The Coin King

July 13, 2019

When he was recruited, Kin Kanemaru was no different than any other orphan taken in by the Kurorenge, the local assassin’s guild. He initially seemed like a poor fit, having only a slight aptitude for magic, and no real skill at social manipulation. But he was able to distinguish himself with his quick reflexes and extraordinarily fine motor control, proving to be skilled at juggling, mundane prestidigitation, and most important of all, thrown weapons.

Placed under the tutelage of several senior assassins who skilled at killing from a distance, Kin was indoctrinated into their ranks. Their profession, he was told, was a noble one, for they purged society of the wicked and corrupt. But after accompanying his mentors on several missions, Kin began to see the truth. While evil men were often their targets, they weren’t the only ones that the Kurorenge killed. Guards who were merely doing their duty in protecting targeted individuals were also ruthlessly dispatched, as were innocent bystanders who had the misfortune to witness an assassination.

Worst of all, however, was that the Kurorenge never targeted anyone without being paid for it. When he found out that not only were corrupt individuals allowed to go free due to nobody paying for their deaths, but that some of the worst actually kept the Kurorenge on retainer to make rivals and troublemakers disappear, Kin at last realized the truth. The Kurorenge themselves were complicit in society’s corruption, being more interested in money than justice.

Offended by the Kurorenge’s hypocrisy, Kin has now broken from the guild. Although he knows that they’ll send his old mentors after him, his commitment to justice is greater than his fear of them. Putting his small skill with magic to use, he plans on using the money that his old masters loved so much as an instrument of righteousness, performed under the guise of his new name: Kin Koukao, the King of Coins!

Kin Kanemaru aka Kin Koukao the Coin King, level 1 coin sniper

Available Character Points: 48 (level 1 base) + 6 (level 1 feat) +6 (“starting traits”) + 6 (human bonus feat) +10 (disadvantages) +1 (restriction) = 77 CP.

Disadvantages are Hunted (the Kurorenge’s assassins), Poor Reputation (politicians, nobles, merchants, and others with ties to the Kurorenge all know that Kin has been marked for death, and will not risk being seen as aiding him) and Recorder (the player running Kin has to make sure to keep a VERY accurate accounting of his coinage). His restriction is against using weapons other than thrown coins.

Ability Scores (20-point buy): Str 10, Dex 16 (+2 racial, +2 enhancement = 20), Con 12, Int 14, Wis 11, Cha 12.

As this point-buy allotment makes clear, Kin uses the Pathfinder Package Deal.

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).

Kin’s favored class bonus for 1st level went into buying an extra skill point. As noted above, he elected to put his racial bonus into Dexterity.

Basic Abilities (21 CP)

  • Light armor proficiency and proficiency with all simple weapons (6 CP).
  • 1d10 Hit Dice (6 CP).
  • +1 BAB, specialized for one-half cost/only for ranged attacks (3 CP).
  • Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +0 (6 CP).
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

Kin has slightly overbought on his weapon proficiencies, a legacy of his assassin training emphasizing adaptability in the face of unexpected circumstances. His Hit Dice are commensurate for a dedicated ranged attacker, however, as is his BAB. His saves are based on the Rogue progression, and he’s eschewed directly purchasing skill points in favor of more efficient methods (see below).

Coin Combatant (17 CP)

  • Innate Enchantment (all caster level 1; x2,000 gp unlimited use/use-activated unless otherwise noted) (6 CP).
    • Coin shot (2,000 gp)
    • True strike 3/day (1,200 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Dexterity (x0.7 personal-only; 1,400 gp)
  • Block/missile with the Master and Multiple upgrades, specialized for one-half cost/only with thrown coins (9 CP).
  • Equipage, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for copper coins (2 CP).

Kin’s ability to use coin shot at will is the core of his character. Thanks to his Equipage ability, he’ll be able to acquire two hundred copper coins per character level per week, enough to ensure that even at 1st level he’ll probably never run out of ammunition. Additionally, he can (potentially) shoot down incoming ranged attacks, and thrice per day can make virtually whatever shot he needs to.

Superior Coin Combatant (17 CP)

  • Skill Focus +1/Martial Arts (zenigata ryu) (2 CP).
  • 1d6 Mana (4 total), Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, all specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/no natural magic, only to pay for skill stunts (6 CP).
  • Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for skills, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not be used to re-roll a failed check (3 CP).

Kin is able to Take 20 up to three times per day on any skill check, something he makes liberal use of in conjunction with his ability to perform skill stunts with his Zenigata Ryu martial art, since his bonus is high enough to automatically achieve a result of 30. While he can make a skill stunt without using Luck, he typically only does so for lower-level stunts (DCs 10 and 15). Likewise, he can use Luck on skills other than this, and isn’t adverse to doing so if the situation calls for it (e.g. an important Stealth check).

Ranged Combat Expert (8 CP)

  • Far Shot, specialized for one-half cost/only for thrown coins (3 CP).
  • Immunity to penalties for firing into melee (common/minor/minor), specialized for one-half cost/only with thrown coins (2 CP).
  • Evasive/throwing weapons, specialized for one-half cost/only with thrown coins (3 CP).

Kin’s Far Shot means that his coin attacks are treated at touch attacks against enemies up to 40 feet away. Similarly, he has no trouble firing into melee, or even getting into it himself (something he’s not afraid of doing at this level, thanks to his high AC and his ability to make sneak attacks via his martial art skill).

Autodidactic (14 CP)

  • Change human Fast Learner from half-cost to double effect/specialized in skills, corrupted for two-thirds total cost/only for Adept skills (1 CP).
  • Adept/Martial Arts (zenigata ryu), Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth (6 CP).
  • Immunity to needing a mentor to learn a martial art skill (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws (6 CP).

Despite being self-taught, Kin is able to use his Dexterity bonus to its fullest with his martial art. His use of Luck, here, helps to deal with Fortitude and Will saves that his low bonuses would otherwise leave him dangerously vulnerable to.

Gear

  • Leather armor.
  • Thieves’ tools.
  • 5 pp, 15 gp, 30 sp, and 200 cp.

The above gear has a total value of 110 gp. On average, that’s less than what a fighter or rogue would get, but not so much that it presents any sort of significant difficulties. More importantly, he’s starting out with a rather decent selection of ammunition.

Derived Stats

  • Hit Dice: 10 (1st level) + 1 (Con bonus) = 11 hp.
  • Speed: 30 feet.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +0 (base) +1 (Con bonus) = +1.
    • Reflex: +2 (base) +5 (Dex bonus) = +7.
    • Will: +0 (base) +0 (Wis bonus) = +0.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +2 (leather armor) +5 (Dex bonus) +1 (zenigata ryu) = AC 18, touch 11, flat-footed 13.
  • Attacks: +1 (BAB) +5 (Dex Bonus) +1 (zenigata ryu) = +7 thrown coins.
  • Skills: 2 (Fast Learner; applied to four Adept skills) +2 (Int bonus) +1 (“favored class” bonus) = 5 skill points.
Skill Ranks Class Bonus Ability Modifier Miscellaneous Total
Disable Device 1 +3 +5 Dex +9
Knowledge (local) 1 +3 +2 Int +6
Martial Arts (zenigata ryu) 1 +3 +5 Dex +1 Skill Focus +10
Perception 1 +3 +0 Wis +4
Perform (juggling) 1 +3 +1 Cha +5
Sleight of Hand 1 +3 +5 Dex +9
Stealth 1 +3 +5 Dex +9

Kin’s Perform skill allows him to, when in a prosperous city, Take 10 and earn 1d10 silver pieces, supplementing his Equipage’s supply of copper pieces nicely. He also typically uses Sleight of Hand to keep several coins secreted on his person (which are so small that he gains a +4 bonus on his check to do so) instead of in his money-pouch, just as a precaution.

In addition to what’s listed above, Kin should have another half-dozen or so class skills. He also knows two additional languages besides Common thanks to his Intelligence.

Zenigata Ryu (Dex)

This esoteric martial art focuses on throwing coins with deadly precision. Patterned off of various “gun fu” styles of fighting, its practitioners tend to be self-taught more often than not. The result is that this school has been independently developed numerous times over the ages, typically with minor variations each time.

  • Requires: ability to use coin shot or similar power.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defenses 2, Strike, Synergy (Sleight of Hand).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Blinding Strike, Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack 2.
  • Occult Techniques: Focused Blow, Inner Strength, Overburden, Touch Strike.
  • Known: Attack 1, Defenses 1, Strike, Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack 1.

Thanks to his ranks in Zenigata Ryu, Kin’s coin attacks may deal lethal or nonlethal damage at will, can be used to make a grand total of up to six attacks of opportunity a round (even if only two of them can be used to block ranged attacks), and adds +1d6 damage as appropriate for sneak attacks.

Further Development

Currently, Kin is a fairly good ranged attacker, particularly at short ranges where he can hit for touch attacks and bring his sneak attack damage to bear. Between his Armor Class, ability to potentially block up to two ranged attacks against him each round, and Luck on his saving throws, Kin has fairly potent defenses as well. Even his hit points are decent for this level.

As he gains more experience, Kin will need to expand on what his coin attacks can bring to bear. Taking Empowerment, specialized in his Innate Enchantments, will be vital so that the coin shot spell will keep its damage output up. Likewise, he’ll want to take Imbuement so that his coin attacks can overcome damage reduction as per magic weapons, and add some magic properties to them. He should probably find a way to bump up his hit points, AC, and Fort and Will save values too, just to be safe.

Beyond that, some additional magic would be useful, probably along the lines of something relatively cheap that offers decent versatility. Witchcraft or Mystic Artist (for his Perform skill) would be good avenues to explore. At some point he’ll definitely want to bump up equipage so that he can start receiving more valuable coins as well.

Of course, he’ll still want to keep some copper coins around, placing them over his dead enemies’ eyes so that they can pay for their journey to the underworld.

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D&D Did You Know’s: Curses and Ravenloft’s Dark Lords

June 15, 2019

Ravenloft has always been my favorite of the official settings for D&D. Nor am I alone in this particular regard, since Ravenloft’s popularity is self-evident from a look at its product history. After the original module (and its sequel) made a landmark impact on AD&D First Edition, Second Edition saw Ravenloft receive an unprecedented three campaign setting books.

First among these was the original Realm of Terror boxed set, though it needed the Forbidden Lore expansion set to really reach its full potential. Later, they’d be effectively combined as the Ravenloft Campaign Setting boxed set (aka the red boxed set), before finally having the Domains of Dread hardback published. And of course, Ravenloft made a very fast return as a licensed setting during the days of Third Edition, first with a hardback Ravenloft Campaign Setting book for 3.0, and then the Ravenloft Player’s Handbook and Ravenloft Dungeon Master’s Guide for 3.5. Clearly, demand for Ravenloft was considerable!

But among all those campaign settings, there seems to have been a curious little rule that was only found in one of them. Specifically, a rule that it was impossible for anyone to lay curses on the domain lords of Ravenloft. But (unless I missed something) you wouldn’t find this rule if you looked in the Realm of Terror boxed set or the Domains of Dread book, or any of the Third Edition books.

Rather, it seems to be exclusive to the red Ravenloft Campaign Setting boxed set. Specifically, from page 65 of the set’s “Realm of Terror” book, which says:

Exclusivity of Curses

As a general rule, any individual–player character or nonplayer character–can suffer the effects of only one curse at a time. Otherwise, a truly evil brute–the type of person who makes for an excellent antagonist in any adventure–could quickly become so burdened with curses that he or she would be crippled. What a waste of a perfectly good villain that would be! Therefore, no curse can affect a character if he or she already suffers from one.

An important note to make at this point concerns domain lords. By definition, all of them are laboring under the most horrible curse of all: that of ruling a domain in Ravenloft. This, any curse that the players might wish to lay upon them is doomed to fail.

And there you have it. Trying to lay a curse on a domain lord, whether via a spell or as your PC’s last act of retribution when slain by them, is an act that simply can’t work. It’s a small, but possibly not-insignificant, advantage that domain lords have, and yet seems to have been overlooked everywhere outside of the red boxed set.

Now if only there were a way to lift the curse that seems to be keeping Ravenloft from being revived as its own campaign setting once again…

Official New Monsters for the Tails of Equestria RPG

June 1, 2019

I’ve spoken before about the Tails of Equestria role-playing game, which at the time of this writing has just over a dozen products released for it, along with some helpful downloads. But recently, the company making the game, River Horse, has been releasing several new monsters for it as well. But these are only available via the company’s social media presence, specifically their Twitter, Instagram, and mailing list.

Given that those won’t reach some people, and because social media of all stripes has always struck me as being impermanent by nature (more so than a blog, at lease), I’m going to repost those monsters here. Or at least, the ones that don’t already appear in a book, since the ones that do don’t need additional archiving. So without further ado, let’s see what new monsters there are in Equestria!

The kindling is an original monster, rather than being from the show itself (but don’t ask me if they’ve ever appeared in the comics or any of the other secondary media). Technically, they appear in the adventure “A Dragon’s Bounty” in the Tails of Equestria Starter Set. However, the stat block shown above doesn’t actually appear in the book, though the kindlings play a part in the adventure.

Do the bite-acuda! These little guys come straight from the show, being introduced in Non-Compete Clause, the ninth episode of the eighth season. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve ever seen them in Tails of Equestria format. Hopefully we’ll get more show conversions in the future; I’d love to see what a bufogren or an ophiotaur’s stats are like!

There were also stats posted for another creature (an original one, not from the show): the lava bug. However, that appears in Filly Sized Follies, the most recent Tails of Equestria book to date. Hopefully River Horse won’t keep recycling monster entries going forward!

But I suspect we’ll find out soon enough. So far, these creature entries have been released on a weekly schedule. With any luck, they’ll keep putting them out for a while to come.

EDIT (06/11): And the bufogren, from The End in Friend (season eight, episode seventeen) has been released!

EDIT (07/12): Another creature from the show, heretofore unseen in a Tails of Equestria product, has been released! And this time it’s a double-feature, being stats for the winterchilla and its alternate form, the winterzilla, from the Best Gift Ever special episode that aired between seasons eight and nine! (Notice that the winterzilla’s stats need some slight errata: it should have a Stamina score of 24 rather than 20, since Stamina is your total die values for your Body and Mind traits.)

Winterchilla

Winterzilla

EDIT (07/19): And now we have the ophiotaurus, the Greek-inspired creature from Frenemies (season nine, episode eight)!

In Sickness and In Health

February 3, 2019

Diseases are one of the things that tend to be ignored in fantasy world-building.

That’s not really all that surprising, of course. Most aspects of fantasy tend to focus on the role of sapient beings – be they deities, dragons, or even human(oid)s – because that speaks most closely to potential players. People, be they players or GMs, want to think about the impact that their character(s) will have on the game world, and so new worlds are built around what big men have done, rather than focusing on environmental determinism (of which the impact of diseases on the trajectory of societies is an aspect).

Even when raised, this is typically hand-waved away under the idea that the presence of magic (which most fantasy worlds tend to have) would make diseases a non-issue. Why would villages succumb to a plague when clerics can just prepare remove disease and have that be that? On its face, that does seem to be a good explanation. But in fact, it depends on the game rules in question (for example, the Pathfinder version of the remove disease spell linked previously is notably less effective than the 3.5 version of the spell). Even then, things aren’t nearly as cut-and-dried as they might otherwise be.

For those who have it, page 20 of Pathfinder #8 – Seven Days to the Grave has an interesting sidebar that touches on this for D&D 3.5. Titled “Where Are All the Healers?” it breaks down what the game rules say about city demographics and what they say about resources that can be brought to bear during an epidemic. The end result is that, in the event of a large-scale outbreak, magical healing resources will be too few to effectively combat a widespread disease. (Note that you won’t find this sidebar in the Curse of the Crimson Throne reprint of this particular Adventure Path.)

In the case of diseases, their large-scale impact on history is attributable to different peoples having evolved different degrees of resistance/immunity to particular illnesses. While things like the consequences of the Black Death are easy to take note of, other aspects of diseases on the course of history are subtler. Specifically, they played a major role in large-scale migrations, either abetting them or inhibiting them depending on the varying levels of immunity possessed by native peoples and immigrants. Just look at what happened when Europeans traveled to the Americas for a large-scale example of this. Less notable, but no less important, are instances where immigrating people were depleted or wiped out by diseases that native populations had already grown accustomed to.

So what would all of this look like if we tried to hard-code it into an RPG, such as the d20 System?

Unfortunately, that’s not very easy to do. The game rules treat characters’ ability to resist diseases as a function of a single statistic: their Fortitude save. This number is universal, not taking into account issues of an individual’s genetic ancestry giving them high resistance to some diseases and severe vulnerability to others. Rather than trying to modify the system to represent a more nuanced approach to this, we’ll simplify what we’re trying to portray.

Disease Vulnerabilities by Race

The following table (with most of its racial disease vulnerabilities randomly determined) represents a cross-indexing of the seven standard races with the eleven diseases presented in the Core Rules. Where a given intersection has “–” listed, the standard rules are used should a character of that race encounter that particular disease. In this way, the standard listings for each disease presume that someone fighting it off has an evolved resistance to it via their genetic ancestry.

In this case, the idea of “human diversity and adaptability” is played up; humans enjoy no particular vulnerabilities to any disease, having encountered all of them numerous times over in their spread across the game world. Other races, however, aren’t quite so fortunate. Each of the remaining races has some illnesses to which they’re not very resistant, due to their people only encountering them in relatively recent times. This means that those diseases are more virulent for them, and so pose a greater threat.

Disease Humans Elves Half-elves Dwarves Halflings Gnomes Half-orcs
Blinding Sickness A B
Bubonic Plague B C
Cackle Fever B A
Demon Fever A, C
Devil Chills A, B, C B A
Filth Fever B, C C
Leprosy A A, C
Mindfire B B, C
Red Ache C B B
Shakes B, C C
Slimy Doom A, C A C

Key: A = Increase DC by +4; B = Increase damage by +1 per die (e.g. filth fever now deals 1d3+1 Dex damage and 1d3+1 Con damage); C = Increase necessary number of saves to cure by +1.

The above table works not only as a simplified way of adding a new wrinkle to the presence of diseases in your game, but also contains intriguing suggestions as to what the above connotes about various races in the game world. Notice how half-elves seem to have acquired many of their human half’s resistance to diseases that are otherwise devastating to elves? By that logic, do half-orcs having so many disease vulnerabilities mean that orcs have even worse diseases ravaging them (and that’s why they’ve been pushed back in the face of human and demi-human expansion)? And why do gnomes and halflings have similar levels of vulnerability to certain diseases and not others?

Try making your own such table, and see if a focus on diseases spurs a healthy new interest in designing your campaign world!

Return of the Dragon King

November 30, 2018

Back in the days of AD&D 2nd Edition, the Dark Sun campaign setting was the campaign world that epitomized what we’d now think of as “epic-level gaming.”

Of course, if you knew where to look, you’d find plenty of epic-level material elsewhere. The Player’s Option books had rules for True Dweomers and characters of up to 30th level, after all. Not to mention how the Forgotten Realms had plenty of level 20+ wizards running around, Greyhawk had evil demigods that needed to be fought (Iuz being the most famous, but there were also such notables as Vecna or Kyuss), and if you were playing in Mystara then you might be on the road to becoming a god yourself!

Even so, Dark Sun was perhaps the only campaign that really made its epic-level characters into a fundamental part of the setting, rather than an adjunct. The Sorcerer-Kings set the tone for the game world, serving as background elements and aspects of the setting’s meta-plot. Being able to grow powerful enough to defeat them was the ultimate lure for characters that adventured in Athas, even if very few ever actually succeeded.

For those that wanted to become one, however, a different path was open.

When you don’t need no “Council of Wyrms” to rule.

The Dragon Kings book detailed the mechanics behind the process of fusing arcane magic and psionic powers to become an immortal dragon, as the Sorcerer-Kings were in the process of doing. While stat blocks for the Sorcerer-Kings themselves were printed elsewhere (such as in Beyond the Prism Pentad), this was the book that let you be like them. (Though it still flat-out denied you the ability to grant spells to templars of your own the way they could.)

Spread across ten levels, from 21st to 30th, the power of a dragon was difficult to attain, requiring numerous preparations and special circumstances. Ironically, these were so esoteric that they didn’t translate well into fiction written for the game world; in every single novel that dealt with the Sorcerer-Kings in any great detail, the discussion as to how they were progressing through their transformations disagreed with what was written in Dragon Kings. Fortunately, the powers that they gained as a result were more notable, and were far easier to put “on screen,” as it were. Having awesome natural defenses and potent physical, magical, and psionic powers tended to be the part that grabbed most readers’ and gamers’ attention anyway.

Unfortunately, Athasian dragons didn’t translate well into D&D Third Edition. Not only had the Dark Sun world been shelved (getting only a few brief articles Dragon magazine and one adventure in Dungeon), but the rules for becoming a dragon were unbalanced under the d20 System, even by the rather poor standards of epic-level games. Despite that, while an official version of an Athasian dragon progression would never be seen again (notwithstanding as an epic destiny in the D&D 4th Edition version of Dark Sun), numerous fan-sites would write up their own versions, typically as an epic-level prestige class.

In that vein, today’s post is my take on how such a write-up would look using Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

The Eldritch Dragon (10-level progression)

Available Character Points: 240 (10 character levels) +20 (restrictions) = 260 CPs.

There is, strictly speaking, no need for this “prestige class” to be taken at epic levels. As written, it could be taken virtually anytime, even starting at 1st-level! That said, most characters will want to progress in both a magic progression and a psionic progression – at the very least – before delving too deeply into what’s here.

An eldritch dragon has a restriction against wearing armor of any sort (which their metamorphosed bodies can’t really wear anyway). Their second restriction is actually a variant rule: they take a cumulative -1 penalty per level to saves against pain-based spells and effects (including spells with the [pain] descriptor in Pathfinder), to a maximum of -10. This approximates how the continuing metamorphosis is described as increasingly painful, without the rather unwieldy “animalistic period” described in Dragon Kings, which presented the transforming dragon as being in too much pain to think straight, even as further progression required them to build ziggurats and make bargains with elemental powers.

Defiling Magic

If you want to make a character that practices defiling magic – the practice of draining the local plant life to death to power your spellcasting – in Eclipse, my recommendation is as follows: defiling magic is taken as a variation of the Restrained limitation on a magic progression (Eclipse, p. 11). Rather than restricting what sort of spells you can learn, it restricts your ability to gather the necessary energy to cast your spells.

  • In lush, natural surroundings (such as jungles, prairies, forests, etc.) you have to spend a swift action in order to gather enough power to cast a spell. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity. Gathered power lasts for 1 round before dissipating.
  • In areas of restrained plant life (such as in urban areas, caverns, areas of water where the seafloor is less than 200 meters deep, etc.), you have to spend a move action (which provokes an attack of opportunity) gathering power before you can cast a spell. Gathered power lasts for 1 round before dissipating.
  • In areas of severely restrained plant life (such as deserts, arctic tundras, places of extreme devastation, etc.) you must spend a full-round action gathering enough energy to cast a spell, which provokes an attack of opportunity. Gathered power lasts for 1 round before dissipating.
  • In areas of no plant life whatsoever (such as the areas of water where the seafloor is more than 200 meters deep, outer space, the Elemental Planes, etc.) you cannot cast spells at all, unless you have an alternate power source, such as Body Fuel or Mana.

Defiling magic scars the soil where it’s used, to a radius of 10 feet per spell level (5 feet for 0-level spells), requiring generations before it can be restored to the point where it can support vegetation again (if it ever can). Naturally, those who use defiling magic find that it makes druids, fey, sapient plant creatures, and numerous other entities automatically hostile toward the them (outside of special circumstances, at the GM’s discretion).

This is a variant on the original rules about defiling in order to make the mechanics match the original idea more closely. Defiling magic was always presented as “the easy path to power” in comparison to preserving magic, which was taking enough life energy from the surrounding vegetation that you did no permanent damage to it. In this case, that’s presented as being the CPs that the user saves by having an additional limitation on their magic progression.

If you want to play a character that utilizes preserving magic instead, take this variation of the Restrained limitation, but corrupted for two-thirds benefit (that is, they only receive two-thirds of the CPs they’d otherwise save from applying it to their magic progression; you can’t usually corrupt a limitation this way, but this is an exception). Such characters are still required to spend extra actions to cast spells as outlined above, but do not kill the soil around them and do not automatically earn the hatred of numerous ecologically-minded people and creatures.

Draconic Form (90 CP)

  • 10d4 Hit Dice (0 CP).
  • Int. bonus x 10 skill points (0 CP).
  • +0 Fort, +7 Ref, +5 Will (36 CP).
  • Three levels of Growth, specialized and corrupted for reduced cost/treated as a dragon for all effects related to type (e.g. Favored Foe, arrows of slaying, etc.), worn magic items do not function unless upgraded to “slotless” items (i.e. pay double their market cost if they aren’t slotless already) or are built into the body (e.g. Innate Enchantment, Siddhisyoga, etc.) (48 CP).
  • Extra Limb/tail, specialized for one-half cost/cannot function as prehensile limb (3 CP).
  • Extra Limb/jaws, specialized for one-half cost/does not gain extra limb; only functions as a prerequisite to use a bite attack (3 CP).

A few things here deserve explanation. While the Hit Dice and skill points are part-and-parcel of gaining 10 levels, the save bonuses are here to represent that gaining ten levels should modify your saving throws appropriately. While that should, at epic levels, result in each of your saves going up by +5, the modified totals there represent the adjustments by your size: you’ll gain a +6 to your Fortitude save just from your modified Constitution score, and so there’s no need to purchase anything there. Likewise, Reflex is overbought to compensate for your Dexterity adjustment.

The full list of the changes made on account of your size (presuming that you start off as being Medium) are as follows: Strength +24, Dex -8 (treat as Dex -4 for modifying AC, initiative, Reflex saves, and ranged attack rolls), Con +12, -4 to attacks/AC, 20-foot space, 20-foot reach, -12 to Hide/Stealth, +9 natural armor bonus, and base 60-foot speed.

While it’s not portrayed as such in the source material, requiring a dragon character to upgrade body slot-based magic items in order to utilize them is thematically consistent. The character has so much raw power flowing through them now that they have no “slots” open on them anymore for typical magic items to interface with. It also helps explain why we don’t really see the Sorcerer-Kings as being draped with magic items the way most d20 characters are.

Engine of Destruction (56 CP)

  • Celerity with the Additional modifier and five instances of Improved, corrupted for increased effect/flight is based on being able to bring wings to bear, 120-foot fly speed (perfect) (33 CP).
  • Martial Arts for 2d10 damage, specialized for one-half cost/cannot utilized manufactured weapons (10 CP).
  • Persistent metamagic theorem, specialized for one-half cost and corrupted for increased effect/only to use the Sacrifice option on a single 9th-level spell slot, requires waiting 1d4 rounds between uses. May use 6th-level spell sand blast, which causes 1d10 points of damage per caster level (25d10 maximum), Reflex save for half (DC 10 + ½ Hit Dice + Con modifier), despite it being of instantaneous duration (3 CP).
  • +5 BAB, specialized for one-half cost/only for use with natural weapons, touch attacks, or ranged touch attacks, corrupted for two-thirds cost/does not contribute to iterative attacks (10 CP).

Note that their natural attacks causing 2d10 points of damage goes for their bite, tail, and two claw attacks. Moreover, this is before their size modifier is taken into account. While it’s not exactly clear how to bump up 2d10 damage dice even further, I’d recommend adding another d10 per size category, for a total of 5d10! This should help drive home just how dangerous a foe eldritch dragons are, even before they start utilizing their magical or psionic abilities!

The use of the Persistent metamagic theorem gives us the eldritch dragon’s signature breath weapon: a cone of super-heated sand. The cone is 70 feet long, and the damage is considered to be half fire damage, half slashing damage (representing abrasion). The slashing portion is subject to damage reduction, but is treated as a magic weapon (an epic weapon at caster level 21+).

Living Fortification (48 CP)

  • Augmented Bonus with the Improved and Advanced modifiers/add Strength modifier to Armor Class as natural armor (18 CP).
  • Defender/dodge bonus, specialized for double effect/may not be used while wearing armor (6 CP).
  • Damage Reduction 5, specialized for double effect/only applies against physical damage, corrupted for increased effect/does not apply against magic weapons (12 CP).
  • Improved Spell Resistance (12 CP).

In the Dragon Kings book, a 30th-level dragon has an AC of -10, whereas they start out with (in their natural state) the same AC of 10 as everyone else. That’s an improvement of +20 over ten levels. While their +9 natural armor from being Gargantuan size helps, it’s offset by taking a -4 size penalty to AC. Hence the use of Augmented Bonus and Defender here (the latter set to being a dodge bonus to help bolster their terrible touch AC). Similarly, DR 15/magic seems to be a fairly decent equivalent for “requires +2 or better weapons to hit.” Improved Spell Resistance isn’t quite as good as 80% magic resistance, but the two mechanics are dissimilar enough that it’s an acceptable translation on its own.

Magical Juggernaut (54 CP)

  • +10 caster levels, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for one arcane spellcasting class and one psionic class (40 CP).
  • Mighty Invocation, specialized for double effect and corrupted for two-thirds cost/can only be utilized with specially-prepared foci of ten obsidian orbs, causes 10d6 damage to all living creatures within 100 feet of you (Fort save for half, DC 20 + spellcasting modifier) (8 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus/add Strength score to one mental ability score for determining bonus spells/psionic power points (6 CP).

The additional caster levels, and the use of Augmented Bonus, cover a lot of the magical and psionic strength that a fully-transformed dragon has. In Dragon Kings, a dragon gains one psionic science and one psionic devotion, along with the standard PSP gain, per level. They also gain additional spell slots for each spell level they can cast (and four 10th level spell slots by 30th level). In this case, we’re utilizing the increased caster levels in conjunction with their Augmented Bonus to approximate that, since together those increase their bonus spells per level through the roof; it’s taken as a given that the same mental ability score, typically Intelligence, will be the one that affects spellcasting and psionics both. (Though this brings up the question of whether or not it’s possible to gain bonus spells for a 10th level spell slot, like the one gained by Mighty Invocation. If the GM says that they don’t, then the dragon character will need to look into purchasing it a second time, or taking an Immunity, etc. if they want to be able to cast four 10th-level spells per day.)

The more controversial aspect of what’s here, however, is likely to be the damage inflicted by casting those 10th-level slots. At first that’s likely going to look like an advantage, rather than a limitation. The salient point to remember is that it affects ALL living creatures other than the caster, without exception. So your party members, their familiars and animal companions, non-hostile NPCs, summoned creatures, etc. are all going to take the damage every time you cast a high-level spell, unless they get far away from you. (For those of them that want to try and mitigate this, treat the damage as being caused by negative energy.)

Beneficial Side Effects (12 CP)

  • Immunity/aging (common/minor/major) (6 CP).
  • Immunity/having to speak a language to be able to communicate with it (common/minor/major), specialized for one-half cost/does not allow for reading and writing; only speech (3 CP).
  • Imbuement, specialized for one-half cost/only to allow natural weapons to overcome magic-based damage reduction (3 CP).

While their agelessness was a salient feature of dragon characters, their ability to speak any language was an oft-overlooked benefit. Likewise, while it wasn’t expressly spelled out, the AD&D 2nd Edition game rules implied that a dragon could hit creatures that needed magical weapons to damage, at least to a certain degree. Hence, they have Imbuement here.

From Dragon to Dragon-King

As originally written, PC dragons could gain the power of the Sorcerer-Kings in every way except for granting spells to templars that worshiped them. Hence, that particular ability has not been written into the above progression. If you want to create a character with that ability, try the following:

  • Dominion with the Scale ability, specialized for one-half cost/only as prerequisites (6 CP).
  • Sphere of Influence, specialized and corrupted for triple effect/you do not sense events related to your portfolio, you do not pay a reduced cost for using magic related to your portfolio, your ability to grant spells does not increase when you’re on a plane that’s otherwise appropriate for doing so, and you cannot elect to merge with your sphere of influence (6 CP).

This grants you the ability to grant divine spells of up to 9th level, along with up to three domains (traditionally, these will include domains that match the non-neutral portions of your alignment), to those who worship you. Since this costs only 12 CP to achieve, you could conceivably take this as a package deal if you want to say that it was gained due to some circumstance that you weren’t aware of at the time (as it was for the original Sorcerer-Kings). Most characters will want to quickly scrounge up another 6 CP so that they can use Dominion and Scale once they decide to begin formally establishing a seat of power for their burgeoning clergy.

Conclusion

The eldritch dragon progression recreates the Athasian dragon almost perfectly. While a few figures are slightly off from the original, the sum total is so close that it’s functionally the same. The one thing it doesn’t have is the major requirements to progress through each successive level, but that’s probably for the best.

If you do want to make gaining each level of eldritch dragon into a quest in its own right, consider requiring that the dragon character take Occult Ritual (Eclipse, p. 96), and having each level require that a successful ritual be cast. Alternatively, you can say that becoming an eldritch dragon is a form of mythic progression (the ten levels make it perfect for that), requiring various epic deeds to advance. Either way will make the character be a source of adventures unto themselves.

Just remember that sleeping on a big pile of treasure is optional.

Eclipsing Illusionists

November 21, 2018

It’s rather difficult to be an illusionist under the d20 System.

While there are any number of specific ways in which that difficulty manifests, it really comes down to an issue of “idea versus implementation.” The nature of illusions is that they blur the line between what’s real and what’s not, but the rigid mechanics of the d20 System’s game engine eschew such uncertainty, and in doing so neuter the potency of illusions in the game. Every other problem stems from that.

After all, if an illusionist waves his hands and chants a series of arcane syllables, after which a chimera appears an roars at the party, well, you better hope that everyone fails their Spellcraft checks and thinks that you cast a summon monster spell. Otherwise, one player will make his check and yell, “don’t worry guys! It’s just a persistent image spell! Ignore it!” At which point the game grinds to a halt as everyone wonders if they still have to make a Will save against the illusion and if so whether or not that warning grants them a +4 bonus.

Generally speaking, the problem points with being an illusionist are as follows:

  • Spellcraft checks to identify an illusion spell as it’s being cast.
  • Detect magic and similar effects (such as arcane sight) to identify a magical aura as being of the illusion school.
  • True seeing functions as the ultimate in anti-illusion magic.
  • The aforementioned bit about “If any viewer successfully disbelieves an illusion and communicates this fact to others, each such viewer gains a saving throw with a +4 bonus.”

In order to make illusions more viable, we’ll use Eclipse: The Codex Persona to build a small package deal that handles each of those issues.

The Fantast Package Deal

A fabulist extraordinaire, the fantast knows that any illusion is someone else’s reality. With an infinite number of multiverses each containing numerous planes of infinite proportions, literally everything exists somewhere. Ergo, any illusion, no matter how outlandish, is representative of something somewhere. Unlike with shadow magic, which uses umbral quasi-matter to lend substance to illusions, a fantast allows themselves to be subconsciously inspired by the possibilities of Creation, lending their illusions a verisimilitude beyond what other spellcasters can create.

  • Deceptive Casting: Opportunist/when someone attempts to identify a spell (or power, spell-like ability, etc.) you’re using with Spellcraft, you may make a Bluff check. Corrupted for increased effect/this check may (only) be used to attempt to disguise what spell you’re using, succeeding if your Bluff check exceeds their Spellcraft result (but if their check wouldn’t be high enough to succeed at identifying your spell normally, they don’t identify your false casting either). If you succeed, the spell appears to be a different spell that you know, of your choosing. Specialized for one-half cost/if the components of the spell you’re casting do not match those of the spell you’re trying to disguise it as – including the specifics of any material or focus components – your opponent receives a +4 bonus to overcome your Bluff check (3 CP).
  • Shadows of the Akashic Library: Eldritch (0 CP).
  • Fantastically Realistic: Subtle modifier for Eldritch, specialized and corrupted for reduced cost/only for Illusion spells (2 CP).
  • More Than Meets the Eye: Immunity to divinations (common/minor/great), specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only versus true seeing, allows for an opposed caster level check to be made for the spell to function normally against yourself and effects you create (4 CP).
  • Suspension of Disbelief: Ability Focus +4/Illusion spells and effects, specialized for one-half cost/only applies against saves that would gain a +4 bonus due to being informed that the effect is an illusion (6 CP).
  • Gullible: Incompetent/-5 penalty to Sense Motive checks (-3 CP).

While their ability to disguise what spell they’re casting is a result of personal ability (and can make counterspelling notably difficult), the rest of what a fantast can do is due to their enhanced – if usually subconscious – openness to the possibilities of existence. While subtle in the extreme, it allows them to intuitively “feel” their way around shaping illusions that not only seem so believable (even when their subject is wildly fantastic) that simply being told that they’re an illusion isn’t nearly as convincing as it would be otherwise. Similarly, the sheer pinnacle of plausibility that they achieve is so great that even divinatory effects have a hard time picking up on the falseness of a fantast’s illusions. Ironically, their belief in manifest possibility means that they have a hard time detecting when other people are being less than truthful.

Hopefully, the fantast package deal will make your illusionists a little more fantastic.

D&D Did You Know’s: Third Edition Conversion Exploit

October 7, 2018

Across the spectrum of Dungeons & Dragons, over the course of many iterations and editions, there have only ever been three official conversion books.

To be sure, there have been numerous guidelines, spotlights, and overviews whenever a new version of the game nears release. From magazines to messageboards, the issue of changing things between versions of the game (and other games) is a perennially popular topic. But in terms of actual, official stand-alone products that walk you through the process of changing things from one version of the game to another, I’m only aware of three.

The most recent of these is the 5E conversion guide. It’s something that only really barely qualifies, as it’s a four-page PDF (and, insofar as I know, never had a print version) that deals more in guidelines than in hard-and-fast rules about how to convert your D&D game over to Fifth Edition. Prior to that, there was the v.3.5 Accessory Update Booklet, which did have a print run but was more concerned with – as the name says – updating specific 3.0 products to 3.5 rather than a more general guide to converting characters, items, and other game abilities.

That leaves the D&D Third Edition Conversion Manual as the sole remaining book that could be called an honest-to-goodness conversion guide. I still have my print copy, and looking back now it’s interesting at how it attempted to convert pre-Third Edition characters to what was, at that time, the latest version of the game.

Far more fun, however, is that this allows for an interesting – albeit minor – “exploit” for converted characters.

Exceptionally Unusual Strength

Normally, the highest Strength score you can start with for a Third Edition (3.0) character is 20. That is, start with an 18 (whether by an exceptionally good roll or by splurging on your point-buy), and then play a race with a +2 Strength bonus. Notably, this would mean that you won’t be playing as a human, since in Third Edition they have no racial modifiers. So presuming the DM isn’t letting you play a monstrous race out of the Monster Manual (which, in 3.0, didn’t list things like level adjustments or ability score modifiers), this pretty well limits you to being a half-orc if you stuck with the Core Rules. Otherwise, the highest Strength you could hope to start off with was an 18.

Unless you were bringing over a character from AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition.

Maybe.

You see, older versions of the game had what was called “exceptional Strength,” where – if you were a fighter or fighter subclass (in AD&D 1st Edition), or were a member of the Warrior group (in AD&D 2nd Edition) – and had an 18 Strength, you could roll a d% to further measure just how strong your character was. Someone who rolled a measly 01% would have a +1 to hit and +3 damage, for instance, whereas someone who rolled a 100% would have +3 to hit and +6 to damage!

Of course, there were numerous obstacles to getting an exceptional Strength score. In addition to being restricted to the most overtly-martial classes, you were also limited by race (and, in AD&D 1E, sex). Halfling fighters in AD&D 2nd Edition, for example, weren’t allowed to roll for exceptional Strength at all. With the way the racial guidelines in the Core Rule broke down, if you wanted to get the best Strength possible, you had to play a human (male) fighter of some sort.

So what does all of that have to do with exploiting the Conversion Manual for D&D Third Edition?

The answer is found in the Manual’s guideline for converting abilities scores (pg. 3-4):

Exceptional Score New Strength Score
18/01-18/50 19
18/51-18/75 20
18/76-18/90 21
18/91-18/99 22
18/00 23
19-20 24
21-22 25
22-23 26
24-25 27

Now, leaving aside that a Strength of 22 in the older editions could apparently be a Strength of 25 or 26 in the new one, notice what the exceptional Strength values convert over to. A character with any exceptional Strength at all is going to convert over to a Strength of at least 19. If you had that coveted 18/00 Strength before, you now had a Strength of 23!

Now, that won’t really matter much if you’re converting over a higher-level character, since Third Edition assumes inflated ability scores far more than previous versions of the game ever did. But at 1st level it’s a notable score indeed. A +6 to hit and damage right off the bat is a powerful advantage when you’re trying to survive those early adventures.

Of course, insofar as exploits go, this one is rather hard to take advantage of. Utilizing it essentially requires you to follow the AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition guidelines for generating a character and then converting them over via what’s in this book. So even if you follow the various race and class restrictions for being able to get an exceptional Strength score, you’ll still have to actually roll the score you’re hoping for, as those editions weren’t exactly enamored of point-buy generation for ability scores. But it’s still technically possible, and hey, all the books are official.

So, the next time you’re sitting down for a Third Edition game and want to play a fighter, try making an older-edition character and then converting them to 3E rather than generating them under the Third Edition rules directly.

You just might end up with something exceptional.

A Streetcar Named Sophia

April 2, 2018

One of the defining aspects of older console games was just how difficult they were. While not all of the old games were frustratingly hard to beat, many of them were. Quite a few people I know never beat games like Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Battletoads. Certainly, I never did. But there’s another game that I’d rank up as being one of the most impossible to beat: Blaster Master.

Just the story of a boy and his frog.

Combining “Metroidvania”-style platforming with top-down shooter/exploration gameplay, what made Blaster Master so freakishly difficult wasn’t its enemies, bosses, or the doubling-back required to beat the game. Rather, it was that the game had no save features or password system, requiring you to beat the game – playing it through from start to finish – in a single sitting. For an exploratory game, that made figuring out where you needed to go a very time-consuming task, particularly if you died and ran out of continues without having hand-drawn a map or memorized your progress.

Still, the game drew me back in for countless hours, and not just because I only had a few NES games at the time. The game’s two modes of play game it an added level of enjoyment, and finding the correct area for the first time brought a real sense of accomplishment. Not to mention the opening theme was notably haunting.

Although the game’s story was notably different in the original Japanese release, the American version was simple and to the (ridiculous) point. The protagonist’s frog escapes from its cage and hops into the backyard, where it hits a rather inconveniently-placed radioactive container, mutates, and falls into a hole in the earth. The hero falls down as well, hitting his head, and when he comes to (mercifully without injury) there’s no sign of his now-gigantic frog…but there is a conveniently-unattended tank, complete with a battle-suit inside. Donning it, our hero goes out to rescue his frog from the mutant-filled subterranean landscape (which doesn’t look very subterranean at all, but nevermind that).

It was the 8-bit 80’s; “story” wasn’t really a thing in video games back then.

All these features, and yet no cup holder.

Still, the tank he finds is rather cool. Named “Sophia the 3rd,” it’s got quite a few bells and whistles, though its more advanced features have to be unlocked as you play through the game. Even so, it’s a rather nifty little vehicle, able to jump, swim, drive up walls, and even fly for short periods of time. Given that the top-down areas of the game were typically shorter than the platforming required to reach them, you normally spent most of the game rolling around in Sophia.

Given that you spend most of the game driving the tank, I couldn’t help but get it in my head to write up stats for Sophia the 3rd with Eclipse: The Codex Persona. This way, you can have a sweet ride the next time your character decides to rescue a mutated frog.

Sophia the 3rd, Multi-Terrain Tank

To begin with, we’ll select a brown bear as our base creature. Since it has a CR of 4, that means that it has a base Character Point cost of 64 [the rational being that it’s 32 CP x (CR -2)], specialized for one-half cost/may not use natural melee attacks or senses (i.e. low-light vision or scent), does not have reach, loses all feats except Run. So the base cost is 32 CP, with additional costs as per below.

The above is written under the presumption that a character will want to take Sophia the 3rd as a Companion (Eclipse, p. 27). This is cribbed from Thoth’s article on the subject, and indeed we’re going to be lifting most of what’s there and modifying it as needed here.

Durable Chassis (34 CP)

  • Extreme Horsepower: +8 Strength, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/increases one size category, gaining all of the negative effects (e.g. increased penalty to attacks, AC, size-dependent skills, etc.), but the only positive effect is an increased encumbrance modifier (16 CP).
  • No AI: Int 0 (0 CP).
  • Siliconstruct: Con 0 (0 CP).
  • Reinforced Frame: Advanced Finesse/base additional hit points on Str, not Con (12 CP).
  • Armored Coating: Damage Reduction 3/- (6 CP).

The Extreme Horsepower listing allows some wiggle room for the GM, because the wording deliberately makes it ambiguous whether or not the Sophia the 3rd is actually Huge-size, or is simply reaping the negative effects as if it were. This is because the actual vehicle is quite clearly Large-size, and capable of holding only a single Medium-size creature. On the other hand, in an actual game you might want a vehicle that can carry the whole party, and a Huge-size vehicle can carry up to four Medium-size creatures.

Sweet Ride (24 CP)

  • Life Support: Presence (x5), all specialized/cannot be upgraded, the “vehicle” requires a pilot to move or use its “natural” attacks; it can neither move nor attack on its own. Moreover, it must be repaired, not healed (15 CP).
    • Presence/enclosed crew area: those aboard are protected by the equivalent of a tower shield (a minor variant on the shield spell) against attacks from the outside, although they are not considered to be “holding the shield.”
    • Presence/stable platform: those aboard suffer no penalties for “being mounted.”
    • Presence/safety holds: those aboard have places to hold on, and may more around under normal conditions without risk.
    • Presence/basic comforts: those aboard are shielded from most weather, and can expect to remain reasonably comfortable.
    • Presence/draught of air: those aboard can continue to breathe normally as long as Sophia the 3rd is in an appropriate environment and conditions outside are not too hostile (this will work as long as the outside pressure remains more or less reasonable; if it’s no longer reasonable, than the environment is now “too hostile.” This will work underwater thanks to Adaptation, see below).
  • Onboard Medibay: Healing Touch with +2 Bonus Uses, specialized for increased effect/may only be used on occupant(s), each use restores up to (Hit Dice x Strength modifier: 72) hit points (9 CP).

To be absolutely clear, the “enclosed crew area” Presence means that characters riding inside Sophia the 3rd do not have line of effect to creatures or objects outside of it, and vice versa.

Tricked Out (36 CP)

  • Enhanced Systems: Innate Enchantment (minimum caster level as appropriate; personal-only where appropriate; 14,600 gp value): Specialized for one-half cost/needs a pilot to operate its systems (8 CP).
    • Structural Augmentation: immortal vigor I (+12 + double Str. mod hp; 1,400 gp).
    • Antigravity Pulse: jump (1,400 gp).
    • Gripping Treads: spider climb (personal-only; 8,400 gp).
    • Overdrive: personal haste (2,000 gp).
    • Smart-Locking Doors: hold portal (personal-only; 1,400 gp).
  • Hydraulic Depressurization: Adaptation/aquatic climates (6 CP).
  • Weapon Systems: Shaping, Pulse of the Dragon, and Heart of the Dragon, specialized and corrupted for triple effect/only to use diamond spray, lightning bolt, magic missile, and searing light at will (18 CP).
  • Fully Mechanical: Immunity to dispelling and antimagic (common/minor/minor) (4 CP).

Given that Sophia the 3rd will be an NPC companion, there’s no need to purchase Immunity to the XP cost for having Innate Enchantments. Note also that the Immunity to dispelling and antimagic also protects its Path of the Dragon abilities. The Path of the Dragon abilities are all treated as being caster level 6, and diamond spray and lightning bolt have a save DC of 14 (10 + spell level + Wisdom modifier). Technically, the base creature’s Wisdom is 1 point too low to allow for 3rd-level spells, but since these are specialized and corrupted for triple effect, this is allowable.

Propulsion Boosters (34 CP)

  • Inertial Dampeners: Immunity to the limitations on Jump (very common/minor/trivial). This allows Sophia the 3rd to ignore the running requirement for jumps, may double its result for long jumps and quadruple its result for high jumps (4 CP).
  • Rocket Thrusters: Celerity with an Additional movement mode/flying, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/may only be used for a number of rounds equal to its Hit Dice, requires refueling after each use (6 CP).
  • Nautical Engine: Celerity (x2) with Additional movement mode/swimming (24 CP).

With regard to the fuel needed for the rocket thrusters, my off-hand recommendation is that 1 round’s worth be created via a DC 20 Craft (alchemy) check, taking 1 hour and costing 100 gp. This is fairly easily made even at lower levels. Even if stocked up on, this keeps flight at the tactical, rather than overland, level. (Of course, this is a departure from the game, where fuel is dropped randomly by defeated enemies, but there’s little that can be done there.)

Adding all this up, we have a 32 CP base creature with 128 CP worth of augmentation. That means that if you’re buying Sophia the 3rd as a Companion, you’ll need to purchase two levels of Template at 6 CP each, for a total cost of 18 CP. Not a bad price to travel around in such style!

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 27 (base creature) + 12 (immortal vigor) + 96 (Strength bonus) = 135 hp.
  • Carrying Capacity: 6,384 lbs. (light), 12,792 lbs. (medium), 19,200 lbs. (heavy).
  • Speed: 70 ft., fly 60 ft. (perfect), swim 60 ft., climb 40 ft.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +5 (base) +0 (Con) = +5.
    • Ref: +5 (base) +1 (Dex) = +6.
    • Will: +2 (base) +1 (Wis) = +3.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +1 (Dex) -2 (size) +5 (natural armor) = 14, touch 8, flat-footed 13.
  • Damage Reduction: 3/–.
  • Resistances: 3 vs. all energy types.
  • Ranged Attacks: +4 (BAB) +1 (Dex) -2 (size) = +3 ranged.
  • Feats: Run.
  • Skills:
    • Climb: 0 (base ranks) +12 (Str) +8 (climb speed bonus) = +20.
    • Fly: 0 (base ranks) +1 (Dex) +8 (fly speed bonus) +8 (perfect maneuverability) -4 (Huge size penalty) = +13 (Pathfinder only).
    • Jump: 0 (base ranks) +12 (Str) +16 (speed bonus) +10 (jump spell) = +38.
    • Swim: 0 (base ranks) +12 (Str) +8 (swim speed bonus) = +20.

Further Development

As a vehicle, Sophia the 3rd isn’t much in the way of an siege machine. Its attacks are comparatively weak, even if they have some nice variety to them and can be used indefinitely. Likewise, its armor is abysmal; its durability comes from its DR and comparatively high hit points, but even those won’t protect it against higher-level threats. Rather, Sophia’s usefulness comes in terms of its ability to take its owner almost anywhere, and to provide a relatively safe environment while doing so. The fact that it can heal a notable amount of damage, and retreat from a bad situation at impressive speeds, certainly helps.

Going forward, buying off several of the corruptions and specializations (particularly with regard to Life Support and the Rocket Thrusters) will be a priority. Some further defenses would be helpful, but buying up the attacks is likely to yield diminishing returns very quickly (though an Overrun or Trample attack to just plow through mobs of low-level foes might be useful). Sensors and communications systems might help to make the tank feel more like an all-purpose mobile base.

Of course, having a pet frog is entirely optional.

Attaining Titanic Power

January 14, 2018

Titans are the new zombies.

That’s my takeaway of the monsters from the eponymous Attack on Titan series. Having recently finished the second season of the anime, I have to admit that I’ve rarely encountered monsters that fall as deeply into the uncanny valley as the titans do. Recognizably human in form but having no cognitive abilities beyond those of animals, the titans do nothing but try to eat any humans they see, wandering aimlessly in search of new prey.

That alone would make them fearsome creatures, but in addition to the great strength their tremendous mass provides, they’re also nearly impossible to kill. Each titan can regenerate from virtually any degree of damage, restoring even lost limbs and organs in a short period of time. Only a strike to a particular area of the body, where the back of the neck meets the shoulders, is able to kill them. Naturally, this is exceptionally difficult to pull off, especially when facing a swarm of titans.

The situation is such that, at the start of the series, humanity has been reduced to a late-Renaissance civilization consisting of a single massive city-state and some satellite villages collectively ensconced behind a series of gargantuan walls. But when the outermost wall is breached, the fate of the human race is suddenly thrown into doubt. That’s when a new hero stepped up to combat the titan menace…on their own terms.

Titan Warrior Template (75 CP/+2 ECL)

Titan versus titan

Because everyone wants to suplex a kaiju.

The titan warrior is an Eclipse-based template that allows an individual to transform themselves into a humanoid of immense proportions. Manifesting bones, muscles, and organs seemingly out of nowhere, their original body remains cocooned within their titan form where the back of the neck meets the shoulders. With immense strength and prodigious vitality, a titan warrior is almost unstoppable by conventional measures.

Titan Transformation (24 CP)

  • Immunity to the inability to use Shapeshift to change into a Giant-type creature (uncommon/major/major) (6 CP).
  • Shapeshift (6 CP) with the Growth (+3 CP), Variants (+3 CP), and Attribute Modifiers (+6 CP) modifiers.

In a Pathfinder game, this Immunity to would be for Shapeshifting into Humanoid-type creatures, but would otherwise retain the same cost (particularly given this template’s specialization; see below).

Godlike Vitality (108 CP)

  • 20d0 Hit Dice (80 CP), specialized for increased effect/only gain hit points from these Hit Dice (i.e. Con bonuses) while in titan form, these count as temporary hit points that are lost first.
  • Immunity to being unable to restore lost temporary hit points (common/major/epic), specialized for half-cost, only for temporary hit points gained from assuming titan form (13 CP).
  • Grant of Aid (6 CP) with the Mighty (+3 CP) and Regenerative/regrow lost limbs (+3 CP) modifiers, corrupted for increased effect/only restores hit points at a rate of 2 per round, regeneration functions at a rate of 1d4 hours.
  • Immunity to aging (uncommon/minor/major) (3 CP).

The series places a great deal of emphasis on striking particular areas of the body in order to quickly cripple or kill enemies, most obviously in the titans having a single point of vulnerability. However, damage dealt to a titan warrior’s titan form doesn’t translate back to their real bodies. Given that the d20 System abstracts damage so heavily, a mass of temporary hit points is probably the best compromise.

The temporary hit points gained in titan form automatically renew themselves with each transformation (though Grant of Aid does not renew in terms of how much it can heal in a day). That’s quite unbalanced, but it’s true to what we see in the series, and the restrictions on how often transformations can be used (see below) helps to keep this somewhat in line.

Engine of Destruction (18 CP)

  • Bonus Attack/bite, specialized for increased effect/only available in titan form, on a confirmed critical hit against a creature at least one size category smaller, a random limb is severed (6 CP).
  • Martial Arts/two increases to damage die, specialized for double effect/only for titan form’s natural weapons and unarmed strikes (6 CP).
  • Double Damage/only versus structures and inanimate objects, specialized double effect/only when in titan form (6 CP).

The Martial Arts increases should get the natural weapons for most Large-size titans to 1d12, and Huge-sized titans to 2d10. Along with their high Strength scores and Double Damage (actually triple damage with their specialization) versus structures and inanimate objects, titan warriors are able to inflict incredible damage to their enemies, to say nothing of the local environment!

Altogether, this comes out to a full 150 CP, which is nearing a +5 ECL modifier. However, the entire template is specialized for one-half cost, bringing it down to 75 CP and well within a +2 ECL modifier, due to the following:

  1. The Hit Dice granted by this template do not count for any factors, outside of the template itself, that consider Hit Dice/level (i.e. they are only counted for the titan warrior template’s Shapeshift and Grant of Aid abilities).
  2. This template’s use of Shapeshift may only be used to emulate a single specific Giant-type creature and nothing else (most PCs will want a storm giant, but since this is a template the choice is the GM’s).
  3. Transforming requires the titan warrior to injure themselves for at least 1 point of damage (this is typically a swift action, and can be done unarmed, but not if the character is pinned, paralyzed, or otherwise sufficiently restrained).
  4. The details of the titan form’s physical appearance are set and cannot be altered.
  5. The titan form cannot speak.
  6. Each transformation can last no more than 1 hour (though multiple uses of Shapeshift can be used to extend a single transformation without changing back).
  7. Once changed back the titan warrior must wait at least 10 minutes before transforming again.
  8. Changing back is automatic if all of the titan form’s temporary hit points are lost (i.e. the character has been cut out of their titan body).
  9. Whether transformed or not the titan warrior cannot utilize any abilities, spells, magic items, etc. that allow for other forms of benign physical transformation.

Paying 25 CP allows this template to be corrupted instead of  specialized, allowing for three of the above restrictions to be bought off. These are often restrictions 5, 6, and 7.

Conclusion

Going with a storm giant, this template will grant the user the following modifiers when transformed: Huge size, +120 temporary hit points (or more, depending on the user’s natural Constitution), Str +28, Dex +4, Con +12, +12 natural armor, +20 ft. speed, 40 ft. swim speed, low-light vision, +8 to Swim checks (may take 10, may use the run action when swimming in a straight line), two slam attacks (base 2d10 damage) and one bite attack (base 2d10 damage).

Other characters with this template might have it be based on different giants (e.g. hill or stone giants), which would represent having a titan form of differing size and power. A hill giant-based titan warrior, for example, would gain: Large size, +80 temporary hit points (or more, depending on the user’s natural Constitution), Str +14, Dex -2, Con +8, +9 natural armor, +10 ft. speed, low-light vision, two slam attacks (base 1d12 damage) and one bite attack (base 1d12 damage). That’s not quite as strong as a storm giant-derived titan, but still considerably strong.

Characters with the titan warrior template bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “go big or go home.”

Eclipsing Tempest Shadow

December 11, 2017

It’s been much too long since I’ve posted an Eclipse character here. Although I wasn’t planning on making another pony-related post, this was the first individual that came to mind when I sat down to stat someone up.

With its official release over two months behind us as of this post, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my reaction to My Little Pony: The Movie. My ultimate takeaway is that, while it wasn’t a bad film, it’s largely defined by its missed opportunities. The movie goes out of its way to present a stand-alone story, one which – while it does explore new areas of the world and introduce some interesting characters – is severely flawed for how many details it overlooks in the course of doing so.

Much has been made of where in the show’s timeline the movie falls, with the favorite interpretation (largely due to its release date) being that it’s between seasons seven and eight. However, that’s purely speculative, as the season seven finale makes no mention of the movie, nor foes the film itself drop any hints as to its chronological placement. Other than the fact that Twilight has wings and refers to herself as the Princess of Friendship, there’s little here to say when its story happens.

That, however, is still enough to give rise to some rather uncomfortable observations. Discord, for example, is notable in his absence, both in terms of his lack of presence and no one ever so much as mentioning his name, even though he could have solved things with a snap of his fingers. With such a gaping plot hole, it’s little wonder that we never see Starlight Glimmer, let alone any of the other more recent allies that Twilight and her friends have made, such as Thorax and the reformed changelings or Princess Ember of the dragons.

But none of these are as egregious as the Mane Six themselves apparently forgetting some of their own abilities. Pinkie’s Pinkie Sense, for example, never goes off even once during their adventure, nor does Fluttershy ever so much as try to use The Stare on their enemies. Even these are somewhat forgivable, if for no other reason than the show is equally guilty of overlooking them at times. But Twilight never teleporting, even when she’s in a cage? That’s not something that I can easily overlook.

This isn’t to say that the movie was all bad, of course. It had some funny moments, a few good songs, and added some world-building. But the single best part was, hooves down, its villain: Tempest Shadow.

Tempest Shadow, level 5 unicorn striker

Tempest Shadow

She’s basically pony Darth Vader.

A unicorn mare whose horn was broken by an ursa minor when she was a filly, Tempest Shadow now serves the nefarious Storm King as his second-in-command. In contrast to her master’s whimsical attitude, Tempest presents a cold and austere personality, beneath which seethes a pit of bitterness about the isolation her disability has caused her. Desperate to have her horn restored, she’ll stop at nothing to be made whole again, even if it means leading an attack on her homeland.

Available Character Points: 144 (level 5 base) + 12 (levels 1 and 3 feats) + 6 (disadvantages) +8 (duties) +5 (restriction) = 175 CP.

Tempest’s disadvantages are History (the story about how she lost her horn, and with it her faith in friendship) and Compulsive (her overriding obsession with having her horn restored). Her duties – which she only assumed as of 2nd level – are her tasks as second-in-command to the Storm King. Her restriction is against using melee weapons other than unarmed strikes.

Ability Scores (28-point buy):

Ability Scores Base Racial Levels In. Ench. Total
Strength 14 -2 +2 enhancement 14 (+2)
Dexterity 16 +2 enhancement 18 (+4)
Constitution 10 +2 enhancement 12 (+1)
Intelligence 13 +1 14 (+2)
Wisdom 10 10 (+0)
Charisma 11 +2 13 (+1)

As a major antagonist in an epic film, Tempest has a large point buy for her ability scores, albeit not quite as much as Princess Celestia.

Unicorn Pony (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).
    • Electrotechnics (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).
  • 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/Tumble (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).

ELECTROTECHNICS

School transmutation; Level bard 1, sorcerer/wizard 1

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S

Range long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)

Area 30 ft. burst

Duration 1d3 rounds; see text

Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes

Electrotechnics creates a small orb of electricity that flies to a designated intersection, whereupon it immediately bursts into a sparkling display of electric fireworks. The color and pattern of the fireworks are set while casting, and can form basic images (but not complex arrangements such as maps or words). The images fade after 1 round.

These fireworks are bright enough to cause creatures within 30 feet of them to be blinded for 1d3 rounds on a failed Will save. These creatures must have line of sight to the fireworks to be affected. Spell resistance can prevent this blindness.

Having Tempest’s Skill Focus (i.e. her cutie mark) be related to the Tumble skill was a judgment call. Given that we never actually see her cutie mark in the movie – and even finding out her real name didn’t do much to suggest what her special talent was (the way so many pony names do) – it seemed best to apply it to what we see her do in the movie. Given her incredible athleticism, this seemed like the safest bet.

Basic Abilities (74 CP)

  • Light armor proficiency with the Smooth modifier (6 CP).
  • 5d8 Hit Dice (20 CP).
  • +5 Warcraft (30 CP).
  • Fort +1, Ref +4, Will +1 (18 CP).
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

As a 5th-level character with a highly combative focus, Tempest is a force beyond what your average pony could possibly hope to face. At the same time, she’s not a match for what the alicorns can do; she overcame them only because of her sudden onslaught with petrifying magic items.

It’s worth noting that the vast majority of Tempest’s resources – her ship, her minions, and most of her magic items – come from the Storm King, rather than being her own. Even Grubber, her sidekick, doesn’t really do anything to assist her (or really much of anything at all, besides make poor attempts at humor), and so doesn’t require that any Character Points be spent on her part. It’s no coincidence that we don’t see her having much of anything, save the clothes on her back, after the Storm King has been defeated. Hence, Tempest won’t have any sort of Leadership, Privilege, or related social abilities.

Aggressive Assault (18 CP)

  • Far Shot, specialized for one-half cost/only for thrown weapons (3 CP).
  • Overwhelm, specialized for increased effect/only for unarmed strikes; drives opponents back an additional 5 feet for every 5 by which the attack roll exceeded their Armor Class (6 CP).
  • Opportunist/Make an attack of opportunity whenever an attacker misses her with a melee attack, specialized for one-half cost/only with unarmed strikes (3 CP).
  • Bonus Attack/may make an extra attack when using unarmed strikes (6 CP).

Although there are plenty of other ponies that outclass her in raw strength or sheer speed, Tempest is by far the most physically combative pony we’ve seen to date.

Untouchable Aegis (33 CP)

  • Improved Defender (dodge bonus), specialized for double effect/only when unencumbered and wearing either light armor or no armor (12 CP).
  • Evasive/overwhelm (3 CP).
  • Evasive/trip (3 CP).
  • Evasive/grapple (3 CP).
  • Acrobatics (6 CP).
  • Fortune/evasion (6 CP).

Tempest’s fighting style relies on quick, acrobatic reactions. She leaps, flips, ducks, and dodges with incredible speed, never taking a hit as she moves in to attack.

Lingering Magic (34 CP)

  • Immunity to her racial disadvantage (very common/minor/trivial), specialized for double effect/only for Occult Talents and Innate Enchantments other than greater mage hand (4 CP).
  • Improved Occult Talent, specialized for increased effect/no 0- or 1st-level spells; grants two 2nd-level spells (12 CP).
  • 3d6 (12) Mana, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no form of natural magic, specialized for one-half cost/may only be used to fuel Occult Talents (6 CP).
  • Elemental Manipulation metamagic theorem with one level of Streamline, specialized for one-half cost/only to convert lethal damage to nonlethal damage (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, corrupted for two-thirds cost/requires 10 minutes of rest per use (6 CP).

Tempest’s broken horn is shown to be like downed power line, still sparking with a dangerous amount of power. She’s shown to have been able to harness this, firing powerful electrical blasts, although she can’t use other magic such as telekinesis. This serves as a supplement to her martial abilities, and cements her as a force to be reckoned with by those who cross her.

Tempest’s occult talents are for the electrical versions of the spells elemental bolt and elemental burst, found on pages 148-149 of The Practical Enchanter. Using these requires her to spend mana, and she can decide whether to deal lethal or nonlethal damage with each use.

Compensatory Prowess (16 CP)

  • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for skills (6 CP).
  • Immunity to the limitations on Jump (very common/minor/trivial) (4 CP). This allows Tempest to ignore the running requirement for jumps, may double her result for long jumps and quadruple her result for high jumps.
  • Innate Enchantment (6 CP).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Strength (1,400 gp).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Dexterity (1,400 gp).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Constitution (1,400 gp).
    • +10 competence bonus on Jump checks (1,400 gp).

In addition to being exceptionally talented, Tempest has rerouted some of her body’s natural magic so that it enhances her body in a manner somewhat similar to an earth pony.

Equipment

As a 5th-level character who, as a major villain, should have PC-level wealth, Tempest is supposed to have 9,000 gp worth of gear. However, the only gear we see her use are the shield-penetrating orbs that release petrifying gas and her armor. In the case of the orbs, those seem to be materials she has as a result of her relationship with the Storm King, rather than her own gear. That technically goes for her armor too, but given that she’s still wearing it at the end of the movie it seems likely that she’s kept it for herself.

Given that, we’ll focus on her armor here. Since it looks to be a combination of a lighter undergarment and pieces of metal, and isn’t hindering her movements, we’ll say it’s the equivalent of masterwork studded leather (175 gp). We’ll also say that it has a +1 enhancement bonus and the spell resistance (13) magic armor special quality, which collectively are worth 9,000 gp. This approximates an underutilized aspect of the film: that the Storm King’s minions seem to have magic-resistant armor (i.e. Twilight tries to blast one early on, and her attack bounces off of its shield), and even the cage used on Twilight resists her attempting to blast it open…but not the Storm King’s using the Staff of Sacanas (powered with all four alicorns’ magic) to rip it apart.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 8 (1st level) + 18 (4d8) + 5 (Con bonus) = 31 hp.
  • Speed: 30 ft.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +1 (base) +1 (Con bonus) = +2.
    • Ref: +4 (base) +4 (Dex bonus) = +8.
    • Will: +1 (base) +0 (Wis bonus) = +1.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +4 (Dex) +4 armor (+1 studded leather) +4 dodge (Defender) +1 untyped (martial art) = 23, touch 19, flat-footed 15.
  • Attacks: +5 (BAB) +4 (Dex) +1 (martial art) -2 (Bonus Attack) = +8/+8 unarmed strike (1d4+2 lethal or nonlethal).
  • Skills: 16 (Fast Learner) + 10 (Int bonus) = 26 skill points.
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Misc. Modifier Total
Balance 0 +4 Dex +4
Intimidate 3 +1 Cha +4
Jump 2 +2 Str +10 competence +14
Knowledge (local) 2 +2 Int +4
Knowledge (geography) 2 +2 Int +4
Listen 2 +0 Wis +2
Martial Art (swifthoof) 5 +4 Dex +9
Perform (sing) 2 +1 Cha +3
Search 2 +2 Int +4
Spot 2 +0 Wis +2
Survival 2 +0 Wis +2
Swim 0 +2 Str +2
Tumble 2 +4 Dex +3 Skill Focus +9

Tempest’s “class” skills are those listed above (including the two that she has no actual ranks in). In addition to English – or whatever ponies call the language we hear them speaking in the show – she should know two additional languages thanks to her Intelligence bonus. These can be assigned as needed, probably to represent her time in countries she helped the Storm King plunder.

It also makes sense to say that a pony as combative as Tempest has invested some skill points in a martial art. Although the movie never goes into any such details about her – nor do the secondary materials, insofar as I’m aware – we’ll say that it’s something she picked up to abet her combat skills.

Swifthoof (Dex)

This martial art is an offshoot of Stronghoof, the traditional earth pony school of unarmed combat. Unlike its predecessor, Swifthoof focuses on speed rather than strength, emphasizing dodging incoming attacks while building up momentum to deliver powerful hits. It’s too new to have gained any Occult Techniques, though this currently means that it’s open to virtually anypony who can find time to study its principles.

  • Requires: Quadruped body-type.
  • Basic Techniques: Defenses 4, Attack 2, Power 2, Strike, Synergy (Tumble).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Instant Stand, Mind Like Moon, Weapon Finesse.
  • Known: Defense 1, Attack 1, Strike, Combat Reflexes, Weapon Finesse.

Further Development

As a consummate light-skirmisher type, Tempest has a number of areas where she can try and improve her abilities. She’d be very well served to increase her movement rate (and AC versus attacks of opportunity), bump up her hit points for when things get rough, and definitely buy some Luck for when she’s faced with a Fort or Will save that she needs to make. Beyond that, some additional damage for her melee attacks would be good, and if she can ever get her horn repaired (and retrains that Immunity that lets her use her magic at all), she’ll want to broaden her range of available magic in case she ends up in a bad position…as her almost being sucked into a tornado helped to showcase.

Still, as she is right now, Tempest is a powerful warrior among the ponies. Hopefully we’ll see what becomes of her now that she’s rediscovered what friendship means.