Archive for October, 2012

Civil Warriors

October 28, 2012

Is it just me, or is Abraham Lincoln enjoying something of a popularity boom?

Okay, obviously Lincoln isn’t the sort of person who’s going to be forgotten anytime soon, but all of a sudden he seems to have exploded into the cultural consciousness. From the book-turned-movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to the Steven Spielberg film Lincoln to his appearance in the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, he’s suddenly everywhere.

This is interesting because it represents something about the cultural zeitgeist we’re living through. Unlike even a few years ago, we’re living in an age where people are lionized or demonized to an exceptional degree. The rapid proliferation of mass media across cable television and (to an even greater degree) the internet has given such omnipresence to famous people that they’ve expanded to the point of becoming icons. These icons have then become points of mass consumption, easily transcending issues of fiction and nonfiction until they’re everywhere.

Needless to say, this can be a disorienting and even frightening process, as these figures are reinterpreted and re-imagined to the point where it’s easy for people to disagree vehemently on what the “correct” view of them is. In essence, such figures become all things, with people choosing which version of them to adopt.

This is nothing new, of course; while the media by which it happens are different, this has always been how mythologies have been invented.

It’s in that spirit that I present this Eclipse build for Abraham Lincoln. This isn’t meant to represent any particular version of Honest Abe (though it admittedly draws a lot from his presentation as a vampire hunter), but rather functions as something of a composite – this is Lincoln, the Civil Warrior of the United States of America.

UP UP AND AWAAAAAY!

Available Character Points: 312 (level twelve base) + 24 (Duties) + 12 (Restrictions) + 36 (levels one, three, five, seven, nine, and eleven feats) + 6 (human bonus feat) = 390 CP.

Abe’s duties are to always act in accordance with what’s most beneficial for the United States of America and its people; he’s something of a national paladin in that regard. His restrictions are to refrain from using spellcasting or psionics – such mystical powers run counter to the ideal of the hardworking American who pulls themselves up by their bootstraps.

Ability Scores (25-point buy): Str 14, Dex 15, Con 18, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 12. These include Abe’s +2 human bonus (added to Constitution), and three instances of Improved Self-Development for his being 12th-level, added once to Constitution and twice to Strength.

Human Traits

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

Basic Purchases (270 CP)

  • 1d20 starting Hit Die, and 11d12 additional Hit Dice (104 CP).
  • Light Armor Proficiency (3 CP).
  • All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP).
  • +12 Warcraft (72 CP).
  • +8 Fortitude (24 CP).
  • +8 Reflex (24 CP).
  • +4 Will (12 CP).
  • 22 skill points (22 CP).
Skills Ranks Ability Bonus Class Bonus Total
Craft (woodworking) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Diplomacy 6 +1 Cha +3 +10
Intimidate 4 +1 Cha +3 +8
Knowledge (geography) 2 +1 Int +3 +6
Knowledge (history) 2 +1 Int +3 +6
Knowledge (local) 2 +1 Int +3 +6
Knowledge (religion) 2 +1 Int +3 +6
Martial Arts (heavy lumberjack) 12 +4 Con +3 +19
Perception 5 +2 Wis +3 +10
Perform (oratory) 2 +1 Cha +3 +6
Perform (sing) 2 +1 Cha +3 +6
Profession (politician) 2 +2 Wis +3 +7
Stealth 2 +2 Dex +3 +7
Survival 2 +2 Wis +3 +7

Lincoln receives 12 skill points for his racial Fast Learner over twelve levels, and another 12 skill points for his +1 Int bonus at each level, which together with his purchasing 22 skill points, give him a total of 46 skill points. Since Lincoln has Craft, Profession, and twelve other skills with ranks put in them, they all count as class skills, as per the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Lincoln’s total bonus in his Heavy Lumberjack martial art grants him ten martial arts techniques. Abe has taken Attack 1 and Power 2 basic techniques, Combat Reflexes, Improved Sunder, and Whirlwind Attack advanced/master techniques, and all of the listed occult techniques.

Heavy Lumberjack (Con)

This aggressive style concentrates on using an axe to deal massive amounts of damage to enemies, relentlessly chopping the opposition into pieces. While it does teach a rudimentary defense, it’s primarily focused on absorbing blows while continuing to deal egregious damage until all attackers have been hacked to bits.

  • Requires: Weapon Focus/Battleaxe or greataxe, or equivalent point buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defenses 1, Power 2, and Toughness 4.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Breaking, Combat Reflexes, Improved Sunder, and Whirlwind Attack.
  • Occult Techniques: Focused Blow, Inner Strength (x2), Iron Skin.

Special Abilities (120 CP)

  • Action Hero with the Stunts and Influence option (12 CP).
  • Augment Attack (3 CP). Lincoln gains a +1 bonus to hit with a battleaxe.
  • Berserker with the Odinpower and Enduring modifiers/corrupted for two-thirds cost – Lincoln may only use these abilities in an encounter that includes at least one of his favored foes as an enemy (8 CP). Five times per day Lincoln may gain the following modifiers for 10 rounds: +6 Str, +6 Con, +3 Fort, -2 Wis; he is not fatigued afterwards.
  • Defender/corrupted for two-thirds cost – only while wearing light armor or no armor/ +2 dodge bonus (4 CP).
  • Favored Foe (6 CP). Lincoln’s favored foes consist of the following: Undead/specialized in vampires for double effect – Lincoln receives a +8 to damage and on Knowledge (religion), Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks against vampires. Humanoids (human)/specialized in lycanthropes for double effect – Lincoln receives a +8 to damage and on Knowledge (local), Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks against lycanthropes. Aberrations – Lincoln receives a +2 to damage and on Escape Artist, Perception, Stealth, and Survival checks against aberrations.

While Eclipse encourages switching around the bonuses for favored foe, it’s silent on if you can do so for multiple types of enemies learned as part of the same expenditure. In this case, we’re saying that such diversity is allowable, as it encourages greater diversity in how exactly a character studies his favored foes.

Similarly, we’re being slightly selective with the uses of specialization here. Instead of specializing favored foe as a whole, we’re selectively specializing particular foes chosen as part of the ability. Since this is being done for increased effect, rather than diminished cost, and since it still applies to a much narrower range of foes, this seems reasonable.

  • Imbuement with the Focused modifier (12 CP). Lincoln treats any battleaxe he wields as a +2 silver weapon.
  • Imbuement with the Superior modifier (12 CP). Lincoln treats any leather armor he wears as though it were +4 armor.

This is a variant on the Imbuement ability where it applies to armor instead of weapons. Given that this is an exceptionally straightforward change, it’s surprising that Eclipse doesn’t mention anything like this for this power.

  • Immunity to mind-affecting effects of 7th-level or below (common/severe/great) (24 CP).
  • Leadership with the Beast-lord modifier/specialized and corrupted for one-third cost; limited to one giant eagle (3 CP).

This is specialized and corrupted for how much the total levels of cohorts Lincoln is receiving from this ability. Normally, he should get twenty-six levels’ worth of followers and cohorts. However, a giant eagle is a CR 3 creature with four Hit Dice and (in 3.5 parliance) a +2 level adjustment. Given that it’s a level six creature at most, and so less than a fourth of what he’s entitled to, specializing and corrupting this ability seems like the very least that can be done.

  • Major Privilege (6 CP). As one of the greatest Presidents of the United States, Lincoln has the support of most of its people, and can count on governmental backing and support for his actions.
  • Reputation with the Improved and Superior modifiers (12 CP). Lincoln has a +8 Reputation score; characters must make a DC 20 check (gaining their Int score +8 on the check) to know who Abraham Lincoln is. Lincoln receives a +5 bonus on social skill checks with the American people, but a -5 on social skill checks against supernatural creatures (save for Intimidate, to which Lincoln receives a +5 bonus against such monsters).
  • Returning with the Extraordinary and Unique modifiers (18 CP). Lincoln is empowered by the collective will of the people of the United States of America. So long as the United States continues to exist as a country, he will return to aid its people.

Until next time readers, may you one day get your face carved into a mountain!

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Are You a Dance Dance Revolutionary?

October 21, 2012

It’s a truism that most table-top gamers are also video gamers, and I’m no exception. One of my favorite games is Elite Beat Agents, a little-known game for the Nintendo DS. While the Wikipedia page has a more in-depth overview, the basic premise of the game is that the Elite Beat Agents are a government organization that, when people are in trouble, dispatches a team of agents to sing and dance to inspire them to overcome the trials they’re facing.

It’s a silly game, to be sure, but that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s also interesting since, in addition to its lighthearted tone, the player (via the Agents) takes on a supporting role, encouraging the people in trouble to help themselves, rather than simply stepping in to solve the problem for them.

Now, D&D and Pathfinder have something like that in the form of the bard class, which also uses the power of music and performing arts to inspire and augment others. But the bard alone isn’t quite the same the agents of EBA…luckily Eclipse doesn’t suffer from that limitation! Given that, here’s a member of the Elite Beat Agents, ready to cheer your Pathfinder PCs to victory!

Agents are GO!

A rookie among the EBA, Agent Spin is one of the youngest agents to be put in charge of his own team (two other agents, with the same stats as Spin). Even though he doesn’t have as many moves as some of his senior agents, he’s unequaled in the intensity he brings. Seeing and hearing Spin’s performance is enough to encourage even the most despondent of souls to pick themselves up and sally forth!

Available Character Points: 72 (level two base) + 4 (Duties to the EBA) +6 (level one bonus feat) + 6 (human bonus feat) = 88 CP.

Ability Scores: Str 8, Con 10, Dex 13, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 15 (elite array); the +2 human racial bonus will be added to Charisma, making it Cha 17.

Human Traits

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

Basic Purchases (25 CP)

  • Proficiency with Light Armor (3 CP).
  • +2 skill points (2 CP).
  • +2 on Reflex saves (6 CP).
  • +2 on Will saves (6 CP).
  • 2d8 Hit Dice (8 CP).
Skills Ranks Ability Bonus Class Bonus Other Total
Diplomacy 2 +3 Cha +3 +8
Perform (sing) 2 +3 Cha +3 +3 Skill Focus +11
Perform (dance) 2 +3 Cha +3 +3 Skill Focus +11
Sense Motive 2 +3 Cha +3 +8

Agent Spin gets 4 skill points from having a +2 Intelligence bonus over two levels, 2 skill points for his bonus human skill point at each level, and 2 skill points from direct purchases, for a total of 8 skill points. Since he can have up to twelve skills as class skills, plus Craft and Profession, he can easily afford to make all of the above skills class skills, leaving the others undefined until he takes them.

Special Abilities (63 CP)

  • Mystic Artist/Perform (dance) (6 CP).
  • Mystic Artist/Perform (sing) (6 CP).

Normally, Mystic Artist only needs to be purchased once. However, by buying it twice and specifying the skills it applies to, Agent Spin may add the bonuses from both together when determining the basic Mystic Artist abilities he may take, which are Emotion, Competence, Greatness, Excellence, Mass Greatness, Mass Excellence, Fascinate, Hold Audience, and Emotional Auras.

  • Privilege (3 CP). Members of the EBA are known far and wide for helping people in need, and so can count on most (good) people allowing them to operate free from interference.
  • Skill Focus/Perform (dance) (6 CP).
  • Skill Focus/Perform (sing) (6 CP).
  • Assistant with the Aide modifier. Specialized for half cost/only useable with Mystic Artist abilities (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/three times per day when Agent Spin uses Mystic Artist, he may immediately take a standard action (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/three times per day when someone else uses Mystic Artist, Agent Spin may immediately take a standard action (6 CP).
  • Harnessed Intellect (6 CP).
  • Rapid (Mystic Artist ability modifier) (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (6 CP). All abilities are either spell level 1 x caster level 1 x 2,000 gp or spell level ½ (0-level spells) x caster level 1 x 2,000 gp. The personal only modifier (x 0.7) is added where appropriate.
    • Sanctuary (1,400 gp)
    • Ghost sound (1,000 gp)
    • Prestidigitation (1,000 gp)
    • Detect good (1,000 gp)

Mission Complete!

Singing and dancing to triumph over evil!

If it isn’t immediately apparent, Agent Spin is a comparatively powerful support character, particularly if working with the two other agents on his team. When Spin uses Mystic Artist to either sing or dance, he may immediately take a standard action to use the other form of Mystic Artist as well; both apply immediately thanks to his Rapid enhancement. While not technically a form of concentration, I’d say that Harnessed Intellect applied, meaning that Spin can keep using both forms of Mystic Artist for 3 rounds after the first. Further, the effects linger for 5 rounds further once he ceases performing.

On his own, Agent Spin can thus grant a powerful set of bonuses to a group; he can grant Mass Excellence to a group of four people while simultaneously granting Mass Greatness to a group of five, all for a total of 9 rounds. If he has his team backing him up, both can use Assistant with the Aid modifier (twice; once on their action, and once from the free action granted by Reflex Action when someone else, like Spin, uses Mystic Artist) to grant an additional +4 to the bonuses from each of those powers!

Each target would then gain a grand total of +5 positive levels (granting +5 BAB, +5 to all saves, +5 to AC, and +30 CP spent where Spin allocates) and 5d10 temporary hit points, along with two +8 bonuses that could be applied to ability scores, all saves, their AC, attack rolls, or melee damage rolls!

Of course, Agent Spin isn’t going to last long in direct combat; with no weapon proficiencies or Base Attack Bonus, he’s largely relying on his sanctuary innate enchantment (DC 14) to protect him. But then, thanks to his Privilege, only malevolent creatures would even think of doing that. His remaining innate enchantments are used to make sure the people he helps deserve it (detect good) and to create “special effects” during his performance (e.g. ghost sound for background music, prestidigitation for flashing lights, etc.).

Until next time, may your characters be able to bust a move when they need it!

Get Your Smurf On

October 13, 2012

It goes without saying that there are all kinds of pitfalls involved in bringing characters that weren’t originally designed for RPGs into your game. Even leaving aside the plot issues involved when your PCs run into a character that the players know from various media, there are all kinds of issues involved with making the game rules themselves do justice to the character.

One of the hardest parts, that I’ve found, is magical abilities. Most characters that have magic – particularly those involved in a recurring TV series – rarely define how it works or what its limitations are. There clearly are some, if only because they tend to be limited in the scope of what they can accomplish, and often use the same magic over and over, but the audience is rarely privy to the details.

That’s a difficult thing for an RPG, as they tend to focus very closely on the details. Hence why, so far, there’s only been one magic-using character showcased, and he was from a mini-series.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done…at least not with Eclipse. As such, this next character is my first attempt to portray a magic-user from a TV series, one whose powers aren’t explicitly defined. Admittedly, it’s a low-power character to be sure, but he’s a good starting point. So let’s give it up for…

Gargamel

How would your PCs feel if they lost to this guy?

The quintessential bumbling villain, Gargamel is also the main antagonist of the smurfs. While he’s a somewhat competent wizard, that seems to be more in spite of himself than anything, since we’re talking about a guy who can’t defeat a race of tiny blue mushroom-people. Gargamel’s magic is entirely based around rituals, meaning that he has no combat abilities whatsoever, basing his plots around deception and trickery.

In this regard, Gargamel makes an adequate villain, primarily in games that are less combat-oriented, for 1st-level heroes. I’d recommend increasing his ability scores to a point-buy value equivalent to the PCs (see below), and, if you’re worried about introducing smurfs into your game, changing his name as well.

Available Character Points: 48 (level one) + 10 (three disadvantages; Aged, Broke, and Compulsive) + 6 (level one bonus feat) + 6 (human bonus feat)  – 6 (Untrained) = 64 CP.

Ability Scores: Str 8, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 9, Cha 8.

Ordinarily, characters’ stats are determined via a point-buy. However, the Pathfinder method of point-buy starts all characters off with a 10 in all scores and builds on that; characters who lower their scores receive bonus points.

The issue here is that Gargamel has several stats that are below 10, and those that aren’t are only slightly above that – this means that even the minimum of 10 points gives him ability scores that are far too high. As such, the above scores simply ignore point-buying altogether, simply setting Gargamel’s stats at values which seem appropriate. Note that the above ability scores take into account Gargamel’s +2 human racial bonus.

Human Traits

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

Basic Purchases  (34 CP)

  • 1d6 Hit Die (2 CP).
  • +2 Fort save (6 CP).
  • +2 Will save (6 CP).
  • 20 skill points (20 CP).
Skills Ranks Ability Bonus Class Bonus Other Total
Appraise 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Bluff 1 -1 Cha +3 +3
Climb 1 -1 Str +0
Craft (alchemy) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Diplomacy 1 -1 Cha +0
Disguise 1 -1 Cha +0
Escape Artist 1 +0 Dex +1
Intimidate 1 -1 Cha +0
Knowledge (arcana) 1 +1 Int +3 +3 Skill Focus +8
Knowledge (engineering) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Knowledge (geography) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Knowledge (history) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Knowledge (local) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Knowledge (nature) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Knowledge (nobility) 1 +1 Int +3 +5
Perception 1 -1 Wis +0
Profession (wizard) 1 -1 Wis +3 +3
Spellcraft 1 +1 Int +3 +3 Skill Focus +8
Stealth 1 +0 Dex +1
Survival 1 -1 Wis +3 +3
Swim 1 -1 Str +0
Use Magic Device 1 -1 Cha +3 +3

With his Intelligence of 13 and his human bonus, Gargamel has a total of 22 skill points to spend. As explained in previous articles, his class skills are Craft and Profession, along with twelve other skills of his choice (and indicated above with the +3 class bonus) .

Special Abilities  (30 CP)

  • Companion/cat familiar named “Azrael” (6 CP).
  • Contacts/Gargamel’s mother and Lord Balthazar (2 CP).
  • Leadership/specialized for half cost/one 0-level youth named “Scruple” (3 CP).
  • Occult Ritual (6 CP).
  • 1 CP spent on the Great Book of Spells relic.
  • Skill Focus/Knowledge (arcana) (6 CP).
  • Skill Focus/Spellcraft (6 CP).

The Great Book of Spells (1-point relic)

This ancient tome is a spellbook, but not in the usual sense. Rather, this codex is a boon for those who practice ritual magic, as it contains a seemingly endless supply of ritual formulas. However, the Great Book of Spells cannot be studied through reading; attempting to do so just showcases page after page of gobbledygook.

Instead, the book must be petitioned on the last night of the full moon each month. Doing so causes the spirit of the book to awaken for one day (until the next sundown) during which time it will teach the petitioner one ritual requested. However, the book is prone to misinterpreting the requests made of it, so those who ask it for aid must be sure to precisely state that which they wish to accomplish.

In game terms, the Great Book of Spells has Double Enthusiast/specialized and corrupted for triple effect (6 CP) – it can only be used for one day per month, is limited to spending points on knowing formulas for ritual magic (see the last paragraph on Eclipse pg. 96), and characters must spend 1 Character Point of their own to be able to use it. In effect, the book knows a half-dozen rituals at any one time, and can change which ones it knows from month to month.

As mentioned above, Gargamel makes a poor choice for an adversary for your PCs. He serves better as a background character, one who plays a minor supporting role in a larger plot – perhaps he has access to the ritual the PCs need, but won’t ask the Great Book of Spells for it unless the PCs help him with his latest scheme first. Or perhaps one of his rituals goes horribly wrong, and it’s up to the PCs to clean up the mess.

Characters that insist on a physical fight with Gargamel should be disappointed, as he’s a coward who will run at the first sign of trouble, and beg for mercy if he can’t run. Besides his relic, he has no treasure worth taking, and characters who attack him should gain no XP for it. After all, any character weak enough that they lose consistently to the smurfs is no real threat to Pathfinder heroes.