Archive for August, 2013

Some Like It Hot

August 4, 2013

Back when my current Pathfinder group first got started, I was eager to show off my impressive collection of third-party supplements. Whenever new character ideas were discussed, I was eager to chime in with what sourcebook or expansion could help to flesh out an idea.

Of course, I inevitably started to run into some ideas that, try though I might, I couldn’t seem to turn into a viable character, regardless of how many different books I pulled new mechanics from. In hindsight, hitting this particular brick wall – along with the fact that most of the rest of the group looked askance at third-party supplements in general, seeing them as “unbalanced” until proven otherwise – was the beginning of what would eventually become full-on supplement burnout, of which I’ve spoken before.

Fire dancer

So many “hot chick” jokes…

One of the initial ideas that I couldn’t build a character around was for a “fire dancer.” This character idea, from what I was told, was exactly what it sounded like: someone who could control fire – or, in other words, use fire-based magic – via dancing. At the time, the best I could come up with was making a bard who took fire-based spells and made Perform (dance) her primary skill for bardic performances. That and saying that all of her somatic components for spells were dances.

There were a few other, much more specific, suggestions that I had too, but that was the gist of it. Of course, that was a fairly poor build overall, since in all mechanical respects it was the same as pretty much any other bard character. Not only did that character have no abilities that directly abetted the core concept, it had several that actually subtracted from it.

For a character that was supposed to utilize fire via dancing, for example, most of her spellcasting could be defeated by a silence spell. Most bardic abilities were likewise inappropriate. Simply put, there was a vast distance between a dancing bard that used some fire spells and a “fire dancer.”

Of course, all of that ceased to be a problem once I started using Eclipse: The Codex Persona. But of course, a group that looks askance on third-party materials had (and still has) nothing but suspicion for a point-buy character-generation sourcebook. Which is a shame, since I think the character sounds like a fun one to play.

The character below is my expansion of the initial “fire dancer” concept into a full level one build, adding a name and a backstory, alongside the mechanics.


Sharalia was marked as someone special from the moment she was born. While all members of her gypsy clan had night-black hair, Sharalia’s contained a streak of red, marking her as being “virishka,” one who has the spirit of flames within her. Her tribe rejoiced, as it had been three generations since a virishka had been born among them.

Their joy was to be short-lived. The gypsies had always been outcasts among the more civilized people, and hard economic times had made them a popular target, particularly since Sharalia’s undisciplined older brother Pretka had a habit of causing trouble in whatever town the caravan visited. While it was usually just a bit of petty theft or being caught in a compromising position with a local girl, Pretka’s wild streak had grown as times had gotten tough.

When one of Pretka’s pranks finally went too far – he was caught stealing from the local shrine – the people’s mounting frustrations turned to all-out mob vengeance. Deciding to rid themselves of the “heathens and thieves” once and for all, the townsfolk descended on the gypsies in a fury. The tribe had little warning before they found themselves overrun, their caravans put to the torch as they were massacred.

Sharalia, who was six years old at the time, managed to survive; though the wagon she had hidden in had burned to ashes, her nature as a virishka meant that the flames did not burn her. Shattered and alone, Sharalia turned to the streets to survive. Sadly, she spent very little time there before being caught by the local watch and sentenced to slavery, freshly legalized in an attempt to boost the country’s economy.

Sharalia’s life as a slave was hard. The slave brands refused to sear themselves into her skin, resulting in the markings being applied painfully with acid instead, inflicting wounds that still cause her pain. Worse, while her initial owners were an elderly couple who wanted nothing more than menial labor from her, Sharalia grew into a young beauty; by the time she was sixteen, her owners had received many offers to buy the beautiful red-and-black-haired slave girl from them, often for a considerable sum.

Finally unable to resist the fiscal temptations any longer, the couple sold her to a minor noble, a young man who was all too eager to purchase a slave to attend to his “personal needs.” Sharalia, no fool, new exactly what was wanted from her, and hated the thought. However, she also knew the penalty that awaited slaves who tried to escape and failed. As such, it was with a growing sense of panic that she went to her new owner’s bedroom the night after her sale.

The young lord, wanting to enjoy his new plaything to the fullest, gave her an unexpected first order: to dance for him. Surprised, Sharalia slowly started to sway to the memory of an old tune her grandmother had used to hum back in the gypsy camp. Seeing the nobleman’s eyes upon her and realizing that once she finished dancing he planned to ravish her, she threw herself into an impromptu, wild flamenco.

For a few minutes, the sight of her in motion kept her owner entranced, but all too soon he got up and approached her lustily. Sharalia, however, did not cease her dancing, even as her fear and frustration grew. The young noble reached out to grab her…and Sharalia flung her hands out in a sharp motion, unleashing a gout of flame that badly seared him. Worse, it set the opulent bed and curtains aflame, and in moments the entire room was ablaze.

Shocked and terrified, Sharalia fled as her owner and his home burned. Now she had no choice but to live as an escaped slave. Fleeing blindly, it was by sheer luck that she ran into several members of an underground abolitionist movement…or rather, a group of headstrong young idealists who fancied themselves such a movement. Momentarily daunted by Sharalia’s sudden appearance, they nevertheless managed to put their self-absorbed boasting and high-minded ideas to practical use, and managed to help her evade the law.

Several weeks later, the group – mostly made up of other misfits who had unusual talents – was like a second family to Sharalia. Careful exploration of what happened that night had shown her that not only was she exceptionally difficult to burn, but that she could create and control fire…but only via dancing.

Now in control of her destiny for the first time in her life, she’s become committed to their goal of ending the practice of slavery in their lands. Moreover, she hopes to find her brother Pretka, whom she’s sure she saw fleeing into the woods the night their caravan was attacked…

Sharalia, level 1 Fire Dancer

Available Charater Points: 48 (level one base) + 6 (level one feat) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (starting traits) + 10 (disadvantages) = 76 CP.

Sharalia’s disadvantages are Outcast (few people trust gypsies, and escaped slaves even less), Stigmata (her acid-burned slave markings – which seem to resist magical healing – still hurt), and Valuable (a heavy bounty is paid for escaped slaves).

Ability Scores (15-point buy): Str 10, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 16. This includes her +2 racial bonus (applied to Charisma).

Human Traits

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

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

Basic Abilities (29 CP)

  • Light armor proficiency with the smooth modifier (6 CP), and proficiency with all simple weapons (3 CP).
  • d8 Hit Die (4 CP).
  • +0 BAB (0 CP).
  • +0 Fort, +2 Ref, +2 Will (12 CP).
  • 4 skill points (4 CP).

Fire Dancer (32 CP)

  • Adept, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to two skills: Fire Mastery and Perform (dance) (3 CP).
  • 3d6 mana, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no natural magic options (12 CP).
  • Finesse, corrupted for increased effect – may apply Perform (dance) in place of Fire Casting/requires skill checks to successfully cast (6 CP).
  • Easy metamagic theorem with the streamline modifier, specialized for one-half cost/only for the “material” and “verbal” options (6 CP).
  • Damage reduction 6, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only versus fire damage (5 CP).

When using her rune magic to create a fire effect, Sharalia must make a Perform (dance) check to successfully cast the spell. The DC is calculated using the table on page 101 of Eclipse. For example, casting a level one spell effect would be a DC 15 check. Using a spell on the fringe of her “field” of magic adds a +15 to the spell DC.

Sharalia’s spellcasting always uses her metamagic feat to remove material and verbal components – she needs only use somatic components, which are always dances. If restrained, however, she takes a -15 penalty to her check. Worse, a failed check will have some sort of backlash, which usually means that unintended targets tend to catch on fire…

Combat Cunning (12 CP)

  • Reflex Action (Combat Reflexes variant) (6 CP).
  • Augment Attack (sneak attack) (6 CP).

Perspicacious (3 CP)

  • Upgrade racial Fast Learner to 2 skill points per level (3 CP).

Table: Skills



Ability Modifier





+2 Dex





+3 Cha



Fire Mastery


+3 Cha



Knowledge (local)


+0 Int





+1 Wis



Perform (dance)


+3 Cha



Sharalia has twelve class skills total, plus Craft and Profession. The six skills above are class skills, with the remaining six being Diplomacy, Disable Device, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and Survival.

Sharalia’s use of Adept hasn’t quite come into play yet. Since Pathfinder characters are capped at having skill ranks equal to their level, Adept’s granting skill ranks for half-price in select skills means that she’ll gain two ranks for each skill point spent in Fire Mastery and Perform (dance)…but she has to be high enough level to gain those ranks. As such, both skills will automatically go up one more rank when she reaches second level, without her having to pay for them.

Sharalia’s use of her favored class bonus has been put into hit points, giving her, with her Constitution bonus, 10 hit points to start with.

At this point, Sharalia is essentially a rogue with a minor talent for using fire-based magic. While she’ll be well served to pick up some more mana during her adventuring career, as well as skill boosters for her rune magic skills, she’ll definitely want to better round out her abilities. Likely Imbuement, to make her weapons flaming, maybe some uses of Luck for bad spellcasting checks, and some combat tricks to use fire against her enemies more directly. Anything that plays towards her background and character theme is likely to better develop her over the course of a campaign.