A Legendary Burnout

There’s a syndrome that affects thousands of gamers every year, and yet has received little coverage even inside the gaming community: supplement burnout. I’m sad to say that lately, I’ve started to fall victim to it myself.

“I’m afraid we’ll need to amputate your Core Rulebook.”

Supplement burnout can be caused by many things, but is usually due to a combination of the cost of new books, a perceived deficiency in the time and energy needed to read and absorb them, and diminished opportunity to use newly purchased materials in the game. Simply put, when you buy an expensive book, but don’t have enough time to read it and don’t think you’ll be able to put it to practical use, it’s hard to get excited about even more books coming down the line.

For me, what tipped the scales was Paizo’s Advanced Race Guide, more specifically the chapter on point-buy race construction. Well, sort of. Let’s back up a bit.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll probably have noticed the passing references I’ve made to Distant Horizons Games’ book Eclipse: The Codex Persona. This book has long been of interest to me, as it makes character creation into a point-buy system that allows for unprecedented flexibility while still being compatible with 3.5 and Pathfinder. Eclipse – and its sister supplement The Practical Enchanter – are, to me, the epitome of the “options, not restrictions” ethos of Third Edition.

Hence why the Advanced Race Guide’s point-buy race-creation system depressed me, even though the rest of my gaming group was invigorated by it. To me, it was being celebrated for offering a limited subset of something that had long been available.

Now, this wasn’t the be-all and end-all of my supplement burnout. This had been building for a while – the endless parade of support materials, first from WotC and then Paizo (to their credit Paizo kept the supplement treadmill slow at first, but it’s been increasing with each passing year), as well as the proliferation of third-party products, had all taken their toll on me.

The difference was that now, I foresaw a means of putting an end to a lot of that burnout, at least for a while. Eclipse isn’t the answer to everything – pre-made adventures are still a favorite of mine, for example – but in terms of building PCs, NPCs, and even monsters, it pretty well does whatever I can think of (and, to give credit where credit is due, if there was something I couldn’t think of, I posted on the author’s blog – the Emergence Campaign Weblog, over on the blogroll to the right – and he was very nicely willing to tell me how to use the system to do so).

Given that, I’m trying to convince my group to let my next character be made with Eclipse. I’m encountering a bit more resistance than I expected – apparently the free-form options of a point-buy system unnerve them – but it’s something I’m really excited for.

Ergo, in order to brush up on making Eclipse characters, I’ve been trying my hand at some sample characters lately. These aren’t meant to be PCs, but rather are meant to build my familiarity with the system. Of course, since Eclipse is used to build characters, I decided (largely for my own amusement) to make stats for existing characters from various media.

Suit Up

This first sample character is, wait for it…legendary! Straight from CBS’ hit show How I Met Your Mother, this is Barney Stinson.

“First level? More like twenty-first level, am I right?”

If this seems like an odd character to start with, I admit that it is. What’s most significant here is that Barney is an undeniably first-level character, and is realistically defined, being from a sitcom set in the real world. Of course, what makes the character so much fun is that he bends the rules of what’s “realistically” possible, and so has a few more tricks up his finely-tailored suit sleeve than an ordinary person…

Available Character Points: 48 CP (level one) + 6 CP (level one feat) + 6 CP (human bonus feat) + 10 CP (three disadvantages; History, Showman, and Valuable) + 2 CP (duties to Goliath National Bank) = 72 CP.

Ability Scores (elite array): Str 10, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 17 (base score 15 +2 racial bonus).

Human Traits

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

This last bullet point is an indicator that Barney’s stats are built using the Pathfinder Package Deal, found at Eclipse Pathfinder – Basics and Races.

Basic Purchases (42 CP)

  • d12 Hit Die (8 CP).

Given that Barney survived being hit by a bus at full speed, he clearly isn’t too lacking where hit points are concerned. At the same time, he didn’t exactly shrug it off either, so he only has one hit die, albeit a large one. Since the first hit die is maximized, this plus his Con bonus gives him 14 hit points.

  • +2 to all saves (18 CP).
  • 16 skill points (16 CP).

Barney’s basic purchases illustrate why most modern characters aren’t adventurers: there’s simply no reason for them to invest significant time and expense in combat training, let alone studying how to effectively use weapons and armor. Rather, it’s far more worthwhile to learn new skills. As there is no “Pathfinder Modern,” Barney’s skills are an amalgamation of Pathfinder and d20 Modern skills, as listed below. As per the Pathfinder Package Deal, Barney treats Profession and twelve other skills as being class skills.

Skill

Ranks

Ability Bonus

Class Bonus

Other

Total

Acrobatics

1

+1 Dex

+2

Appraise

1

+0 Int, +3 Cha

+3

+7

Bluff

1

+3 Cha

+3

+3 Skill Focus

+10

Computer Use

1

+0 Int, +3 Cha

+3

+7

Diplomacy

1

+3 Cha

+3

+2 Wealth

+9

Disguise

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Gamble

1

-1 Wis

+3

+3

Knowledge (business)

1

+0 Int, +3 Cha

+3

+7

Knowledge (popular culture)

1

+0 Int, +3 Cha

+3

+7

Linguistics*

1

+0 Int, +3 Cha

+3

+7

Perform (art)

1

+3 Cha

+4

Perform (dance)

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Perform (keyboards)

1

+3 Cha

+4

Perform (sing)

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Profession (executive)

1

-1 Wis

+3

+2 Wealth

+5

Sense Motive

1

-1 Wis

+0

Sleight of Hand

1

+1 Dex

+3

+5

Swim

1

+0 Str

+1

*we’ll bend the rules here a little, and grant Barney extra languages based on his ranks and class bonus, rather than ranks alone. Hence, in addition to his native English, Barney can speak Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Special Abilities (30 CP)

  • Skill Focus: Bluff (6 CP)
  • Wealth Level Template: Affluent (6 CP)

Okay, this one is actually being cribbed from the CP costs for Wealth Level Templates (found in The Practical Enchanter) over on Twilight Isles World Laws and Character Creation. In this case, Barney won’t have access to magic items, obviously, but we’ll say that it does provide access to masterwork items that aren’t under a military-grade restriction. We’ll also bend the rules a bit again and say that the clause about “provides an extra skill point when you gain a level while possessing this template” also counts at 1st level.

  • Augmented Bonus/Add Charisma modifier to Int-based skills (6 CP).
  • Mana with the Reality Editing and Unskilled Magic options (12 CP).

Barney has 4 points of personal mana. Using Reality Editing is how he is often able to perform some of his more “coincidental” stunts. The Unskilled Magic option is how Barney is able to accomplish the ones that would normally be completely impossible, like remaining underwater for twelve minutes without difficulty, win the New York City Marathon without any training, or have brief telepathic conversations with his friends (note that we’re waving the rule that in order to cast a spell, your caster level – which is his Hit Dice when using Unskilled Magic - must be [(spell level x 2) -1]). Of course, the spells he uses to do that are fairly specific, as follows:

Apnea; School transmutation; Level druid 1, sorcerer/wizard 1, ranger 1; Casting Time 1 standard action; Components V, S, M (a small inflated balloon); Range touch; Target living creature touched; Duration special; Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless).

Apnea allows you to hold your breath for 1 minute per point of Constitution, after which time the spell expires and you become subject to the normal rules for holding your breath. If you cease holding your breath prematurely, the spell ends.

Stud’s stamina; School transmutation; Level sorcerer/wizard 2, druid 2; Casting Time 1 standard action; Components V, S; Range touch; Target living creature touched; Duration 1 hour per level; Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless).

Stud’s stamina grants a +10 bonus to Constitution checks. Note that this does not apply to Constitution-based skills.

Telepathic conversation; School divination; Level sorcerer/wizard 2; Range 30 ft.; Target you plus one willing creature; Duration 1 minute (D).

Telepathic conversation functions like telepathic bond, except as listed above.

Now, if you’ve never used Eclipse before, the above likely looks confusing, if not outright off-putting. As such, I’m going to “translate” the above into a typical Pathfinder stat block. A few things of note – I’ve listed Barney’s class as “Eclipse hero.” Similarly, I’ve removed his alignment listing (as those are always controversial when trying to assign them to an existing character) and replaced it with d20 Modern-style allegiances.

Barney Stinson CR 1/2

XP 200

Male human eclipse hero 1

Medium humanoid (human)

Allegiances his friends; Goliath National Bank

Init +1; Senses Perception -1


DEFENSE


AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)

hp 14 (1d12+2)

Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +1


OFFENSE


Speed 30 ft.


STATISTICS


Str 10, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 17

Base Atk +0; CMB +0; CMD 11

Feats Skill Focus (Bluff)

Skills Acrobatics +2, Appraise +7, Bluff +10, Computer Use +7, Diplomacy +9, Disguise +7, Gamble +3, Knowledge (business) +7, Knowledge (popular culture) +7, Linguistics +7, Perform (art) +4, Perform (dance) +7, Perform (keyboards) +4, Perform (sing) +7, Profession (executive) +5, Sense Motive +0, Sleight of Hand +5, Swim +1

Languages English, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian

SQ augmented bonus, mana (4 points, reality editing, unskilled magic), wealth template: affluent

This is the first of several such characters I’ll be portraying with Eclipse in the near future. My hope is to turn more people on to this vastly under-appreciated book. So until next time, stay awesome!

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9 Responses to “A Legendary Burnout”

  1. Domino Writing Says:

    I always like seeing “famous” characters translated into RPG terms… keep it going!

    • alzrius Says:

      Oh, I plan too. There’s quite a lot of possible sources of inspiration to draw on. It’s just a question of who to stat out next…

  2. Thoth Says:

    While I’m not familiar with the character, that looks like a nice conversion for a semi-realistic modern type there. I too will be looking forward to seeing some more; it’s always interesting to see what other people do with the system.

    Sadly, supplement burnout is pretty much inevitable in any Role-Playing Game supported by a large company. To make money, they have to sell more products – and that has a long string of inevitable consequences, including power-creep, the supplement treadmill, supplement burnout, and the eventual launching of a new edition in an attempt to reset the death spiral of ever-decreasing sales figures. Adventures and setting material for older games is – inevitably – selling to a niche market; the people who are playing that particular game, aren’t making their own material, and who have a group of characters in mind that are reasonably compatible with the proposed adventure.

    Eclipse really was an attempt to put a stake through the heart of most of that – but that also meant that there would never be many supplements for it, and thus there would never all that much profit, or advertising budget, or interest from any major RPG publisher (although it would have been nice if there’d been a bit more money in it…).

    If anyone’s really interested in further discussion on that particular topic, there are some over here. http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/eclipse-compiled-umbra-and-penumbra/ – but, if not, I quite understand.

    • alzrius Says:

      Sadly, I’ve been unable to bring my group around. Despite my repeatedly talking to them about “player restraint” and “cooperation with the GM” as balancing agents, I haven’t been able to convince anyone to let me try Eclipse.

      To be fair, some of that may be due to my having been so third-party product-happy in the past. But still, it’s irking.

      • Thoth Says:

        It can be tricky. While a lot of groups are willing to allow all kinds of exotic options on a “this is experimental and WILL be revised in play if it doesn’t work out” basis, Eclipse seems to kick up a lot of extra resistance. I suspect that it’s a combination of the sheer number of options that allowing Eclipse opens up and the underlying implication that “All that time and money you invested in that enormous pile of crunchy supplements? Most of it was a waste. Time to start over!”.

        Not surprising that people don’t like that – and I can’t deny that there’s a certain amount of truth to it. I just think that most of those supplements are still great sources for ideas and that you’ll save a lot more time later with only one book to go through.

        What I’ve found seems to work reasonably well (outside of being the GM of course) is to use Eclipse to design a class progression you want (or even a few of them), and see if they’re willing to let those in. That way you don’t have to say “Classless” and “Point Buy” until much later on.

        If that fails… Well, a friend of mine is running a selection of Eclipse-based games over on RPoL.net under the name “drew0500″, so it might be possible for a few characters to find a home there.

  3. whyorick Says:

    I’ve suffered from this over my time with D&D and Pathfinder.
    Starting as a DM really burnt me out after I got through with the Core Rulebook, and moving on to the Advanced Players Guide. My players immediately wanted to play Advanced classes, when I had yet to read and understand how they work. Thats when I reached burnout.
    On the subject of the Race Guide. I actually enjoyed the Race Builder it has in the back. I had a race I enjoyed in the Eberron setting that was not in the pathfinder setting and I easily made them without going over 10RP.
    I will have to check out the Eclipse version you pointed out, it seems to run on a different system altogether.
    Otherwise good topic!

    • alzrius Says:

      Eclipse definitely runs on the d20 system, it just goes about it a different way in determining powers – the end result is essentially the same.

      I was discussing supplement burnout with my friends the other night, and one of them insightfully pointed out that, since my issue was one of learning and integrating new material with all of the material I’d already internalized, it was more a case of “overload” than “burnout,” per se. It was an interesting way of putting it, and seems like a more correct semantic distinction.

  4. Eclipse – Sample Races, Templates, and Characters | Emergence Campaign Weblog Says:

    […] Barney Stinson (Scroll Down), a Level One Sitcom Inhabitant – from How I Met Your Mother. […]

  5. Eclipse Builds by Alzrius | Emergence Campaign Weblog Says:

    […] Barney Stinson (Scroll Down), a Level One Sitcom Inhabitant – from How I Met Your Mother. […]

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