Special K…ombat

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

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

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

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

SCORPION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human Traits

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

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

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

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

Hence, we can say that Scorpion has the following:

Netherrealm Ghost template (31 CP/+0 ECL)

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

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

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

Basic Abilities (207 CP)

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

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

Guarded Fighting (60 CP)

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

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

Bloody Spear (12 CP)

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

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

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

Hellfire Attacks (16 CP)

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

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

To Hell and Back (30 CP)

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

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

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

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

Mortal Kombatant (42 CP)

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

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

Leader of the Undead Shirai Ryu (27 CP)

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

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

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

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

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

Test Your (Mental) Might

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

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

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

Skills

Ranks

Ability Bonus

Class Bonus

Total

Acrobatics

3

+3 Dex

+3

+9

Bluff

3

+2 Cha

+3

+8

Climb

3

+4 Str

+3

+10

Intimidate

12 (6 points)

+2 Cha

+3

+17

Knowledge (history)

12 (6 points)

+2 Int

+3

+17

Knowledge (planes)

12 (6 points)

+2 Int

+3

+17

Martial Arts (hapkido)

12 (6 points)

+2 Cha

+3

+17

Martial Arts (moi fah)

12 (6 points)

+3 Dex

+3

+18

Martial Arts (mugai ryu)

12 (6 points)

+4 Str

+3

+19

Perception

12 (6 points)

+1 Wis

+3

+16

Stealth

12 (6 points)

+ 3 Dex

+3

+18

Swim

3

+4 Str

+3

+10

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

Moi Fah (Dex)

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

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

Hapkido (Con)

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

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

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

Mugai Ryu (Str)

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

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

FINISH HIM!

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

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

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

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

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13 Responses to “Special K…ombat”

  1. Chris Stevens Says:

    Your post has inspired me on two different fronts, and then I continue to get more and more intrigued by “Eclipse: The Codex Persona.” I’m practically brand new to Pathfinder (and in a PF game), and have never heard of Eclipse. I’ll be checking it out here in a minute.

    I’d like to talk to you on another subject. Can you email me?

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Upper_Krust Says:

    Great article mate! :)

    Back in the day I was a big Fighting Game afficionado. This article reminded me that I once gave my DM a book (more like a game guide) on Mortal Kombat II and he promptly turned all the villains into high-level RPG henchmen. IIRC Baraka was a Level 18 Fighter for instance. Fortunately he wasn’t Fighting Game savvy and he didn’t incorporate the Finishing Moves amongst their abilities.

    • alzrius Says:

      Thanks for the kind words, U_K!

      I presume that in true Mortal Kombat style, you guys finished off the villains? Your DM might have simply been cognizant that, unless he pulled off some wins, it was more likely that your party would be the ones busting out fatalities.

      • Upper_Krust Says:

        I remember sending in some second string (albeit twinked out) underlings (Level 21 I think the cavalier was) to deal with the situation and he decapitated one of the MKII villains with the very first attack (sword of sharpness). Can’t recall which villain it was though. :)

      • alzrius Says:

        Just so long as the GM didn’t have them get back up at full health the next round and say “Round Two. Fight!”

      • Upper_Krust Says:

        It was a flawless victory. :p

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