed to 25 feet, without heavy armor changing it. It also gives us final costs of  25 CP for hill dwarves and 31 CP for mountain dwarves, making both of them +0 ECL races.

Here we can see the general trend for racial abilities in Fifth Edition: that each race has received a not-insubstantial boost. This seems odd for a game that wanted to rein in the massive power-ups from earlier editions. On the other hand, a character’s race was usually a footnote with regards to what they were able to do; maybe increasing the power of racial traits while lowering the power of character classes was the designers’ attempt to create greater parity between the two.

Elves (30 or 31 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • +2 Dexterity(12 CP).
  • Occult Sense/darkvision (6 CP).
  • +6 skill ranks in Perception (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws against enchantments, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (4 CP).
  • Immunity/sleep effects (uncommon/minor/major) (3 CP).
  • Deep Sleep (6 CP).
  • Speak, read, and write Elvish (1 CP).
  • Sub-racial package (choose one):
    • High Elf:
      • +1 Intelligence (6 CP).
      • Proficient with elven weapons (longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow) (3 CP).
      • 1 cantrip known (1 CP).
      • 1 extra language known (1 CP).
    • Wood Elf:
      • +1 Wisdom (6 CP).
      • Proficient with elven weapons (longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow) (3 CP).
      • Celerity, specialized for one-half cost/only add +5 feet of movement (3 CP).
      • Immunity/needing to have cover or concealment to hide (common/minor/minor), specialized for one-half cost/only in natural terrain; corrupted for two-thirds cost/still requires light concealment (e.g. falling snow, heavy rain, etc.) (1 CP).

Even more than dwarves, the racial abilities of given to elves push them far beyond what a +0 ECL race can afford, costing 38 CP just for the basic traits. The sub-racial abilities granted to high elves (11 CP) and wood elves (13 CP) push things to a total of 49 and 51 CPs, respectively.

Again, we’ll corrupt the entire racial build for two-thirds cost/elves are arrogant, condescending, and aloof towards other races, and have gained a racial reputation to that effect. That lowers the total costs to 33 CP (high elves) and 34 CP (wood elves). Throw in the History disadvantage/elven civilization is in decline, with their great empires, powerful magics, and eldritch secrets having been lost to time (-3 CP), and the final costs come to 30 CP for high elves and 31 CP for wood elves.

Using role-playing-based corruptions and disadvantages might strike some as being poor justification for reducing the CP costs of these races. To the contrary, these limitations reflect the baggage that these races carry, not just within the context of the game world – where these stereotypes are very much alive – but also in the conceptions that most players have of these races. When’s the last time you saw somebody play a dwarf that wasn’t gruff, or an elf that wasn’t standoffish?

Halflings (24 or 27 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • +2 Dexterity (12 CP).
  • Shrinking I, corrupted for two-thirds cost/reduces speed to 25 feet (8 CP).
  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, specialized/may only be used when a natural 1 is rolled; corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws versus fear effects, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (4 CP).
  • Immunity/being unable to move through a creature’s space (common/minor/minor), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only works versus larger-sized creatures (3 CP).
  • Speak, read, and write Halfling (1 CP).
  • Sub-racial package (choose one):
    • Lightfoot:
      • +1 Charisma (6 CP).
      • Immunity/needing to have cover or concealment to hide (common/minor/minor), specialized for one-half cost/only when obscured by another creature; corrupted for two-thirds cost/obscuring creature must be at least one size larger (1 CP).
    • Stout:
      • +1 Constitution (6 CP).
      • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws against poison, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (4 CP).
      • Immunity to poison (uncommon/major/trivial – reduces poison damage by 5), specialized for one-half cost/reduces the damage by 5 or one-half, whichever is less (1 CP).

The basic halfling abilities are only barely over the cost limits on a +0 ECL race, having a 34 CP cost. The sub-racial bonuses raise that by 7 CP for lightfoots, and 11 CP for stouts. Coming to a grand total of 41 and 45 CP for each sub-race, we can corrupt these totals for two-thirds cost/halflings have no country of their own and very little cultural identity, living as “permanent guests” in the nations of other races. We’ll then add in the the Poor Reputation disadvantage/halflings have a reputation for being either thieves or lazy hedonists, if not both (-3 CP). This lowers the final costs to 24 CP for lightfoots and 27 CP for stouts, both well within the 31 CP limit for +0 ECL races.

Strictly speaking, adding in a disadvantage here is unnecessary, as the corruption lowers the total costs for both sub-races below 31 CPs. It was added anyway to apply the classic outlook that other races have of halflings, and to keep mechanical symmetry with the other demihuman races. Remove the racial disadvantage if you want halflings to be seen as basically just “short humans.”

Humans (24 CP/+0 ECL)

  • +6 Improved Self-Development, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must be set at +1 to each ability score (24 CP).

Humans are still the most flavorless race. But at least now they’re using more of their racial CPs than they were in previous editions, though still nowhere near as much as their demihuman counterparts.

It was perhaps in recognition of how phenomenally boring it is to just give humans a +1 to each ability score that the Basic 5E rules present an alternate take on humans.

Variant Humans (24 CP/+0 ECL)

  • +2 Improved Self-Development (12 CP).
  • +6 ranks in one skill (6 CP).
  • One bonus feat (6 CP).

This isn’t much better, being essentially the same as the Pathfinder version of humans. Still, it has some potential for customization via its skill ranks and bonus feat. This is the version that’s better able to represent individual, or even regional/ethnic, differences – variations that don’t quite rise to the level of being a sub-race.

One thing that should be mentioned is that these races – and the various classes – are presented according to the Basic 5E standard that a +6 is the highest single bonus you can have for attack, save, and skill progressions.

If you want to enforce that limit in an Eclipse game, it’s best to present those caps as a world law (though with some exceptions to allow for abilities focused on specific areas – such as a fighter’s “fighting style” bonus – to go slightly above these limits).

In worlds that have no such limits, however, the intent of providing a +6 bonus – that it grants a full progression  – are lost. As such, here’s a variation on the variant human, which we’ll call the adroit human, that fulfills that particular niche without the bonus cap.

Adroit Humans (20 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • +2 Improved Self-Development (12 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized for one-half cost/only for skills; corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for a single skill, chosen by the player (2 CP).
  • One bonus feat (6 CP).

This fulfills the same niche as the Basic 5E variant human, while allowing for settings in which humans can reach truly stratospheric heights of accomplishment.

Next time, we’ll return to taking a look at Basic 5E class progressions!

Eclipse and D&D Fifth Edition – The Fighter

July 4, 2014

As you may have heard, the newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons was released yesterday.

Well, sort of.

What came out was the alpha version of the Basic version of D&D Fifth Edition. That’s a bit of a head-scratcher for anyone who hasn’t been following the development of the game, so it’s worth reiterating just what exactly that is.

To put it plainly, D&D Fifth Edition is bringing back a Basic version of the game, distinct from the “Advanced” version (though they’re not going to call it that – the non-Basic version is just going to be called Dungeons & Dragons). This Basic version is going to be a free-for-download PDF on WotC’s website, with no physical version planned that I’m aware of.

The Classic Fighter

Bold new edition, same “KILL EVERY @#$&ING THING IN THE ROOM!” attitude.

Currently, the Basic version is incomplete, having the character-creation rules, as well as spells and combat mechanics. However, until the full version of D&D is released (staggered over a few months later this year), the Basic version won’t have things like monsters or magic items. Still, the plan is for Basic to be updated as these parts of the full game are released, and the Basic D&D PDF will be complete by the end of this year.

Having read through the initial Basic rules, I’m struck by how much what’s there is reminiscent of Third Edition D&D. Strictly speaking, it seems like 75% of changing your 3E game into a 5E game would involve capping the total bonuses of various mechanics, such as ability scores, BAB, saving throws, skill bonuses – all have a hard ceiling on how high they can get.

There are other big changes too, of course, such as the advantage/disadvantage mechanic (roll 2d20 and take the better/worse result, respectively), or how there are now six saving throws – one for each ability score. But for the most part, this seems like Third Edition with some comparatively modest tweaks.

Of course, I was quite happy with that, since 3E is my favorite version of D&D, mechanically speaking…or at least, a variant of it is.

Eclipsing Fifth Edition

That variant, of course, is Eclipse: the Codex Persona, a class-less point-buy character-generator for Third Edition’s d20 system. Since it breaks the shackles of class-levels, and since Fifth Edition (unsurprisingly) uses class-level progressions for its characters – and since it has such a close resemblance to Third Edition – I decided to try my hand at breaking down its classes and races using the Eclipse rules.

Given that, I elected to start with the “simplest” of Basic 5E’s classes, the one that’s the typical benchmark for comparing classes: the fighter.

One thing that should be noted right off the bat is that this isn’t a comparison between the fighter and the other classes in Basic 5E. Rather, this particular article looks at the Basic 5E fighter in comparison to its 3.5 and Pathfinder counterparts – comparisons with the other Basic 5E classes will have to wait for future articles that break down their Eclipse costs.

With that said, let’s look at what a Basic 5E fighter gets over the course of their twenty levels.

The Basic 5Eclipse Fighter

Available Character Points: 504 (level 20 base).

Basic Abilities (207 CP)

  • Light, medium, and heavy armor and shield proficiencies (18 CP). All simple and martial weapon proficiencies (9 CP).
  • 20d10 Hit Dice (120 CP).
  • +6 Warcraft, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to weapons that you have proficiency with, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (12 CP).
  • +6 to two saving throws (36 CP).
  • +6 ranks to two skills (12 CP).

This is the major dialing back of “bonus bloat” that typifies 5E. In the Basic rules, all characters have a “Proficiency Bonus” that is +2 for the first four levels, and then goes up by +1 every four levels after that (e.g. +2 at 1st-4th levels, +3 at 5th-8th levels, etc.). Your class and race determine what weapons, saves, and skills this proficiency bonus applies to…which is very important, because that, and your ability score bonuses, are the primary (and often only) modifiers to your die rolls.

Here, rather than trying to come up with some sort of universal bonus, it was easier to buy the proficiency bonuses separately for the various categories of die rolls that they applied to. This was surprisingly easy to do, since the low numbers kept the costs down.

Class Features (240+ CP)

  • Fighting Style (pick one):
    • Archery: +2 Warcraft, specialized for one-half cost/only for ranged weapons, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (4 CP).
    • Defense: Improved Defender, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies while wearing armor (4 CP).
    • Dueling: Augment Attack, +2 damage when wielding a melee weapon one-handed, with nothing in your off-hand (2 CP).
    • Great Weapon Fighting: Doubled Damage, specialized for increased effect/functions with any two-handed or versatile weapon, only allows for a single re-roll of a 1 or a 2 for damage (6 CP).
    • Protection: Block/missile, corrupted for increased effect/may be used on any creature within 5 feet of you, requires use of a shield; specialized for increased effect/no saving throw necessary, only applies disadvantage (roll 2d20, taking the lower roll) to the attacker’s roll rather than great immunity to damage (6 CP).
    • Two-Weapon Fighting: Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus, apply Strength or Dexterity modifier to weapon damage rolls, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to off-hand melee attacks (9 CP).
  • Second Wind: Grant of Aid with the Mighty modifier, specialized for double effect/only applies to hit points; corrupted for two-thirds cost/must rest at least one hour between each use (6 CP).
  • Action Surge: Reflex Training (3/day variant) with +8 Bonus Uses, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must rest at least one hour between each two uses (12 CP).
  • Ability Score Improvement: +14 Improved Self-Development (168 CP).
  • Extra Attack: Three instances of Bonus Attack, each with the Improved modifier (36 CP), and Immunity/needing to specify specific situations where each bonus attack applies (very common/major/major) (15 CP).
  • Indomitable: Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not choose to take 20 (3 CP).

Martial Archetype (Champion) (39+ CP).

  • Improved & Superior Critical: Improved Critical with the Lethal modifier (12 CP). Immunity to needing to apply these to a particular weapon (very common/major/major) (15 CP).
  • Remarkable Athlete: Immunity to not being able to add your proficiency bonus to Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution-based skill that doesn’t already use it (common/minor/trivial – grants a +3 bonus) (2 CP). Skill Focus (athletics), specialized for double-effect/only applies to running long-jumps; corrupted for two-thirds cost/only grants a total bonus equal to your Strength modifier (4 CP).
  • Additional Fighting Style, one additional choice under Fighting Styles, above.
  • Survivor: Grant of Aid with the Mighty modifier, specialized for double effect/only applies to hit points; corrupted for two-thirds cost/only applies when below one-half of your total hit points, but still above 0 (6 CP).

That’s a total of 486 CP, before adding in the costs of taking two Fighting Styles. Since those together can cost as little as 6 CP or as much as 15, the grand total for this class ranges from 492-501 CP. That’s incredibly balanced!

For those that want a more detailed breakdown, rather than an overall summary, the following chart shows how the Basic 5E fighter’s CPs are spent at each level:

Every Level: d10 Hit Die = 6 CP.

Level Cost Purchases
1st 59+ +2 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (4 CP). +2 to two saves (12 CP). Proficient with light, medium, and heavy armor (15 CP) and shields (3 CP). Proficient with all simple and martial weapons (9 CP). +2 to two skill ranks (4 CP). Mighty Grant of Aid, specialized and corrupted (6 CP). Fighting Style (variable CP).
2nd 15 Reflex Training (3/day variant) with +8 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/must rest at least one hour between each two uses (9 CP).
3rd 27 Improved Critical (6 CP). Immunity to needing to apply these to a particular weapon (very common/major/major) (15 CP).
4th 30 +2 Improved Self-Development (24 CP).
5th 43 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skill ranks (2 CP). Improved Bonus Attack (12 CP). Immunity/needing to specify specific situations where each bonus attack applies (very common/major/major) (15 CP).
6th 30 +2 Improved Self-Development (24 CP).
7th 12 Immunity to not being able to add your proficiency bonus to Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution-based skill that doesn’t already use it (common/minor/trivial – grants a +3 bonus) (2 CP). Skill Focus (athletics), specialized and corrupted (4 CP).
8th 30 +2 Improved Self-Development (24 CP).
9th 18 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skill ranks (2 CP). Luck, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not choose to take 20 (2 CP).*
10th 6+ Fighting Style (variable CP).
11th 18 Improved Bonus Attack (12 CP).
12th 30 +2 Improved Self-Development (24 CP).
13th 17 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skill ranks (2 CP). +1 Bonus Use to Luck (1 CP).*
14th 30 +2 Improved Self-Development (24 CP).
15th 12 Lethal modifier to Improved Critical (6 CP).
16th 30 +2 Improved Self-Development (24 CP).
17th 19 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skill ranks (2 CP). Upgrade Reflex Training from specialized to corrupted (3 CP). +1 Bonus Use to Luck (0 CP).*
18th 12 Mighty Grant of Aid, specialized and corrupted (6 CP).
19th 30 +2 Improved Self-Development (24 CP).
20th 18 Improved Bonus Attack (12 CP).

*The CP totals for Luck here are taken by always applying the CP reductions of corruption and specialization after adding in the cost for Bonus Uses.

While it’s good to have a fighter that’s finally spending almost all of its Character Points, that doesn’t mean that this is an efficient build. This class is spending a huge amount of CPs on bumping up its ability scores, and there are far cheaper ways to do that in Eclipse – particularly since Eclipse characters receive Improved Self-Development every four levels anyway. The tradeoff for this is that the class’s BAB is lagging hideously behind that of a fighter from earlier editions. Most players are likely to want to trade some of those points in Improved Self-Development for some extra BAB, saves, and even skill points.

That said, the above build does reflect the underlying assumptions of Fifth Edition, chief among them being the “flatter math” that caps ability scores at 20 and other bonus progressions at +6. There are also some different assumptions regarding how combat works that are reflected in the above build, such as its eschewing iterative attacks in favor of bonus attacks.

All of this is enough that, if we want to have the Eclipse version of the Basic 5E fighter to adhere more closely to its Fifth Edition underpinnings, we’ll go ahead and apply a package deal to 5E characters.

The Fifth Edition package deal provides for:

  • Immunity to needing to confirm critical hits (very common/major/major) (15 CP).
  • Immunity to not being able to make multiple attacks as a standard action (very common/major/great) (30 CP).
  • Split Movement/Attacking (6 CP).

Of course, that’s 51 CP, which is way too expensive since package deals are normally limited to 12 CP. However, the entire package is specialized for half-cost/may not raise ability scores over 20 by any means, and corrupted for one-third cost/does not receive Improved Self-Development for free every fourth level. That brings the cost down to 17 CP.

That’s still too expensive, so we’ll add in two disadvantages:

  • Accursed; must take the Fifth Edition version of feats and spells even where those have been downgraded. (-3 CP)
  • Accursed; must make three (non-consecutive) stabilization checks to stabilize when below 0 hit points. (-3 CP)

That lowers the cost to 11 CP, just inside the limit.

The above seems to split the difference nicely; bringing in some of the underlying assumptions of 5E combat to how this character functions – without making the character pay for it – while still leaving off some of the heavier restrictions, such as how much BAB or saves they can buy. In an Eclipse game, it’s usually easier (not to mention more fun) not to operate under quite such onerous restrictions.

One thing that I deliberately didn’t address in this build is that Fifth Edition characters have six saving throws – based around the six ability scores – instead of three. Bringing that into a typical Eclipse game would require changing some underlying assumptions that go far beyond a single character’s build, such as having NPCs and monsters that use attacks versus those other three saves. That’d be awkward if used against another character that used the traditional three-saves mechanics. Ergo, that particular restriction was ignored here.

Next time, we’ll go over more of the Basic 5E classes and races in Eclipse terms!

More Horsing Around

June 28, 2014

“It is not enough to be the possessor of genius—the time and the man must conjoin.” -Stephen Vincent Benet, The Curfew Tolls

In most worlds, being born with a mild neurological disorder that inhibited social interaction would have been a challenge to overcome. For Lex Legis, a unicorn pony from the realm of Equestria, however – where such conditions were completely unknown, and where a premium was placed on interpersonal relationships – it made life horrendously difficult.

Born just over a thousand years ago, Lex showed a remarkable intellect from a very young age, with an equally prodigious grasp of magic. However, he had no ability to make friends, despite many earnest attempts to do so. Each time he tried, things inevitably fell apart – whether immediately or after some time had passed – as his high intelligence but lack of social graces invariably upset the ponies around him.

Dispirited by his friendlessness, Lex threw himself into studying the sciences. Highly gifted at virtually any academic pursuit he tried, he gravitated most strongly to theoretical frameworks, particularly enjoying the philosophies behind both magic and governmental structure. He wrote long letters to various ponies that occupied political positions – including Princess Celestia and Princess Luna – proposing ideas of economic regulation, progressive taxation, and public services, but was either completely ignored or politely dismissed in every case. After all, the general sentiment went, Equestria was already an idyllic society, so why change anything?

He easily enrolled in Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, but boarding away from his parents (who were the only ponies who truly cared about him) quickly caused him to become completely isolated, and he dropped out after less than a year. By now bitter and frustrated, Lex continued to study magic independently. Unsurprisingly, at least to him, he formulated a method for magic that was far and away more powerful than what was taught at the School.

However, his methodology of magic was flawed. While it generated far greater magical energy than the traditional manner of spellcasting, it required enormous amounts of magical energy to fuel, more than could be gathered from ambient sources. Unwilling to abandon his research in the face of this setback, Lex set out looking for a magical battery so as to further advance his studies.

After several initial travels, he went to the Crystal Empire to study their Crystal Heart, but arrived just in time for disaster to strike as King Sombra performed a coup. Using his magic to escape the King’s mass enslavement of his subjects, Lex was nevertheless caught in the curse that kept the Empire locked away in stasis for a thousand years, King Sombra’s last spiteful act as Celestia and Luna sealed him away.

Having been returned with the Empire when King Sombra was freed (and subsequently destroyed) six months ago, Lex is struggling to adapt to his situation. He’s disgusted that Equestria has advanced not at all in a thousand years, something that he blames Princess Celestia’s laissez-faire system of government. Truly alone now, Lex has decided that he needs to be more proactive in showing everypony why his style of governance is better for them.

But how to go about doing it…?

Lex Legis, level 4 unicorn arcanomancer

Available Character Points: 120 (level 4 base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 12 (levels 1 and 3 feats) = 142 CP.

Lexis’s disadvantages are Compulsive (he’s obsessive regarding the letter of laws, agreements, codes, etc.), Incompetent (all interpersonal skills), and Outcast (his arrogance and lack of tact quickly isolate him from others).

Ability Scores (32-point buy):

Ability Scores Initial Scores (point cost) Racial Bonuses Level Bonuses Innate Enchantments Total
Strength 12 (4) -2 10 (+0)
Dexterity 12 (4) +2 enhancement 14 (+2)
Constitution 14 (6) +2 enhancement 16 (+3)
Intelligence 17 (13) +1 (4th level) +2 enhancement 20 (+5)
Wisdom 15 (8) 15 (+2)
Charisma 5 (-3) +2 7 (-2)

Technically, a character using a 3.5 point-buy for their ability scores shouldn’t be able to have a score lower than 8. Since the point cost is on a 1-to-1 basis for the smaller expenditures, I simply used that same ratio in reverse to lower Lex’s Charisma score from 8 to 5, gaining a corresponding 3 points to spend elsewhere.

Unicorn Pony Traits

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Strength (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier where appropriate (7 CP; 5,400 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • +3 competence bonus to all Intelligence-based skills (1,400 gp).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Immunity/needing to concentrate on spells (common/major/trivial – only for spells of level 0 or 1), specialized for half cost/only applies to innate enchantments (1 CP).
  • Immunity/verbal, somatic, and material components when casting spells (very common/major/minor – only for spells of level 3 or below) (10 CP).
  • Eldritch, a unicorn’s horn glows when using innate enchantments or spellcasting, and a matching glow surrounds the target (0 CP).
  • Skill Focus, Governance (6 CP).
  • Accursed. Any damage, or other harmful effect, that befalls a unicorn’s horn (e.g. must target their horn specifically, rather than the unicorn overall) causes all innate enchantments and spells cast to immediately end. No more can be used until the effect is healed (-3 CP).

In accordance with his Skill Focus, Lex’s cutie mark is a podium in front of an amphitheater.

Basic Abilities (35 CP)

  • No weapon or armor proficiencies (0 CP).
  • d10 Hit Die (1st level) (6 CP) + 3d4 Hit Dice (0 CP).
  • +2 BAB, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (8 CP).
  • Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +1 (21 CP)
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

Flawed Arcanism (46 CP)

  • 6 sorcerer magic progression levels (Intelligence-based; arcane magic; components and restrained limitations), corrupted for two-thirds cost/must locate or invent new spells to be able to prepare them, specialized for one-half cost/can only replenish spell levels with Rite of Chi (24 CP).
  • 6 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/sorcerer progression only (18 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, corrupted for two-thirds cost/requires a one-hour ritual, specialized for one-half cost/only works with a large external source of arcane power, such as a major magical relic, nexus of mystical energy, or specific days of the year (4 CP).

Lex prepares his spells in a manner akin to a cleric, but must learn them like a wizard. That is, he must locate and learn each spell the same way a wizard would. However, once learned he doesn’t need a spellbook or other focus to prepare his spells – he simply prepares his spells from among those he knows.

His restrained limitation is with regards to wide-area destructive spells. Besides those, he uses the sorcerer/wizard spell list.

Manipulate the Imperfect Power (31 CP)

  • Action Hero/Crafting, corrupted for increased effect/only for magic items (27 AP; 6 CP).
  • Spell Storing/multiple embedment level I (9 CP).
  • Superior Improved Power Words, corrupted for two-thirds cost/requires a standard action (10 CP).
  • Compact metamagic theorem (6 CP).

This suite of abilities allows Lex to get more out of his limited spellcasting abilities. He’ll use spell storing in conjunction with his Foresight ranks (below) to have a useful power word prepared. Likewise, he’ll use Action Hero/Crafting together with Spell Storing to be able to produce a gemstone (his focus of choice for storing spells) with up to 10 instances of a spell for each AP spent.

He saves his Compact metamagic theorem for his actual spell slots, often preparing spells that would otherwise be beyond his casting ability. He uses these very carefully and with great purpose, since refilling his spell slots is something he can only do rarely.

Intuitive Aptitude for Magic (10 CP)

  • Adept/Concentration, Knowledge (arcana), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/skills only, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for Adept skills (4 CP).

Fruits of Lesser Experiments (14 CP)

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only versus magical effects (4 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (10,400 gp; 10 CP)
    • Shield (2,000 gp)
    • Mage armor (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Dex (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Con (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Int (1,400 gp)
    • Immortal vigor I (1,400 gp)
    • Shield of faith (1,400 gp)

Lex’s additional innate enchantments here build on his racial innate enchantments in terms of overall costs. This allows his racial immunity to XP costs for them to extend to these also; a bit cheesy, but acceptably so.

Potential for Greatness (6 CP)

Magic Items

  • Circlet of wizardry (4,880 gp). This circlet grants the wearer a +2 competence bonus to Concentration checks while worn, and allows the wearer to use detect magic at will. It possesses 3 charges that are automatically replenished each day. When casting a spell, the wearer may expend a number of charges equal to the spell level to cause the spell to remain prepared after casting. A circlet of wizardry functions only for characters able to cast arcane spells.
  • The Horn of King Sombra (relic)

The circlet of wizardry is an improved version of the circlet of mages from the Magic Item Compendium (p. 86). Lex found it on one of his earlier travels, and thinks it might have belonged to Star-Swirl the Bearded. The circlet is Lex‘s most prized possession, and he will not part with it willingly.

As for the Horn, Lex stumbled across it when he left the newly-returned Crystal Empire. He typically holds it in reserve for emergencies, as he doesn’t fully understand the nature of its powers yet.

The Horn of King Sombra (2-CP relic)

Torn from his brow when the monstrous unicorn tyrant that conquered the Crystal Empire was destroyed, this blood-red horn lacks the concentric spiral pattern of most unicorn horns. It seems to suggest malevolence in a way that defies articulation.

  • Witchcraft II, granting Elfshot, Infliction, and Shadowweave. Note that this also grants (Str+Dex+Con/3) power. (12 CP)
  • Advanced Witchcraft/The Umbral Form (6 CP)
  • Gateway pact (-6 CP). This produces anxiety in non-evil creatures nearby, as well as causes black crystals to spontaneously form near the user.
  • 3 levels of wilder progression (no caster levels), corrupted for two-thirds cost/no actual powers learned. Note that this grants no bonus power for a high casting attribute. (6 CP)

The entire relic is corrupted for two-thirds cost/blatantly utilizes dark magic, the wielder is vulnerable to spells and effects that affect evil-aligned creatures when using this relic.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 10 (d10 1st level) + 7 (3d4) + 12 (2d6 1st level) + 18 (Con bonus) = 47 hp.
  • Speed: 30 ft.
  • Alignment: Lawful Neutral.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +3 (base) +3 (Con bonus) = +6.
    • Ref: +3 (base) +2 (Dex bonus) = +5.
    • Will: +1 (base) +2 (Wis bonus) = +3.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +2 (Dex bonus) +4 (mage armor) +4 (shield) +2 (shield of faith) = 22, touch 14, flat-footed 20.
  • Attacks: +2 (BAB) +0 (Str bonus) = +2 unarmed strike (1d3 nonlethal).
  • Skills: 35 skill points (Int bonus), plus 14 skill points (Fast Learner; only for Concentration, Knowledge (arcana), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device at half cost each).
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Misc. Modifier Total
Bluff 0 -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -5
Concentration 7 +3 Con +2 competence (circlet) +12
Decipher Script 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Diplomacy 0 -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -5
Foresight 2 (4 points) +5 Int +3 competence +10
Gather Information 1 (2 points) -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -4
Governance 2 (4 points) +5 Int +3 competence, +3 Skill Focus +13
Heal 1 (2 points) +2 Wis +3
Jump 1 (2 points) +0 Str +1
Knowledge (arcana) 7 +5 Int +3 competence +15
Knowledge (geography) 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Knowledge (history) 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Knowledge (local) 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Knowledge (nobility and royalty) 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Listen 1 +2 Wis +3
Search 2 +5 Int +3 competence +10
Sense Motive 0 +2 -3 disadvantage -1
Spellcraft 7 +5 Int +3 competence, +2 synergy (Knowledge (arcana)), +2 synergy (Use Magic Device) to decipher scrolls +17
Spot 1 +2 Wis +3
Swim 1 (2 points) +0 Str +1
Use Magic Device 7 -2 Cha +2 synergy (Spellcraft) on checks related to scrolls +5

Lex’s class skills are Craft and Profession, in addition to the twelve skills on the above table that have ranks that were bought on a 1:1 basis.

Currently, Lex has no venue for using his Governance skill, though he intends to change this very soon. He usually uses his Foresight ranks in accordance with preparing his spells.

At the moment, Lex is very close to making his move to change Equestrian society. He has already discovered the long-abandoned Castle of the Two Sisters, and has raided its archives of magical knowledge extensively. He’s recently pulled back from further exploration after a near-miss with Twilight Sparkle and her friends, since he wants to keep a low profile for now (that’s his shadow that’s seen at the end of Castle Mane-ia).

As it is, once he discovers that the Tree of Harmony – exactly the sort of major magical force that he’s looking for – is just outside the castle grounds, he’ll be galvanized into gathering enough resources to start putting his plans into motion. He’ll declare the area to be an independent sovereignty under his rule. While he hopes that this will be recognized by the Equestrian Princesses, he knows it’s more likely that they’ll attempt to invade “his” lands.

Such an action, of course, would give him casus belli – at which point he can lawfully attempt to overthrow them and install himself as the ruler of Equestria, and finally start making the policy reforms he’s long dreamed of. And maybe, just maybe, once he does so…then everypony will appreciate him.

I hadn’t planned on writing any more pony-related posts after the previous entry. However, I was in the mood to write an original character, and original characters need a setting to help ground their concept. Since Equestria is a fully-formed setting already, it was convenient for making a new character from there.

Celestial Aspirations

June 16, 2014

Writing up stats for the subject of today’s post didn’t go as I expected. My goal, as I mentioned in the previous entry, was to write Eclipse d20 stats for Princess Celestia – the demigod-like ruler of Equestria in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I had assumed that she’d have a great deal of powers displayed over the course of the show that I’d need to translate into game statistics. In fact, it turned out to be the opposite.

Princess Celestia

Hoof-manicure: 200 gp. Sparkling-hair perm: 900 gp. Making everyone respect the tramp stamp on your ass: priceless.

It didn’t take long to figure out why this was. In the context of the show, Princess Celestia has a very specific role: she acts as a mentor to Twilight Sparkle (and, by proxy, to the rest of the Mane Six). Mentor characters aren’t meant to occupy the spotlight; they’re meant to set the stage for the main cast members, which is what Celestia does. The vast majority of her appearances have her delivering exposition and adventure hooks, and the remainder have her either being defeated or explaining why she can’t fight…all the better to set the stakes with.

As such, there were comparatively few abilities of hers that required translation into game mechanics. Let’s go over what powers Celestia does have and see if we can quantify them.

Spellcasting: Princess Celestia seems to be an accomplished spellcaster. In The Cutie Mark Chronicles, she stops the young Twilight’s out-of-control burst of magic, similar to how she undoes the “want it, need it” spell Twilight cast on a doll in Lesson Zero, both of which look like dispel magic.

Some other spells she casts are in Return of Harmony to keep a door sealed shut (arcane lock), in Keep Calm and Flutter On to stop some things from being moved via magic (dimensional anchor), and in A Canterlot Wedding she fires a beam of magical energy at Queen Chrysalis (searing light).

She also demonstrates that she can use the dark magic of King Sombra in The Crystal Empire, causing black crystals to erupt from the ground. That particular spell is difficult to classify, but I’d call it a lesser version of black tentacles – one that causes damage on the initial round when it takes effect (save for half), and thereafter makes the area difficult terrain; call it one level lower than the basic version, since it’s not grappling anyone. Oh, and it has the [evil] descriptor – maybe the damage type is unholy?

Either way, none of these spells are above fourth level, which nicely matches the show’s nature of having magic be prevalent but not powerful.

Ageless: Princess Celestia is well over a thousand years old, already having been the ruler of Equestria with her younger sister, Luna, when the latter attempted a coup a millenium ago. Given that the show’s head writer has tweeted that Twilight – after becoming an alicorn – will not outlive her friends, it seems that Celestia’s immortality is something specific to her and Luna, rather than to all alicorns in general.

Raising and Lowering the Sun (and the Moon): Princess Celestia is the princess of the day in Equestria, with Luna being the princess of the night. Each day Celestia raises the sun to start the day, and ends it by lowering the sun to make room for the moon and the stars. During Luna’s banishment, Celestia also takes over her job of moving the moon and the stars each night, also.

Interestingly, in Hearth’s Warming Eve, it’s mentioned that before the Equestria was founded, the unicorn tribe collectively was responsible for moving the celestial bodies. That, and Celestia’s cutie mark being the sun (as well as her nature of an alicorn), conveys how extraordinary it is that she’s able to perform this task on her own.

Prophetic Dreams: In Twilight’s Kingdom, Celestia has a dream of Tirek’s return. She doesn’t question this vision, immediately (and correctly) interpreting it as being true.

Defeating King Sombra: In The Crystal Empire, Celestia tells how she and Luna defeated King Sombra a thousand years ago, changing him into shadow and sealing him in the ice of the arctic north. That’s…somewhat problematic. For one thing, changing him into shadow doesn’t, by itself, seem to have done anything to hinder him. In fact, he seems more fearsome that way.

Worse, sealing someone away in ice for a millenium isn’t functionally different from sealing them deep underground, or in the moon, etc. It’s still essentially an imprisonment spell, which Celestia and Luna apparently used under their own power here, but Celestia needed the Elements of Harmony to seal away a corrupted Luna.

We could possibly chalk this up to Celestia and Luna achieving greater power by working together, or even positing that the Elements of Harmony were used, despite their not being mentioned in the exposition. However, I think it’s easier to just give Celestia a way to use a powerful spell on rare occasions.

Alicorn Nature: As an alicorn, Celestia has all of the abilities of the three types of ponies – the flight of pegasi, the magic of unicorns, and the strength of earth ponies. It’s also mentioned that she and the other princesses have “alicorn magic,” though this isn’t expounded upon beyond some general intimations of it being stronger than “normal” magic.

One notable exception is in Twilight’s Kingdom, where Celestia – along with Luna and Cadence – give Twilight their alicorn magic, leaving themselves drained of all mystical abilities. Twilight, by contrast, is super-powered to the point of having difficulty controlling it all (at least until her epic showdown with Tirek).

So what does all of this look like in Eclipse? My guess would be something like the following:

Princess Celestia, level 8 alicorn (ECL 9)

Available Character Points: 216 (level 8 base) + 18 (levels 1, 3 and 6 feats) + 16 (duties) + 6 (disadvantages) = 256 CP.

Celestia’s disadvantages are History (we’ve seen a lot of her old enemies making reappearances) and Unarmored. Her duties involve administrating an entire kingdom.

Ability Scores (32-point buy):

Ability Scores Base Racial Levels Items Total
Strength 12 +2 14 (+2)
Dexterity 14 14 (+2)
Constitution 14 +2 16 (+3)
Intelligence 14 +1 +2 (crown) 17 (+3)
Wisdom 12 +1 13 (+1)
Charisma 14 +2 16 (+3)

Given Celestia’s status as one of the oldest and most powerful characters in Equestria, it seemed appropriate to give her the largest point-buy for her ability scores.

Alicorn (62 CP/+1 ECL race)

  • +2 Charisma (12 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier where applicable. (11 CP; 10,200 gp).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Strength (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Constitution (1,400 gp)
    • Cloud walk (1,400 gp)
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Heavenly lever (2,000 gp).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Workhorse, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (4 CP).
  • Celerity with the Additional modifier, all set to flight, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (12 CP).
  • Immunity/needing to concentrate on spells (common/major/trivial – only for spells of level 0 or 1), specialized for half cost/only applies to innate enchantments (1 CP).
  • Immunity/verbal, somatic, and material components when casting spells (very common/major/major – only for spells of level 5 or below) (15 CP).
  • Eldritch, an alicorn’s horn glows when using innate enchantments or spellcasting, and a matching glow surrounds the target (0 CP).
  • 1d6 Mana, with the spell enhancement natural magic, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may only be used to pay for spell enhancement or other special abilities (4 CP).
  • Skill Focus (Spellcraft), specialized for double effect/only for checks to move celestial bodies (6 CP).
  • Accursed. Any damage, or other harmful effect, that befalls an alicorn’s horn (e.g. must target their horn specifically, rather than the alicorn overall) causes all innate enchantments and spells cast to immediately end. No more can be used until the effect is healed (-3 CP).
  • Valuable. Alicorns are desirable to dark forces for their purity and magic (-3 CP).

Celestia’s Skill Focus, and the last item in her Innate Enchantment, are specific to her. Other than that, the above is the racial writeup for alicorns in general.

Alicorns are essentially a mix of the racial abilities of pegasi, unicorns, and earth ponies. The notable differences are the addition of “alicorn magic” – which is their racial mana, the increased ability to use spells without verbal, somatic, or material components, and an additional disadvantage.

Celestia’s last Innate Enchantment spell, heavenly lever, is a 1st-level spell that grants a +10 competence bonus to Spellcraft checks to move celestial bodies. According to The Practical Enchanter, a spell of this level would normally grant a +5 bonus; given the limited circumstances of the check, doubling it seemed appropriate.

Fans of the show might realize that there’s a slight issue with making alicorns a +1 ECL race.

When Twilight changes her base race from unicorn to alicorn at the end of season three, that would put her a level behind her friends, since she needs to pay for the effective level in assuming a more powerful race, whereas they can level up normally. That’s a little awkward, since Twilight doesn’t seem to be any less capable than her friends after her transformation.

The answer here ties into Princess Celestia’s primary role on the show being Twilight’s mentor, as mentioned above. Specifically, she’s the justification for Twilight taking the Mentor ability, specialized for double effect/only to pay for a racial ECL modifier. That grants her +20% extra XP, used only to pay (proactively) for changing up from a +0 ECL race to a +1 ECL race. (She likely retrains this to remove the specialization afterwards, since it’s no longer needed as-is.)

Of course, given that the XP awards on the show are probably fairly small overall, it’s likely that Twilight was still at an XP deficit when the transformation actually happened. Hence the Equestria Girls movie following immediately thereafter. That’s exactly the sort of solo adventure a GM would run for a character that needs just a little more XP to get over the top.

Basic Abilities (138 CP)

  • No weapon or armor proficiencies (0 CP).
  • 8d10 Hit Dice (48 CP).
  • +6 Warcraft, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (24 CP).
  • Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +2 (36 CP).
  • 30 skill points (30 CP).

Celestia’s basic abilities showcase her background. She hasn’t had to fight many battles, but she’s fought enough to have invested in large Hit Dice and a decent BAB, though not in iterative attacks or high saving throws (most of the spells she faces involve attack rolls anyway). She’s spent a fair amount on skill points, as you tend to learn quite a bit over such a long lifespan.

Regina Magica (59 CP)

  • 11 caster levels, specialized in the ranger progression for one-half cost (33 CP).
  • 11 levels of ranger magic progression (spontaneous casting, arcane magic, studies and restrained limitations). Specialized for one-half cost/not usable in armor (11 CP).
  • Spell Flow (6 CP).
  • Spell Pool (6 CP).
  • Enthusiast, specialized for double effect/only for spells (3 CP).

I’ve mentioned before that magic is provident but not powerful in Equestria. My interpretation of that is that the most “advanced” form of magic – the kind likely taught at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns – is the spontaneous arcane variant of the ranger/paladin progression listed above. Celestia’s casting attribute is Charisma.

Since she has Spell Flow (taken at 1st level) Celestia has 22.5 spell levels that she can spend to “learn” various Spells Known (0-level spells are a half-level), though these must be on her spell list (which isn’t defined here, but as a four-level arcane progression with the “restrained” limitation, is going to be quite small). Once made, these choices cannot be changed.

As mentioned above, some of the spells she already knows (and their level on her spell list) are arcane lock (1), dimensional anchor (4), searing light (2), and “dark crystals” (3). I’ll also throw light (0.5) in there as a utility spell that every spellcasting pony is likely to know. That leaves her with 12 levels’ worth of spells she can add to her Spells Known List.

Likewise, her Spell Pool ability means that Celestia has a grand total of 14.5 spell levels that she can cast in a day. She can use these in any combination of spell levels, save that she cannot use more than four 4th-level, five 3rd-level, six 2nd-level, seven 1st-level, or eight 0-level spells.

Finally, her having Enthusiast allows her to know any particular spell, even if it’s of a higher level than she’d normally be able to have. This is usually used in conjunction with mana and/or a Dominion Point to cast a spell of extraordinary power.

Eternal Princess of Equestria (24 CP)

  • Immunity to aging (uncommon/minor/great) (6 CP).
  • Major privilege (6 CP).
  • Dominion (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills for double effect (6 CP).

Technically, Celestia and Luna both have Dominion for Equestria. That seems odd, but there’s nothing particularly counterintuitive about it; it’s not unusual to have areas ruled by multiple people simultaneously. Though at this point Celestia has a much greater store of Dominion Points than Luna does.

On an interesting note, Celestia has spent a Dominion Point on assigning at least one office; that of the Captain of her Royal Guard. Until the end of the second season of the show, this was Shining Armor, Twilight’s older brother (hence how he was able to cast such a large force field around the city).

Mystic Insight

  • Deep Sleep with Cosmic Awareness (12 CP).

This explains not only Celestia’s prophetic dreams, but also how she was able to rule over the day and night for a thousand years. Not needing that much sleep makes it easier to get a lot done.

Alicorn Magic (14 CP)

  • 3d6 additional mana, corrupted for two-thirds cost/as per her racial mana (12 CP).
  • Blessing, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for mana, causes her to lose all magical abilities while mana is donated (2 CP).

Twilight confirms in the fourth season finale that alicorn magic, while inherent, is something an alicorn learns to control (and presumably strengthen) over time. Hence, Celestia has a fairly high amount of mana. Likewise, she can bestow it on another, though doing so leaves her severely weakened.

She Who Moves the Sun

  • Skill Emphasis (x2), specialized for double-effect/only to move celestial bodies (6 CP).

Between her +16 skill bonus in Spellcraft (below), the +6 from her racial Skill Focus, the +10 from her racial Innate Enchantment, and the +8 from this ability, Celestia has a total of +40 to Spellcraft checks to move celestial bodies. Ergo, by taking 10 on the check, she can hit a DC 50, which is the result needed to be able to rearrange the heavens.

Note that this particular application of Spellcraft – which has no prerequisites besides being able to cast spells – only works in Equestria (or realms with similar cosmologies). In a “normal” fantasy world, this would be an Epic Stunt (from Skill Focus), and the DC would be much, much higher. For a good comparison, see the 23rd-level spell orbital adjustment in Eclipse.

Weapon of Last Resort

  • Martial arts, 1d4 damage with unarmed strike (3 CP).

This is to represent that Celestia can use her horn as a melee weapon. We never see her do this, save for momentarily locking horns with Queen Chrysalis in A Canterlot Wedding, but it’s not a bad idea for her to have the option anyway.

Magic Items

  • Crown of Insight. This crown grants the wearer a +2 enhancement bonus to Intelligence, as well as a +2 competence bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy, Knowledge (nobility and royalty), and Sense Motive (5,540 gp).
  • Torc of Royal Aegis. This torc combines the effects of bracers of armor +4 and a cloak of resistance +3 (25,900 gp).
  • Horseshoes of Swift Travel. The wearer of these horseshoes is under a continual personal haste spell (from The Practical Enchanter) (4,000 gp).

As a 9th-level character, Celestia has 36,000 gp (using the PC wealth-by-level table). However, like most characters from popular media, she isn’t shown to wrap herself in magical gear the way d20 characters do. Ergo, the best compromise is to say that what few items she does wear are themselves magical, providing continuous but unobtrusive effects.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 10 (1st level) + 38 (7d10) + 24 (Con. bonus) = 72 hp.
  • Speed: 30 ft., fly 30 ft. (perfect) + 30 ft. (horseshoes) = 60 ft., fly 60 ft. (perfect).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +5 (base) +3 (Con. bonus) +3 (torc) = +11.
    • Ref: +5 (base) +2 (Dex. bonus) +3 (torc) = +10.
    • Will: +2 (base) +1 (Wis. bonus) +3 (torc) = +6.
  • Armor Class = 10 (base) +2 (Dex) +4 (torc) = 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14.
  • Attacks: unarmed strike +6 (BAB) + 2 (Str) = unarmed strike +8 (1d4+2).
  • Skills: 30 skill points (30 CP) + 22 (Int. bonus) + 22 (Fast Learner) = 74 skill points.
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Misc. Modifier Total
Bluff 0 +3 Cha +2 competence +5
Concentration 5 +3 Con +8
Diplomacy 4 +3 Cha +2 synergy (Knowledge (nobility and royalty)), +2 competence +11
Gather Information 2 (4 points) +3 Cha +2 synergy (Knowledge (local)) +7
Intimidate 3 +3 Cha +6
Knowledge (arcana) 5 +3 Int +8
Knowledge (geography) 5 +3 Int +8
Knowledge (history) 5 +3 Int +8
Knowledge (local) 5 +3 Int +8
Knowledge (nobility and royalty) 5 +3 Int +2 competence +10
Knowledge (the planes) 2 +3 Int +5
Listen 2 (4 points) +1 Wis +3
Perform (sing) 4 +3 Cha +7
Search 2 (4 points) +3 Int +5
Sense Motive 4 +1 Wis +2 competence +7
Spellcraft 11 +3 Int +2 synergy (Knowledge (arcana)) +16
Spot 2 (4 points) +1 Wis +3
Survival 0 +1 Wis +2 synergy (Knowledge (geography)) to keep from getting lost or avoiding hazards or when on other planes +1

Celestia’s class skills are the twelve in the above table that have ranks which have been bought on a 1:1 basis – Concentration, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana, geography, history, local, nobility and royalty, the planes), Perform, Sense Motive, and Spellcraft. Craft and Profession are also class skills for her, though she has no ranks in either.

There’s no Pathfinder presentation for Princess Celestia, unlike in the previous article. That’s because using the Pathfinder rules in Eclipse – not just the package deal and the extra CPs, but the Pathfinder ability score point-buy values, skill system, and even PC wealth-by-level table – present just enough differences that, for a higher-level character like Celestia, she’d need to be near-totally rewritten.

Needless to say, that was a little more than I wanted to portray, so I’ve elected to show only her 3.5 game stats.

Overall, Princess Celestia is a moderately powerful character for her level. She presents a fairly mixed balance between skills and spellcasting, being capable at both while overwhelming at neither. Of course, to the citizens of Equestria she’s akin to a demigod – that’s to be expected, since the disparity in power between a 9th-level character compared to a 1st-level one is overwhelming.

Insofar as the other alicorns on the show are concerned, Luna’s build would probably look extremely similar to Celestia’s (which is to be expected, given that they perform extremely similar tasks), being maybe a level or two lower and swapping out the prophetic dreams for actual dreamwalking. Cadence would be more of a support character, having buffing and healing instead of offense and utility powers.

And Twilight…well, we’ll just have to see where the show takes her.

A Level One Rarity

June 7, 2014

Having presented the pony races of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in general, I wanted to go ahead and give Eclipse stats to some specific individuals from the show. While my initial inclination was to portray Princess Celestia – one of the most powerful characters in the series – I instead decided to showcase an average pony, as that better sets up a contrast to the alicorn princess.

Given that the Mane Six are the characters with the most presentation on the show, and are ponies from average walks of life, choosing one of them was a no-brainer. But surprisingly, several of them were unsuited for being presented as your typical, average pony in Equestria.

Rarity

Bold choice, being a fashionista in a world where no one wears clothes.

Twilight Sparkle, for instance, is indicated early on to have untapped potential greater than other ponies, foreshadowing that comes to a head at the end of the third season with her alicorn transformation. Rainbow Dash is athletic, which by itself isn’t a deal-breaker, but some fans have posited that her physical prowess is such that she could defeat Starscream – yes, that Starscream – in a fight. Pinkie Pie’s antics are over-the-top to such a degree that she seems to have narrative powers (and quite possibly some immunity to the fourth wall), which is very interesting but in no way “average.”

Given that Applejack seems to be notably strong (even for an earth pony) and that Fluttershy’s rapport with animals seems to be at least somewhat mystical in nature (to the point of being able to communicate with them verbally), that left only…

Rarity, level 1 unicorn pony

Available Character Points: 48 (level one base) + 6 (level one feat) + 2 (duties) = 56 CP.

Rarity’s duties are focused around her business, the Carousel Boutique. Considering that there have been several episodes that involve her running or promoting her shop, this seems to be appropriate.

Ability Scores (15-point buy): Str 9, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 10, Cha 13. These include her racial ability score modifiers.

The point-buy for the above ability scores uses the 3.5 rules, from the DMG p. 169. Here, all ability scores start out at 8 rather than 10, and 15 points is the “low-powered campaign” option, which seemed appropriate.

Unicorn Pony Traits

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Strength (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp (7 CP; 6,000 gp)
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Detect gemstones (1,000 gp).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Immunity/needing to concentrate on spells (common/major/trivial – only for spells of level 0 or 1), specialized for half cost/only applies to innate enchantments (1 CP).
  • Immunity/verbal, somatic, and material components when casting spells (very common/major/minor – only for spells of level 3 or below) (10 CP).
  • Eldritch, a unicorn’s horn glows when using innate enchantments or spellcasting, and a matching glow surrounds the target (0 CP).
  • Skill Focus, Craft (tailor) (6 CP).
  • Accursed. Any damage, or other harmful effect, that befalls a unicorn’s horn (e.g. must target their horn specifically, rather than the unicorn overall) causes all innate enchantments and spells cast to immediately end. No more can be used until the effect is healed (-3 CP).

Rarity’s detect gemstones ability functions as per detect magic, save that it locates gemstones only. Luckily, in Equestria, perfectly-cut gemstones are often found just a foot or two underground, or waiting inside large rocks that can be cracked open like piñatas.

Her Skill Focus being used for Craft (tailor) is, of course, representative of her cutie mark. This skill was used rather than Profession (fashion designer) because the former represents her creative ability itself, whereas the latter skill is focused on her ability to market and make a living off of her talents.

Basic Abilities (44 CP)

  • No weapon or armor proficiencies (0 CP).
  • 1d6 Hit Die at 1st level (2 CP).
  • +0 Warcraft (0 CP).
  • Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +2 (12 CP).
  • 30 skill points (30 CP).

Soul of Generosity

Since the Elements of Harmony are retired in the fourth season premiere, and since the characters in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic seem to gain experience quite slowly, it’s not unreasonable that Rarity retrained these 2 Character Points to spend elsewhere after the Elements are gone.

Upwardly Mobile

  • Contacts x3 (3 CP).

These contacts represent the celebrity and high-society connections Rarity makes over the course of the show.

Minor Spellcaster (7 CP)

  • 1 caster level, specialized for half cost/only for generic spell levels (3 CP).
  • Mana, 2d4 (5) generic spell levels option, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no form of natural magic (4 CP).
  • Spells known: light, mending, prestidigitationshear (0-level Compact version; 2 min./level duration) (0 CP; purchased with gp).

It’s off-handedly mentioned near the end of the first season that Princess Celestia has a School for Gifted Unicorns. Given that it’s for unicorns only, and that its entrance exam is a test of magic, it seems to follow that this school is for formal education in spellcasting.

There’s no indication that Rarity ever attended this school, however. As such, her spellcasting abilities don’t use a formalized progression. That’s fine for her though, as she only uses – and only needs – a few cantrips anyway.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 6 (1st level) + 0 (Con mod.) = 6 hp.
  • Speed: 30 feet.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +0 (base) +0 (Con mod.) = +0.
    • Reflex: +2 (base) +0 (Dex mod.) = +2.
    • Will: +2 (base) +0 (Wis mod.) = +2.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +0 (Dex mod.) = 10.
  • Attacks: unarmed strike +0 (BAB) -1 (Str mod.) = -1 (1d3-1 nonlethal).
  • Skill points: 30 (CP) + 0 (Int mod.) = 30 skill points.
Skills Ranks Ability Bonus Misc. Bonus Total
Appraise 3 +0 Int +3
Bluff 2 +1 Cha +3
Concentration 2 +0 Con +2
Craft (tailor) 4 +0 Int +3 Skill Focus +7
Diplomacy 2 +1 Cha +3
Knowledge (local) 3 +0 Int +3
Knowledge (nobility and royalty) 3 +0 Int +3
Perform (sing) 3 +1 Cha +4
Profession (fashion designer) 4 +0 Wis +4
Search 2 +0 Int +2
Sense Motive 2 +0 Wis +2

Rarity’s class skills are Craft and Profession, plus another twelve skills. In this case, she’s chosen nine of her class skills, with three left unspecified. I’d recommend these be basic functions like Jump, Listen, and Spot.

Unsurprisingly, Rarity makes a poor adventurer by typical d20 standards. As a 1st-level character from a relatively peaceful society, she has – as we’ve seen before – no particular reason to learn any combat abilities. Instead, she’s focused primarily on easily-learned mundane skills that are of practical use in her community. Even her use of magic is all but negligible, being limited to a few innate abilities and a couple of minor spells.

Given that, it’s little wonder that the episodes of MLP:FiM that focus on actual adventuring are so uncommon. The threats that a typical 1st-level D&D party faces would be overwhelming to ponies like Rarity, so what few enemies they face tend to be ones that can be avoided or talked down. Though when exceptions do happen, they tend to be pretty epic.

Pathfinder Rarity

Like the previous article, the statistics presented above are for 3.5 rather than Pathfinder. That’s because using Pathfinder standards pushed Rarity’s overall level of power up by a surprisingly considerable amount. This is understandable; for a low-level non-optimized character, any boost is going to seem like a large one.

To bring Rarity up to spec for Pathfinder, we’ll start by applying the Pathfinder package deal to her character. This gives her a “favored class bonus” that we’ll use for hit points, bringing her total hp at 1st-level up to 7.

It also applies a +2 bonus to her Intelligence, but rather than applying it straight, we’ll recalculate her ability scores using the (more generous) point-buy allocation in the Pathfinder Core Rules, where all ability scores start off at 10, and a “low fantasy” build gives 10 points. Using these guidelines, and the racial bonuses for unicorns, Rarity’s Pathfinder ability scores are as follows:

Ability Scores (10-point buy): Str 11, Dex 12, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 14.

That’s a not-inconsiderable amount of inflation to her attribute scores, compared to her 3.5 incarnation, which helps to highlight the degree to which Pathfinder tends to introduce power creep. This changes her derived stats as follows:

  • Hit points: 6 (1st level) +0 (Con mod.) +1 (“favored class” bonus) = 7 hp.
  • Speed: 30 feet.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +0 (base) +0 (Con mod.) = +0.
    • Reflex: +2 (base) +1 (Dex mod.) = +3.
    • Will: +2 (base) +0 (Wis mod.) = +2.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +1 (Dex mod.) = 11.
  • Attacks: unarmed strike +0 (BAB) +0 (Str mod.) = +0 (1d3 nonlethal).

This isn’t the end of the changes we need to make, however.

Rarity is a skill-based character, and Pathfinder’s skill system has some notable differences from the 3.5 version. For one thing, a character is limited to a number of ranks equal to her level, rather than level +3. That means that, if we keep the number of Pathfinder skills Rarity has relatively even with her 3.5 skills, she’s going to have a lot of leftover points.

Most of the skills listed in her 3.5 skill table have a Pathfinder equivalent – only Concentration is eliminated entirely. That leaves her with ten skills, each with only a single rank; since she gets 1 free skill rank from her Intelligence bonus, she’s now spending only 9 CP on skills.

Since she originally spent 30 CP on skills, the other 21 CP will have to be re-spent elsewhere. Given that her overall nature as a skill-focused character hasn’t changed, it’d be awkward to spend these on special powers or combat abilities, since the show makes it very clear that she has none. As such, we’ll spend these remaining Character Points on yet more skill-boosters:

Intuitive Insight (12 CP)

  • Augmented Bonus/may add Charisma bonus to Intelligence-based skills (6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus/may add Charisma bonus to Wisdom-based skills (6 CP).

Superlative Seamstress (9 CP)

  • Speed enhancement to her racial Skill Focus (Craft (tailor)) ability (6 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis, +2 bonus to Profession (fashion designer) (3 CP).

This is without even getting into the fact that, since very early on, Pathfinder has encouraged characters to take starting traits, two “half-feats” – which I interpret to mean “an additional 6 CP” – taken at character creation to help flesh out a character’s pre-adventuring background. Since traits are still (technically) an optional rule, we’ll spend those on a thematically-appropriate power that has virtually no in-character representation:

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized in skill and ability checks for one-half cost (6 CP).

Altogether, this changes her skill table to look like the following:

Skills Ranks Ability Bonus Class Bonus Misc. Bonus Total
Appraise 1 +1 Int, +2 Cha +3 +7
Bluff 1 +2 Cha +3 +6
Craft (tailor) 1 +1 Int, +2 Cha +3 +3 Skill Focus +10
Diplomacy 1 +2 Cha +3 +6
Knowledge (local) 1 +1 Int, +2 Cha +3 +7
Knowledge (nobility) 1 +1 Int, +2 Cha +3 +7
Perception 1 +0 Wis, +2 Cha +3 +6
Perform (sing) 1 +2 Cha +3 +6
Profession (fashion designer) 1 +0 Wis, +2 Cha +3 +2 Skill Emphasis +8
Sense Motive 1 +0 Wis, +2 Cha +3 +6

Between the additional abilities given above, her heightened ability scores, and Pathfinder’s mandate that all class skills automatically gain a +3 bonus, Rarity’s skills are the most stark showcase for how much strength Pathfinder gives low-level characters. Pathfinder-Rarity is in every way superior to her 3.5 counterpart!

As a note, using the standard metric of twelve class skills plus Craft and Profession, Rarity has four more class skills. I’d recommend Climb, Heal, Intimidate, and Knowledge (geography). These aren’t quite as utilitarian as I’d like, but are the least intrusive with regards to what Rarity’s good at (unlike, say, more athletic- or knowledge-focused skills).

Now that we’ve established what the everyday ponies are like, it’s time to look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Next time, we’ll look at alicorns in general and Princess Celestia in particular!

Race-ing Ponies

May 31, 2014

Continuing with last week’s theme, I’m posting more d20 stats for various aspects of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic using the point-buy rules in Eclipse: the Codex Persona. Whereas before I kept a narrow focus by writing up the mechanics for a single magical relic, this time we’ll examine something far more universal in the show’s presentation: the various pony races.

Earth Ponies (20 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Dexterity (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier. Corrupted for two-thirds cost/only provides two-thirds usual gp value (4 CP; 3,400 gp).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Strength (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Constitution (1,400 gp)
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Workhorse, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (4 CP).
  • Skill Focus (6 CP).
  • Blocked. Earth ponies are not able to take any spellcasting progressions (-3 CP).

Frienship is Magic initially presents earth ponies are the most boring of the three types of ponies. Pegasi get to fly and walk on clouds, unicorns get to use magic, and earth ponies…don’t really get anything.

The show eventually gives earth ponies some unique attributes, but does so in a rather hesitant manner. We’re told midway through season two that the tribe of earth ponies are the only ones that practice agriculture, which all ponies rely on since they’re all herbivorous. The problem is that that’s specialized knowledge, rather than a racial ability. It’s only at the end of season four that we’re told that earth ponies have inherently magical strength that allows them to work the land.

…which, when you think about it, is still kind of lame. Especially since there are plenty of earth ponies that we see in the show that don’t display any sort of exceptional strength. That suggests that this strength is notably minor, which is probably best represented by the Workhorse ability in the above build. Purely to make them a more attractive racial choice, I’ve bolstered that power with Innate Enchantments that boost Strength and Constitution as well.

That doesn’t make earth ponies quite as attractive to play as unicorns or pegasi – as those races’ greater CP expenditures demonstrate – but it does help to close the gap.

Some communiques from the show’s staff have suggested that instead of – or possibly in addition to – having greater strength than other ponies, earth ponies have a special connection to the land and its creatures.

If you want to add that ability, change the Innate Enchantment listing for earth ponies to the following:

  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier. (7 CP; 6,000 gp).
    • +3 competence bonus to Handle Animal (1,400 gp)
    • +3 competence bonus to Knowledge (nature) (1,400 gp)
    • +3 competence bonus to Profession (farmer) (1,400 gp)
    • +3 competence bonus to Survival (1,400 gp)

That increases their racial build to 23 CP – still within the 31 CP cutoff for an ECL +0 race – and makes them a bit more equitable with their fellow equines.

If you want to have the above in addition to the increased Strength and Constitution, simply add those abilities back in and increase the CP value of the Innate Enchantment to 10 (9,000 gp), giving them a total racial cost of 26 CP.

Pegasus Ponies (26 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Constitution (6 CP).
  • Celerity with the Additional modifier, all set to flight, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (12 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier. Specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only provides one-third usual gp value (2 CP; 1,700 gp).
    • Cloud walk (1,400 gp).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Skill Focus (6 CP).
  • Blocked. Pegasus ponies are not able to take any spellcasting progressions (-3 CP).

That pegasus ponies’ ability to fly is magical – as stated during the fourth season finale – makes a great deal of sense, since it neatly explains how we constantly see them flying with the adroit maneuverability of hummingbirds. The statistics given above let pegasus ponies fly at a rate of 30 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Their equally unique ability to walk on clouds was slightly more tricky. Ultimately, I decided to modify the water walk spell into a lower-level version specific to clouds. Since that’s much more limited in scope – clouds only, rather than all liquids – and has a much more limited set of useful circumstances (simply getting up to the clouds isn’t going to be possible without being able to fly in the first place), I set the spell level as being 1. The full version of the spell is below:

CLOUD WALK

School transmutation [air]; Level cleric/oracle 1, ranger 1

Components V, S, DF

Range touch

Targets one touched creature/level

Duration 1 hour/level (D)

Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

Subjects of this spell can walk upon clouds as though they were solid ground. This spell only works with regard to clouds, and not other forms of aerial obscurement such as smoke, mist, or fog. The subjects can walk, run, charge, or otherwise move across the surface of the cloud as if it were normal ground.

There is, of course, no particular reason for pegasus ponies to purchase an immunity to stacking limits with regard to their Innate Enchantments, but its worth having if only to allow for individual ponies that manage to increase their innate powers somehow.

Unicorn Ponies (30 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Strength (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp (7 CP; 6,000 gp)
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • One additional 0- or 1st-level spell.
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Immunity/needing to concentrate on spells (common/major/trivial – only for spells of level 0 or 1), specialized for half cost/only applies to innate enchantments (1 CP).
  • Immunity/verbal, somatic, and material components when casting spells (very common/major/minor – only for spells of level 3 or below) (10 CP).
  • Eldritch, a unicorn’s horn glows when using innate enchantments or spellcasting, and a matching glow surrounds the target (0 CP).
  • Skill Focus (6 CP).
  • Accursed. Any damage, or other harmful effect, that befalls a unicorn’s horn (e.g. must target their horn specifically, rather than the unicorn overall) causes all innate enchantments and spells cast to immediately end. No more can be used until the effect is healed (-3 CP).

It’s not wrong to suggest that unicorns are, to put it politely, first among equals. This is primarily due not to any particular power that they have, but rather one limitation that they lack: the inability to become spellcasters. Unicorns alone can use magic actively, rather than relying solely on innate abilities.

Speaking of which, the listing for their Innate Enchantments is not an error; greater mage hand is there twice to show that unicorns are able to manipulate two things at once. Their third Innate Enchantment is specific to each unicorn, reflecting their individual dispositions.

The greater mage hand spell is from the 3.5 Spell Compendium. It functions as per the normal mage hand spell, save for being first level, having a duration of concentration, medium range, and allows for things of up to 40 lbs. to be lifted with an effective Strength of 10, and can be moved up to 20 ft. per round.

A Few Rules of Hoof

There are a few general notes that should be mentioned with regards to the above races.

The major one is that none of these have been specialized or corrupted due to being quadrupeds that lack proper hands. That wasn’t an oversight – ponies aren’t penalized for their lack of opposable thumbs because, as they’re portrayed on the show, they can effectively work around that limitation.

Partially through using their mouths and partially through the cartoon fiat that lets their forelegs function akin to human arms at convenient times, ponies don’t seem to lack any particular ability to manipulate their environment in the same ways a human would. Ergo, they don’t get any price break.

Likewise, each race has Skill Focus, but the particular skill is unspecified. That’s on purpose, as this is the special talent that each pony discovers for themselves as they reach maturity – in other words, their cutie mark. That this shouldn’t technically happen until the pony reaches first level, and is displayed with a unique mark on each flank, is too minor to warrant mechanical extrapolation.

I also elected to keep the ponies Medium-sized, rather than Small. That wasn’t my initial plan – after all, they’re called My Little Ponies – but I made a rough determination (using some extremely pedantic reasoning) that the smallest adult ponies, such as Twilight and her friends, were four feet tall, which is the minimum height for Medium creatures. Add in that several other ponies are taller than this (e.g. Big Mac), and the decision became an easy one.

It’s worth noting that every breed of pony had Charisma as the ability score that received a +2 bonus to reflect how, on the show, ponies of all sorts have a gregarious disposition. Being outgoing, if not always friendly, is second-nature to ponies of all kinds, making Charisma a natural choice for which ability score gets a racial boost.

Finally, none of these ponies has a favored class, using the 3.5 meaning of the term. Just like humans, a pony’s favored class is whichever base class they currently have the most levels in.

Pathfinder Ponies

As the above paragraph makes clear, these races are all built to 3.5 standards. Under the Eclipse rules, this is distinct from Pathfinder only in that each race has a total ability score modifier of +0. This is deliberate, as Eclipse makes Pathfinder modifications separately via a package deal.

If you want to use these ponies in a Pathfinder game, the aforementioned package deal requires the additional +2 bonus to be mandated by race, rather than freely assigned. As such, here’s the listing for the additional ability score bonus for the various pony tribes:

  • Earth ponies: +2 Wisdom.
  • Pegasus ponies: +2 Dexterity.
  • Unicorn ponies: +2 Intelligence.

Next time, we’ll look at some particular pony personages!


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