Power Word: Recriminate

Yeah, it was kind of like that.

Sometimes an idea never gets off the ground, no matter how valiantly you attempt to lift it. Such is the case with my attempt to use the Eclipse point-buy d20 system in my group, which I spoke about previously. Ultimately, while some of the other players were sympathetic about it, I couldn’t rally the support of even one other person. Given the overwhelming lack of support, I’ve had to shelve all plans for using Eclipse.

It’s a pity, and I won’t say I’m not disappointed, but while it means I won’t get to put the book to good use at the table, there’s no reason I still can’t have fun with it here! You can still expect to see more Eclipse-based Pathfinder characters as the mood strikes me (though I’ll still be posting plenty of other Pathfinder material also).

Having said that, today’s character is an original one – this is the character I was originally going to play had my group given me the thumbs-up. I was originally going for an “emo” character, the sort of anti-hero type that wants to do good, even as all of his natural abilities lend themselves towards evil ends. Does the build work? Well, you be the judge…

Dirk Markson

Dirk Markson was different from other people from the moment he was born – after all, most babies are born alive.

Barely resuscitated, no one knew that when they managed to bring baby Dirk back to life, something else came through with him. However, it became clear that something was abnormal about the child fairly early on. In the first few months of his life, neighbors complained of hearing strange things and pets disappearing. When Dirk was five, he told his mother there was a “bad thing” growing in her, something that unnerved her greatly when she found out two weeks later that she was pregnant again.

Dirk, who by that point had been telling everyone about his imaginary friend, tried to tell his mother that the thing inside her was bad, no matter how often she tried to insist that it was going to be a little brother or sister. Of course, being a good son, Dirk had to take things into his own hands to save his mother…he didn’t mean for it to kill her too…

The death of Dirk’s mother was enough to convince everyone that the boy was a thing of evil, and it was only because of his “imaginary” friend – in actuality a malevolent spirit named Ilix – that he was able to escape before his own father tried to kill him. Managing to run off, Dirk managed to make his way to the capitol city, where he spent the next decade living on the streets. Had it not been for Ilix’s constant advice – teaching him to harnass the power of his mind, how to fight, and even how to channel some negative energy – Dirk would likely have come to a bad end.

Things changed for Dirk when he saw some adventurers come into town. The group were treated like rock stars; whereas Dirk was used to scorn, this group were fawned over and openly admired. Dirk immediately set his mind to becoming an adventurer, doing good deeds so that the people would respect and admire him – Ilix objected strongly, but Dirk couldn’t be swayed. He decided to join up with the next group of adventurers who would have him.

Dirk’s background here is an abbreviated version of what would have been a much more in-depth back-story had the character been given the go-ahead. Since the GM set things in a custom campaign world that – in a very Ravenloft-like manner – sometimes pulled in people from other worlds, Dirk would have come from contemporary Earth, and his tribulations would have been much more detailed. The above version should suffice for most medieval fantasy worlds.

Available Character Points: 48 CP (level one) + 6 CP (first-level feat) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 10 (three disadvantages; Healing Resistant, Irreverent, and Unlucky) = 70 CP.

Dirk’s nature as a conduit for dark forces means that the gods look askance on him; similarly, healing magic is less effective than it would normally be otherwise. His unluckiness has been around since his birth, and likely played a role in his being host to a malignant spirit…poor Dirk just can’t catch a break.

Ability Scores (20-point build): Str 11, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 17 (including +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 Dirk’s stats are built using the Pathfinder Package Deal, found at Eclipse Pathfinder – Basics and Races. I should mention that this will be true for pretty much all the Eclipse characters I’ll be posting.

Basic Purchases (26 CP).

  • d10 Hit Die (6 CP).
  • +1 Warcraft (6 CP).
  • +1 Fort save (3 CP).
  • +1 Will save (3 CP).
  • Light armor proficiency (3 CP).
  • 5 skill points (5 CP).
Skill Ranks Ability Bonus Class Bonus Total
Bluff 1 +3 Cha +3 +7
Intimidate 1 +3 Cha +3 +7
Knowledge (local) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Martial Arts (nightmare storm) 1 +3 Cha +3 +7
Perception 1 +0 Wis +3 +4
Stealth 1 +2 Dex +3 +6
Survival 1 +0 Wis +3 +4

Dirk’s basic purchases are comparatively light for a melee-oriented character. He’s skimping on weapon and armor proficiencies because he plans on fighting unarmed (see below) and is using other means – such as martial arts – to bump up his defensive abilities. He’s also elected to have his saves be more broad than strong – two +1 bonuses rather than one +2 bonus. As his first hit die is maximized, with his Constitution bonus he’ll have 11 hit points.

In regards to his Skills, Dirk has 5 ranks from CP purchases, 1 for being human, and 1 for his Intelligence bonus. As per the Pathfinder Package Deal, his class skills are Craft and Profession, as well as twelve others: Bluff, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Disguise, Intimidate, Knowledge (local), Knowledge (religion), Martial Arts, Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth, and Survival.

The Nightmare Storm martial art is taken from this post on the Emergence Campaign Weblog. Dirk was, as with all of his esoteric abilities, taught it by Ilix. With a +7 bonus to the skill, Dirk has taken Attack 1, Defense 2, and Synergy (channel checks).

Special Abilities (45 CP).

  • Martial Arts (3 CP) for 1d6 damage (+3 CP).

This is the special ability, distinct from the skill.

  • Witchcraft III (18 CP).
  • Mana/3d6 power (6 CP).
  • Two witchcraft pacts: corruption and gateway (-12 CP).
  • Advanced Witchcraft: Nightforge and The Secret Order (12 CP).

It goes without saying at this point, but Ilix is Dirk’s teacher insofar as The Secret Order goes. Thanks to his ability scores, his purchase of mana, and The Secret Order, Dirk has a total of 27 power.

  • Companion (6 CP) with the template modifier (+6 CP)/specialized for half-cost – the companion does not need to obey Dirk and actively works to corrupt him to evil. Companion is a familiar (-6 CP).

Dirk’s write-up never got so far as to include the stats for his monstrous familiar. Had it done so, Ilix would most likely have been built using the stats for a dire bat with a modified version of the spirit fetch template.

  • Negative Energy Channeling 6/day (9 CP).
  • Imbuement (unarmed combat) (6 CP).

The above math may look slightly wonky, as Dirk has spent 45 CP out of 44 remaining for special abilities. This is on purpose; 2 CP were subtracted as per the corruption witchcraft pact, which would have been folded back in as 3 CP spent by the GM. In this case, I’ve elected to add it to the negative energy channeling (which is also bought with the 6 CP Dirk receives for having a familiar) so that he can use it 3 + Cha mod times per day. The imbuement ability is bought purely as a prerequisite for using the Nightmare Storm martial art.

Overall, Dirk is a character built to have powers that have a cost to using them. He has a broad spectrum of witchcraft abilities, but using them allows through his dark patron’s power (as per the gateway witchcraft pact), and will quickly deplete him as he runs low on power. He can likewise use negative energy – and will likely develop that more as he gains levels (probably along the Hatred’s Weal advanced path) – but that has its own dangers. Overall, it’ll be tough for Dirk to avoid succumbing to the darkness as he strives to go into the light.

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5 Responses to “Power Word: Recriminate”

  1. Thoth Says:

    He does look like a nice character to me… Part of the problem may be Witchcraft and The Secret Order though. Witchcraft was partially designed to flatten the d20 power curve a bit and to provide a LOT of low-level options. Starting off with the full set of Witchcraft abilities. may well look like you’re going to be bumping aside most of the other characters – and for the first few levels it might even be true.

    Any Eclipse character with a strong theme tends towards that of course. Classed systems don’t really let you start focusing on just what you had in mind until you’re some levels along and start getting a reasonable number of feats and choices to work with.

    • alzrius Says:

      It’s funny you should mention the full suite of basic witchcraft abilities – I also thought those might be a tad too powerful for a first-level character. My justifications for them were that they were fueled by a small amount of power, there were deleterious effects for using too much power, and the gateway pact allowed some of his patron’s evil influence to leak through with each use, something Dirk would want to avoid.

      The irony here is that I initially didn’t intend to pick up all of the basic witchcraft powers so early on – Dirk was initially designed to play more strongly to negative energy channeling, with witchcraft as an afterthought. What turned things around were the pacts.

      You can take two witchcraft pacts at level one, worth 6 CP each. Even though I wanted to play down the level of power (so as to soothe the other players’ anxiety), 12 CP was too much to ignore. Unfortunately, the pact-based CPs required that they only be spent on advanced witchcraft, and that you have at least 12 CP in basic witchcraft. Given that, meeting those requirements so that I could use the pact CPs right away brought me so close that I figured I might as well take all of the basic powers.

      (It also didn’t help that, since the group didn’t let me get so far as to make up his ability scores – they were generated for this article – I wasn’t sure how much power he’d have initially; hence why I bought mana (the results for that were taken as the average for this article; they also never got so far as to be generated for actual game-play). Had that particular question mark been solved earlier on, I probably would have skipped the mana to keep his power lower, and thus his witchcraft further in check.)

      Ultimately, I suppose it’s exactly that sort of attitude that my players were worried about. Still, I don’t think it was that overpowered.

      • Thoth Says:

        Oddly enough, Witchcraft tends to produce stronger reactions than the entirely open-ended systems like Theurgy or Rune Magic. A great many people seem to find “a long list of possible applications” far more upsetting than something with no real restrictions on it.

        Thus, back in first edition days, I was once asked to write up a list of twelve world-shaping artifacts for a GM to use as background.

        He thought that they were too weak because their list of powers was relatively short.

        “Short” as in; “Philosopher’s Stone: Merges with the users mind. Provides 400 Psionic Strength Points, Recovers 40/Hour, grants immunity to mental attacks and influences, power may be spent on any desired psionic ability at an effective level of thirty”.

        It seemed like enough to me. It didn’t even require that the ability you wanted to use actually exist in the game system as of yet – only that the GM would agree that it was a possible discipline that could be developed.

        Six months later the man was dropping them into the game. Most of the other players also felt that they couldn’t be very good with descriptions that short – and let my character have the three for elves and the Philosopher’s Stone while they went looking for “better” items with longer descriptions.

        Admittedly, anecdotes prove nothing – but the belief that power lies in long lists of abilities rather than in a lack of restrictions seems to be pretty common.

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

    […] Dirk Markson, a Level One Dark Witch – and possible hero. […]

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

    […] Dirk Markson, a Level One Dark Witch – and possible hero. […]

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