Posts Tagged ‘3.5’

(3.5/PF1) Rings, Bling, and Other Things

February 4, 2023

Insofar as the d20 System goes, magic rings are perhaps one of the most obtrusive aspects of the game’s restrictions on how many magic items a PC can use.

That’s because it’s an area where the “body slot” system stops being intuitive. We don’t question the idea that a character can only wear one pair of boots, for example, nor that they can only have on one hat at a time. But rings? Most PCs have ten fingers, not to mention ten toes, two ears, a nose, etc. So why just two rings, beyond the idea of one for each hand (or less than that, if you’re playing a four-armed race)?

Part of it is a legacy restriction. In both 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D, PCs could only use two magic rings, and they had to not only be worn on the hands, but on opposite hands. Another part is that the restriction dovetails with the formalized limits that the body slot system imposes in exchange for the game rules making magic items easier for PCs to buy or make for themselves. And of course, being limited to only two rings makes it easier to record them on your character sheet.

Even so, it’s worth reviewing what the d20 System game rules actually say in this regard, to make sure that we’re assuming is in fact the case. So let’s perform a quick overview.

In the Magic Items On the Body section of the 3.5 SRD specifically says:

One ring on each hand (or two rings on one hand)

That parenthetical note is already more permissive than what the AD&D rules allowed for! Likewise, the section on Magic Rings specifically calls out what happens if you try to put on more than this:

A character can only effectively wear two magic rings. A third magic ring doesn’t work if the wearer is already wearing two magic rings.

Interestingly, while the Pathfinder 1E SRD maintains the word-for-word restriction about a third ring not working, its section on Magic Items on the Body is much more permissive than in 3.5:

Ring (up to two): rings.

This seems to indicate that you don’t need to wear magic rings on your fingers in Pathfinder 1E. However, contrast this with the first sentence under the Using Items section of the PF1 SRD:

To use a magic item, it must be activated, although sometimes activation simply means putting a ring on your finger.

Given that this seems like an example (“although sometimes”), you could argue that it’s not making a declarative statement that magic rings need to be worn on your fingers in Pathfinder. Clearly, that particular caveat being lifted from 3.5 and earlier versions of the game will need a GM ruling at each table, but it’s interesting to consider that Pathfinder is less restrictive in that regard.

Still, it keeps the single largest limitation, which has been there since the beginning: that a character use no more than two magic rings at a time.

Of course, as is typical of the d20 System, there are ways around even the most ironclad of restrictions.

For 3.5, the Extra Rings feat in the Eberron Campaign Setting allowed you to wear up to four magic rings at a time (specifying two on each hand). The hand of glory essentially lets you use your neck slot to wear another ring, along with using two minor spells once per day each, and a ten-ring sword is much the same. The meridian belt lets you wear four rings at once, but still only lets you benefit from two at a time, switching between which two are active as a swift action each round (notice that this Pathfinder item also includes the presumption that rings can normally only be worn on your hands). If you’re an epic-level 3.5 character, the Additional Magic Item Space feat will let you wear another ring, and can be taken multiple times.

Of course, there are other ways to gain the effect of multiple rings at once. For instance, you can take advantage of the rules for Adding New Abilities to an existing item to imbue a single ring with the power of multiple rings (the SRD even uses two magic rings as examples). Since rings normally take up a body slot, this means that all of the powers such a ring has (except the single most expensive) have a x1.5 multiplier to their base cost, so this can get expensive in a hurry (though the Magic Item Compendium has a list of “common item effects” which don’t have their costs increased when added to a body slot-using item in this way; Pathfinder technically doesn’t use this rule, though it’s worth considering as a house rule).

But if you’d prefer to actually wear multiple rings, instead of creating a single ring with multiple abilities, there’s one other alternative:

Double the ring’s price to remove its body slot limitation.

In both 3.5 and Pathfinder, the table for Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values notes that an item which normally takes up a body slot costs double the GP value if that limitation is removed. Presuming that you can treat this as an improvement that can be made after the item has been created (which seems entirely reasonable), this means that you can upgrade any magic ring to remove its body slot dependency…and so can wear as many as you want (and, for that matter, such a ring can be worn anywhere on your body).

This opens up a lot of possibilities, especially for magic rings whose base price is relatively cheap. An “unslotted” ring of feather falling, for instance, costs only 4,400 gp. In some cases, this is price is comparable to simply imbuing a “slotted” ring with another ring’s powers.

For example, the wizard Morios currently has three magic rings in his possession: a ring of invisibility (20,000 gp), a ring of mind shielding (8,000 gp), and a ring of feather falling (2,200 gp). He can’t use three rings at once, so he decides to sell the ring of feather falling, netting 1,100 gp for it as per the rule that magic items sell for one-half their market price. Not wanting to lose the effect even though the ring is gone, he then decides to add the functionality of a ring of feather falling to his ring of mind shielding.

Since the ring of feather falling is the less-expensive item, adding its power to his ring of mind shielding entails a x1.5 cost multiplier to the former’s price; since Morios doesn’t have the Forge Ring feat, he has to get someone else to do it, and so needs to pay 3,300 gp. Since he earned 1,100 gp from selling the ring of feather falling, adding that power to his ring of mind shielding has a net out-of-pocket cost of 2,200 gp…exactly what he would have paid if he’d wanted to make his ring of feather falling slotless by doubling its base price.

Presuming you have the money to spend, there’s no reason you can’t pay to “unslot” enough magic rings to the point where you can wear ten at once!

An interesting tangent from this is that magic items whose standard presentation presumes that they have no body slot – notwithstanding those that are held (e.g. magic weapons and shields, rod, staves, and wands) or are consumable (e.g. potions and scrolls) – can presumably have slotted versions created; these would have half the market price of the original (just don’t try this with magic armor; no GM would let you wear two suits of full plate!). Note that such an item needs to be made this way during its creation; the rules for improving magic items don’t let you introduce flaws or limitations that lower the cost of a completed item.

For instance, consider the following:


An ajna is an ioun stone which magically adheres to the user’s forehead rather than orbiting them. While worn, an ajna takes up a slot as per a headband. Attaching or removing an ajna is a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity. Removing an ajna from an unwilling character is the same as stealing an item in combat (they’re considered to be “fastened” to a character due to the adhering magic). Ajnas are otherwise the same as ioun stones, having AC 24, 10 hit points, and hardness 5, with a market price equal to one-half an ioun stone of the same type. An ajna may be cracked or flawed, but cannot be used in conjunction with a wayfinder.

An example ajna is presented below, formatted for Pathfinder:

Ajna, Dark Blue Rhomboid

Aura strong varied; CL 12th; Slot headband; Price 5,000 gp; Weight ––


This stone grants the wearer the effects of the Alertness feat.

Cracked: This stone grants a +1 competence bonus on Perception and Sense Motive checks. Price: 200 gp.

Flawed: This stone grants a +2 competence bonus on Perception checks and a –1 penalty to initiative checks. Price: 150 gp.


Feats Craft Wondrous Item; Special creator must be 12th level; Cost 2,500 gp.

(3.5/PF1) Playing a Utility Mage, Introduction and Part I: Spell Categories

November 28, 2022

My current campaign, where I’m playing a magic-hating slayer (a PF1 class) with the witch killer archetype, is moving toward its conclusion. As a result, I’ve started to think about my next character, with a wizard being an appealing prospect. To that end, here are some general thoughts I’ve had on how to get the most out of a wizard PC who has an out-of-combat focus.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that character classes lend themselves to certain roles. While various builds, alternate class features, and Pathfinder-style archetypes can tweak what each class does best, the base versions have particular areas of focus where they tend to be most effective. For wizards, one such area is what I call “utility magic.”

To be sure, their broad selection of spells allows for wizards to fulfill a wide variety of specialties. Blaster mages, battlefield controllers, summoners, and many more are areas where wizards can excel, or at least serve as above-average practitioners (even if several of those areas have their own specialty classes with a tighter focus). But utility magic is an area where wizards truly shine.

But rather than jump the wand, let’s start off with a simple definition of exactly what utility magic – or rather, a “utility mage” – is:

A utility mage is a wizard who primarily uses their spells to solve out-of-combat problems that the party faces.

Now, that’s a fairly broad and unnuanced statement, and so requires clarification. For one thing, this doesn’t mean that a utility mage has no part to play when combat breaks out. They absolutely do! But it’s not their specialty, which means that they’re not going to be an unstoppable force of destruction on the battlefield. Taking huge chunks out of an enemy’s hit points is something best left to fighters, rogues, sorcerers, and similar classes; utility mages do their part, but they truly shine when the problem facing the group is one that can’t simply be cut down.

With that said, let’s take a look at how a utility mage can best prepare their spells for the challenges they’ll face.


Before we talk about how a utility mage should prepare their spells, it should be stressed that what’s below are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. If you have a good idea of what your party will be facing in the near future, make sure to keep that in mind when readying your magical loadout for the day, adjusting the recommendations below as necessary. Flexibility is a utility mage’s greatest assets, so be sure to use it maximum effect when you know what you’ll be up against ahead of time.

Taking that into account, here are a few categories for how you should ready your spells each day:

Spells to Prepare: It’s self-evident that the spells you’ll want to actually prepare in your available spell slots are the ones you think there’s a high likelihood of needing to cast sometime over the next day. But you only have so many slots, which means getting the most you can out of the spells you’ve readied.

To that end, one of the most salient factors worth considering is the duration of a particular spell. Mage armor is an excellent choice here, because its hour-per-level duration means that once you have a few levels under your belt, it’s practically guaranteed to last for an entire adventuring day. Shield, by contrast, is much less likely to last as long as you need.

As a rule of thumb, any spell with a duration of 10 minutes per level should be considered here (taking into account the usefulness of the spell in question; if you’re adventuring in a temperate climate during the summer months, an endure elements spell won’t be very helpful, even if it does last for a long time). False life, resist energy, see invisibility; all are excellent choices that have the potential to last through the active part of an adventuring day, especially if you happen to have an Extend Spell metamagic rod handy.

There’s a second category of spells that you’ll also want to consider preparing here, but based on casting time rather than duration. Specifically, any spell which requires an immediate action to cast is something you’ll want to prepare, simply because there’s no other way to cast them in a timely manner. Feather fall, along with spells such as avoid planar effects (3.5), emergency force sphere (PF1), liberating command (PF1), or nerveskitter (3.5) are all spells you can’t put to their fullest use if you need to spend a move action drawing a scroll. Dedicate a spell slot to them so that you won’t wish you had later.

Spells to Leave a Slot Open For: A quirk of the d20 rules is that, if a preparatory spellcaster chooses to leave a spell slot open when preparing their spells for the day, they can fill it with a particular spell after fifteen minutes of study. You’ll want to take advantage of this for when an unexpected situation happens that requires a spell you haven’t prepped.

The general guideline here is to leave a single slot open at each spell level; if that’s too much, leave open a slot of the highest spell level you can cast, and one at every other level below that (remember, you can prepare a spell in a higher-level slot). That way, if it turns out that you need control water or stone shape, you can prepare them without having to wait an entire day.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with waiting an entire day if the party is in no rush. It won’t be that often that you’ll have fifteen minutes free to prepare a spell, but won’t be able to wait until tomorrow’s round of spell preparation. Even so, there are times when losing a day might make a difference; if the enemy army marches out the next morning, you won’t be able to wait a day to send an arcane eye into the commander’s tent to look over their plans.

While spells with niche effects are the go-to for this particular category, note that spells with long casting times also fit this designation very well. If you have ten minutes free to cast sending, then an extra fifteen minutes to prepare it usually won’t make that much of a difference. Ditto for fire trap, hallucinatory terrain, and major creation, among other spells.

Spells to Put in a Scroll: You know how wizards get Scribe Scroll for free? There’s a reason for that! Even if you trade that free feat away via an archetype or alternate class feature, make sure to take it via a feat slot as soon as you can; it’s that important!

Remember those niche spells we said probably weren’t worth preparing in a slot ahead of time? This is where they go! Something like water breathing doesn’t seem worth preparing at all when you’re about to venture down into a dungeon. But when the back room of the place turns out to open into a cavern with an underground lake, and some tentacled horror lurking in the water grabs the paladin and pulls him under, all of a sudden it’s one of the most important spells in your arsenal…and you can bet that he’s not going to be able to wait fifteen minutes for you to prep it in an open slot.

That’s really the perfect example for this category, because it encompasses spells which won’t be necessary ninety-nine percent of the time, but when they are needed, they’re needed right now! When your fighter fails his save against a medusa’s petrifying gaze, you need him back in the fight immediately, which is when it’s time to break out that scroll of stone to flesh you’ve been carrying around. The same can be said for using that scroll of remove curse you’ve been saving (since the cleric doesn’t usually prepare that spell) when the aboleth you’re fighting dominates the party’s barbarian.

That combination – immediacy and eccentric effect – is also why you shouldn’t bother putting spells with unusually short or notably long casting times on scrolls. The former (as noted previously) aren’t useful if you need to spend an action retrieving a scroll, while the latter can just be prepped into an open slot (since you already have the free time to cast them). That doesn’t even take into account that the PF1 rules specify that activating a scroll takes a standard action or the spell’s full casting time, whichever is longer, to boot. Since each scroll is a monetary investment on your part, make sure you’re putting your gp where it’ll do the most good.

Spells to Cast from a Wand or Staff: Remember that bit about a utility mage having a role to play in combat, even if it wasn’t where they excelled? This is what that was in reference to.

As exciting as it can be to imagine busting out a little-known spell that turns things around, there are going to be times when a fight is just a matter of wearing down the bad guys’ hit points before they wear down yours. To that end, you’ll want one or two good attack spells, an equal number of defensive spells, and a buff spell or two (all 4th-level or below), all of which will be your go-to magic for when a fight breaks out. Those are what you’ll want to go into wands, or ideally a staff.

If that sounds boring, remember that these are your fallback options for when there’s nothing else you can do to contribute. Solving out-of-combat problems is important, but when a fight does break out, you don’t want to be the guy sitting there doing nothing because he prepped for all sorts of unusual contingencies but has nothing to do in a straightforward battle. Better a staff/small group of wands than using a sling or a light crossbow.

This might seem like a less-than-ideal proposition, given that wands tend to have poor caster levels and worse save DCs. A wand of fireball, for instance, is caster level 5; that means it only deals 5d6 damage, which is 17 points on average, and 8 if the bad guys make their Reflex saves…which they likely will, since the save DC is only 14.

The thing to remember here is that’s what “not being optimized for combat” looks like. Reliably dealing a small amount of damage each round, ideally to multiple enemies at once, is a respectable role to play, even if it’s not one that warrants the spotlight. If you do want to stand out a little more, however, consider asking the GM if you can pay to improve a wand’s caster level (as per the “adding new abilities” clause for creating magic items). The difference in cost of upgrading a CL 5 wand of fireball to, for instance, a CL 10 wand of fireball is easy to calculate (it simply doubles the price from 11,250 gp to 22,500 gp), and while that won’t change the save DC, it ups the damage dice and helps to deal with spell resistance. If you can’t upgrade an existing wand, then make sure your next one is built that way to begin with.

A final note with regard to wands with attack spells: you’ll want to have at least two, just in case you run into an enemy who’s immune to one damage type. You can’t hurt devils with a wand of fireball, for instance, so you’ll want to have a wand of lightning bolt just in case.

For defensive and buffing wands, you’ll either want to choose spells that are personal-only (such as shield) or affect multiple creatures (such as haste). Spells which can be cast on others, but only affect one person per casting (such as cat’s grace), are likely to be depleted in very short order if everyone wants those used on them before every fight. While wands are made to be used, burning through them faster than you can fund buying/making new ones is something you want to avoid. Even for spells with long durations (such as protection from energy), you’ll still expend a number of charges equal to the entire party at the beginning of the adventuring day, which can add up faster than you might think; better to prepare those long-duration spells in your slots, even if you need to do so multiple times over.

One trick that help with a defensive/buffing wand’s lifespan is to buy or make them with the Extend Spell metamagic feat built-in. That this can be done is established in Pathfinder via riffle scrolls (which are just normal scrolls whose spells have been modified by Silent Spell), and there shouldn’t be a problem with it in 3.5 either. Using Extend Spell in this way is often a money-saver.

For instance, a typical wand of haste is 11,250 gp, since its construction cost is 5 (caster level) x 3 (spell level) x 750 gp. A wand of extended haste (CL 7 x spell level 4 x 750 gp) is 21,000 gp. And yet the latter lasts for 14 rounds compare to the former’s 5, being almost triple the duration for less than double the price. It also affects seven characters instead of five, in case you have a larger party. For more savings, ask if the GM will let you upgrade a former into the latter (though you’ll either need to have taken Extend Spell or have a metamagic rod for that).

Now, the advantage of a staff is that you can combine all of these functions into one (if you’re worried about the theme of the staff, just say that it’s “battle”). Doing so has numerous advantages, the largest of which is that it saves on money. Consider the following example (for 3.5):

Morios, a utility mage, has a CL10 wand of fireball (22,500 gp), a CL 10 wand of lightning bolt (22,500 gp), a CL 7 wand of extended haste (21,000 gp), and a CL 3 wand of extended shield (4,500 gp). His total expenditures add up to 70,500 gp. Even if he crafts all of those himself, halving the prices, that’s still expensive! To cut down on costs, Morios decides to commission the crafting of a custom staff that has all of those spells.

Because staves can’t be crafted with a caster level of less than 8 (and there’s no reason to go higher, since they always function at their wielder’s caster level), and because Morios doesn’t want to have to expend two charges for any particular function, the costs are as follows:

  • The extended haste (being a 4th-level effect) costs 12,000 gp (caster level x spell level x 375 gp).
  • The next-highest effect can be either of the 3rd-level spells, so fireball is arbitrarily chosen, costing 6,750 gp (caster level x spell level x 281.25 gp).
  • The remaining 3rd-level spell, lightning bolt, only costs 4,500 gp (caster level x spell level x 187.5 gp).
  • The final spell effect, a 2nd-level extended shield, costs 3,000 gp (caster level x spell level x 187.5 gp).

That comes out to a grand total of 26,250 gp, barely more than the cost of his single most-expensive wand! Throw in that there’s no more wasting actions drawing and switching between wands, and that his staff will automatically use his caster level and ability score modifier to save DCs, and this is a much better option all around…or is it?

One thing to keep in mind here is that, as attractive as staves are, they have some hidden drawbacks. The big one being that you’re now drawing on a communal pool of charges for your spells. Before, Morios’s four wands had two hundred charges between them, with an average cost of 352.5 gp per charge. For his staff, he’s paying 525 gp per charge. Whether or not that’s worthwhile is a toss-up (you can’t assign a gp value to saving actions switching between wands, nor the ability to use your own caster level and ability score modifier for save DCs), but purely in terms of cost it’s a net loss, particularly since the charges will run out that much sooner.

And it’s worse for PF1-style staves. Their cost to create is higher, albeit only barely (the example staff listed above would cost 28,000 gp to purchase in PF1), but while their ability to be perpetually recharged for no monetary expenditure means that you save gp in the long run, their miniscule pool of only ten charges – and inability to regain more than one charge per day – means that you’ll expend them almost immediately if you use them as your go-to in battle, and then be stuck waiting for days to fully recharge them.

If you’re playing Pathfinder 1st edition, and want to follow these guidelines for playing a utility mage, it’s probably better to eschew staves altogether in favor of wands.

Next time: Spells are a utility mage’s bread and butter, but they don’t get all that many for free, so we’ll look at various methods of spell acquisition.

More Horsing Around

June 28, 2014

“It is not enough to be the possessor of genius—the time and the man must conjoin.” -Stephen Vincent Benet, The Curfew Tolls

In most worlds, being born with a mild neurological disorder that inhibited social interaction would have been a challenge to overcome. For Lex Legis, a unicorn pony from the realm of Equestria, however – where such conditions were completely unknown, and where a premium was placed on interpersonal relationships – it made life horrendously difficult.

Born just over a thousand years ago, Lex showed a remarkable intellect from a very young age, with an equally prodigious grasp of magic. However, he had no ability to make friends, despite many earnest attempts to do so. Each time he tried, things inevitably fell apart – whether immediately or after some time had passed – as his high intelligence but lack of social graces invariably upset the ponies around him.

Dispirited by his friendlessness, Lex threw himself into studying the sciences. Highly gifted at virtually any academic pursuit he tried, he gravitated most strongly to theoretical frameworks, particularly enjoying the philosophies behind both magic and governmental structure. He wrote long letters to various ponies that occupied political positions – including Princess Celestia and Princess Luna – proposing ideas of economic regulation, progressive taxation, and public services, but was either completely ignored or politely dismissed in every case. After all, the general sentiment went, Equestria was already an idyllic society, so why change anything?

He easily enrolled in Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, but boarding away from his parents (who were the only ponies who truly cared about him) quickly caused him to become completely isolated, and he dropped out after less than a year. By now bitter and frustrated, Lex continued to study magic independently. Unsurprisingly, at least to him, he formulated a method for magic that was far and away more powerful than what was taught at the School.

However, his methodology of magic was flawed. While it generated far greater magical energy than the traditional manner of spellcasting, it required enormous amounts of magical energy to fuel, more than could be gathered from ambient sources. Unwilling to abandon his research in the face of this setback, Lex set out looking for a magical battery so as to further advance his studies.

After several initial travels, he went to the Crystal Empire to study their Crystal Heart, but arrived just in time for disaster to strike as King Sombra performed a coup. Using his magic to escape the King’s mass enslavement of his subjects, Lex was nevertheless caught in the curse that kept the Empire locked away in stasis for a thousand years, King Sombra’s last spiteful act as Celestia and Luna sealed him away.

Having been returned with the Empire when King Sombra was freed (and subsequently destroyed) six months ago, Lex is struggling to adapt to his situation. He’s disgusted that Equestria has advanced not at all in a thousand years, something that he blames Princess Celestia’s laissez-faire system of government. Truly alone now, Lex has decided that he needs to be more proactive in showing everypony why his style of governance is better for them.

But how to go about doing it…?

Lex Legis, level 4 unicorn arcanomancer

As per my posting habits up to now, Lex’s write-up uses the excellent d20 point-buy character-generation sourcebook Eclipse: The Codex Persona, available for free at that link.

Available Character Points: 120 (level 4 base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 12 (levels 1 and 3 feats) = 142 CP.

Lexis’s disadvantages are Compulsive (he’s obsessive regarding the letter of laws, agreements, codes, etc.), Incompetent (all interpersonal skills), and Outcast (his arrogance and lack of tact quickly isolate him from others).

Ability Scores (32-point buy):

Ability Scores Initial Scores (point cost) Racial Bonuses Level Bonuses Innate Enchantments Total
Strength 12 (4) -2 10 (+0)
Dexterity 12 (4) +2 enhancement 14 (+2)
Constitution 14 (6) +2 enhancement 16 (+3)
Intelligence 17 (13) +1 (4th level) +2 enhancement 20 (+5)
Wisdom 15 (8) 15 (+2)
Charisma 5 (-3) +2 7 (-2)

Technically, a character using a 3.5 point-buy for their ability scores shouldn’t be able to have a score lower than 8. Since the point cost is on a 1-to-1 basis for the smaller expenditures, I simply used that same ratio in reverse to lower Lex’s Charisma score from 8 to 5, gaining a corresponding 3 points to spend elsewhere.

Unicorn Pony Traits

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Strength (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier where appropriate (7 CP; 5,400 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • +3 competence bonus to all Intelligence-based skills (1,400 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, Governance (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).

In accordance with his Skill Focus, Lex’s cutie mark is a podium in front of an amphitheater.

Basic Abilities (35 CP)

  • No weapon or armor proficiencies (0 CP).
  • d10 Hit Die (1st level) (6 CP) + 3d4 Hit Dice (0 CP).
  • +2 BAB, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (8 CP).
  • Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +1 (21 CP)
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

Flawed Arcanism (46 CP)

  • 6 sorcerer magic progression levels (Intelligence-based; arcane magic; components and restrained limitations), corrupted for two-thirds cost/must locate or invent new spells to be able to prepare them, specialized for one-half cost/can only replenish spell levels with Rite of Chi (24 CP).
  • 6 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/sorcerer progression only (18 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, corrupted for two-thirds cost/requires a one-hour ritual, specialized for one-half cost/only works with a large external source of arcane power, such as a major magical relic, nexus of mystical energy, or specific days of the year (4 CP).

Lex prepares his spells in a manner akin to a cleric, but must learn them like a wizard. That is, he must locate and learn each spell the same way a wizard would. However, once learned he doesn’t need a spellbook or other focus to prepare his spells – he simply prepares his spells from among those he knows.

His restrained limitation is with regards to wide-area destructive spells. Besides those, he uses the sorcerer/wizard spell list.

Manipulate the Imperfect Power (31 CP)

  • Action Hero/Crafting, corrupted for increased effect/only for magic items (27 AP; 6 CP).
  • Spell Storing/multiple embedment level I (9 CP).
  • Superior Improved Power Words, corrupted for two-thirds cost/requires a standard action (10 CP).
  • Compact metamagic theorem (6 CP).

This suite of abilities allows Lex to get more out of his limited spellcasting abilities. He’ll use spell storing in conjunction with his Foresight ranks (below) to have a useful power word prepared. Likewise, he’ll use Action Hero/Crafting together with Spell Storing to be able to produce a gemstone (his focus of choice for storing spells) with up to 10 instances of a spell for each AP spent.

He saves his Compact metamagic theorem for his actual spell slots, often preparing spells that would otherwise be beyond his casting ability. He uses these very carefully and with great purpose, since refilling his spell slots is something he can only do rarely.

Intuitive Aptitude for Magic (10 CP)

  • Adept/Concentration, Knowledge (arcana), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/skills only, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for Adept skills (4 CP).

Fruits of Lesser Experiments (14 CP)

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only versus magical effects (4 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (10,400 gp; 10 CP)
    • Shield (2,000 gp)
    • Mage armor (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Dex (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Con (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Int (1,400 gp)
    • Immortal vigor I (1,400 gp)
    • Shield of faith (1,400 gp)

Lex’s additional innate enchantments here build on his racial innate enchantments in terms of overall costs. This allows his racial immunity to XP costs for them to extend to these also; a bit cheesy, but acceptably so.

Potential for Greatness (6 CP)

Magic Items

  • Circlet of wizardry (4,880 gp). This circlet grants the wearer a +2 competence bonus to Concentration checks while worn, and allows the wearer to use detect magic at will. It possesses 3 charges that are automatically replenished each day. When casting a spell, the wearer may expend a number of charges equal to the spell level to cause the spell to remain prepared after casting. A circlet of wizardry functions only for characters able to cast arcane spells.
  • The Horn of King Sombra (relic)

The circlet of wizardry is an improved version of the circlet of mages from the Magic Item Compendium (p. 86). Lex found it on one of his earlier travels, and thinks it might have belonged to Star-Swirl the Bearded. The circlet is Lex‘s most prized possession, and he will not part with it willingly.

As for the Horn, Lex stumbled across it when he left the newly-returned Crystal Empire. He typically holds it in reserve for emergencies, as he doesn’t fully understand the nature of its powers yet.

The Horn of King Sombra (2-CP relic)

Torn from his brow when the monstrous unicorn tyrant that conquered the Crystal Empire was destroyed, this blood-red horn lacks the concentric spiral pattern of most unicorn horns. It seems to suggest malevolence in a way that defies articulation.

  • Witchcraft II, granting Elfshot, Infliction, and Shadowweave. Note that this also grants (Str+Dex+Con/3) power. (12 CP)
  • Advanced Witchcraft/The Umbral Form (6 CP)
  • Gateway pact (-6 CP). This produces anxiety in non-evil creatures nearby, as well as causes black crystals to spontaneously form near the user.
  • 3 levels of wilder progression (no caster levels), corrupted for two-thirds cost/no actual powers learned. Note that this grants no bonus power for a high casting attribute. (6 CP)

The entire relic is corrupted for two-thirds cost/blatantly utilizes dark magic, the wielder is vulnerable to spells and effects that affect evil-aligned creatures when using this relic.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 10 (d10 1st level) + 7 (3d4) + 12 (2d6 1st level) + 18 (Con bonus) = 47 hp.
  • Speed: 30 ft.
  • Alignment: Lawful Neutral.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +3 (base) +3 (Con bonus) = +6.
    • Ref: +3 (base) +2 (Dex bonus) = +5.
    • Will: +1 (base) +2 (Wis bonus) = +3.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +2 (Dex bonus) +4 (mage armor) +4 (shield) +2 (shield of faith) = 22, touch 14, flat-footed 20.
  • Attacks: +2 (BAB) +0 (Str bonus) = +2 unarmed strike (1d3 nonlethal).
  • Skills: 35 skill points (Int bonus), plus 14 skill points (Fast Learner; only for Concentration, Knowledge (arcana), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device at half cost each).
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Misc. Modifier Total
Bluff 0 -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -5
Concentration 7 +3 Con +2 competence (circlet) +12
Decipher Script 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Diplomacy 0 -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -5
Foresight 2 (4 points) +5 Int +3 competence +10
Gather Information 1 (2 points) -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -4
Governance 2 (4 points) +5 Int +3 competence, +3 Skill Focus +13
Heal 1 (2 points) +2 Wis +3
Jump 1 (2 points) +0 Str +1
Knowledge (arcana) 7 +5 Int +3 competence +15
Knowledge (geography) 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Knowledge (history) 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Knowledge (local) 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Knowledge (nobility and royalty) 3 +5 Int +3 competence +11
Listen 1 +2 Wis +3
Search 2 +5 Int +3 competence +10
Sense Motive 0 +2 Wis -3 disadvantage -1
Spellcraft 7 +5 Int +3 competence, +2 synergy (Knowledge (arcana)), +2 synergy (Use Magic Device) to decipher scrolls +17
Spot 1 +2 Wis +3
Swim 1 (2 points) +0 Str +1
Use Magic Device 7 -2 Cha +2 synergy (Spellcraft) on checks related to scrolls +5

Lex’s class skills are Craft and Profession, in addition to the twelve skills on the above table that have ranks that were bought on a 1:1 basis.

Currently, Lex has no venue for using his Governance skill, though he intends to change this very soon. He usually uses his Foresight ranks in accordance with preparing his spells.

At the moment, Lex is very close to making his move to change Equestrian society. He has already discovered the long-abandoned Castle of the Two Sisters, and has raided its archives of magical knowledge extensively. He’s recently pulled back from further exploration after a near-miss with Twilight Sparkle and her friends, since he wants to keep a low profile for now (that’s his shadow that’s seen at the end of Castle Mane-ia).

As it is, once he discovers that the Tree of Harmony – exactly the sort of major magical force that he’s looking for – is just outside the castle grounds, he’ll be galvanized into gathering enough resources to start putting his plans into motion. He’ll declare the area to be an independent sovereignty under his rule. While he hopes that this will be recognized by the Equestrian Princesses, he knows it’s more likely that they’ll attempt to invade “his” lands.

Such an action, of course, would give him casus belli – at which point he can lawfully attempt to overthrow them and install himself as the ruler of Equestria, and finally start making the policy reforms he’s long dreamed of. And maybe, just maybe, once he does so…then everypony will appreciate him.

I hadn’t planned on writing any more pony-related posts after the previous entry. However, I was in the mood to write an original character, and original characters need a setting to help ground their concept. Since Equestria is a fully-formed setting already, it was convenient for making a new character from there.

Celestial Aspirations

June 16, 2014

Writing up stats for the subject of today’s post didn’t go as I expected. My goal, as I mentioned in the previous entry, was to write Eclipse d20 stats for Princess Celestia – the demigod-like ruler of Equestria in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I had assumed that she’d have a great deal of powers displayed over the course of the show that I’d need to translate into game statistics. In fact, it turned out to be the opposite.

Princess Celestia

Hoof-manicure: 200 gp. Sparkling-hair perm: 900 gp. Making everyone respect the tramp stamp on your ass: priceless.

It didn’t take long to figure out why this was. In the context of the show, Princess Celestia has a very specific role: she acts as a mentor to Twilight Sparkle (and, by proxy, to the rest of the Mane Six). Mentor characters aren’t meant to occupy the spotlight; they’re meant to set the stage for the main cast members, which is what Celestia does. The vast majority of her appearances have her delivering exposition and adventure hooks, and the remainder have her either being defeated or explaining why she can’t fight…all the better to set the stakes with.

As such, there were comparatively few abilities of hers that required translation into game mechanics. Let’s go over what powers Celestia does have and see if we can quantify them.

Spellcasting: Princess Celestia seems to be an accomplished spellcaster. In The Cutie Mark Chronicles, she stops the young Twilight’s out-of-control burst of magic, similar to how she undoes the “want it, need it” spell Twilight cast on a doll in Lesson Zero, both of which look like dispel magic.

Some other spells she casts are in Return of Harmony to keep a door sealed shut (arcane lock), in Keep Calm and Flutter On to stop some things from being moved via magic (dimensional anchor), and in A Canterlot Wedding she fires a beam of magical energy at Queen Chrysalis (searing light).

She also demonstrates that she can use the dark magic of King Sombra in The Crystal Empire, causing black crystals to erupt from the ground. That particular spell is difficult to classify, but I’d call it a lesser version of black tentacles – one that causes damage on the initial round when it takes effect (save for half), and thereafter makes the area difficult terrain; call it one level lower than the basic version, since it’s not grappling anyone. Oh, and it has the [evil] descriptor – maybe the damage type is unholy?

Either way, none of these spells are above fourth level, which nicely matches the show’s nature of having magic be prevalent but not powerful.

Ageless: Princess Celestia is well over a thousand years old, already having been the ruler of Equestria with her younger sister, Luna, when the latter attempted a coup a millenium ago. Given that the show’s head writer has tweeted that Twilight – after becoming an alicorn – will not outlive her friends, it seems that Celestia’s immortality is something specific to her and Luna, rather than to all alicorns in general.

Raising and Lowering the Sun (and the Moon): Princess Celestia is the princess of the day in Equestria, with Luna being the princess of the night. Each day Celestia raises the sun to start the day, and ends it by lowering the sun to make room for the moon and the stars. During Luna’s banishment, Celestia also takes over her job of moving the moon and the stars each night, also.

Interestingly, in Hearth’s Warming Eve, it’s mentioned that before the Equestria was founded, the unicorn tribe collectively was responsible for moving the celestial bodies. That, and Celestia’s cutie mark being the sun (as well as her nature of an alicorn), conveys how extraordinary it is that she’s able to perform this task on her own.

Prophetic Dreams: In Twilight’s Kingdom, Celestia has a dream of Tirek’s return. She doesn’t question this vision, immediately (and correctly) interpreting it as being true.

Defeating King Sombra: In The Crystal Empire, Celestia tells how she and Luna defeated King Sombra a thousand years ago, changing him into shadow and sealing him in the ice of the arctic north. That’s…somewhat problematic. For one thing, changing him into shadow doesn’t, by itself, seem to have done anything to hinder him. In fact, he seems more fearsome that way.

Worse, sealing someone away in ice for a millenium isn’t functionally different from sealing them deep underground, or in the moon, etc. It’s still essentially an imprisonment spell, which Celestia and Luna apparently used under their own power here, but Celestia needed the Elements of Harmony to seal away a corrupted Luna.

We could possibly chalk this up to Celestia and Luna achieving greater power by working together, or even positing that the Elements of Harmony were used, despite their not being mentioned in the exposition. However, I think it’s easier to just give Celestia a way to use a powerful spell on rare occasions.

Alicorn Nature: As an alicorn, Celestia has all of the abilities of the three types of ponies – the flight of pegasi, the magic of unicorns, and the strength of earth ponies. It’s also mentioned that she and the other princesses have “alicorn magic,” though this isn’t expounded upon beyond some general intimations of it being stronger than “normal” magic.

One notable exception is in Twilight’s Kingdom, where Celestia – along with Luna and Cadence – give Twilight their alicorn magic, leaving themselves drained of all mystical abilities. Twilight, by contrast, is super-powered to the point of having difficulty controlling it all (at least until her epic showdown with Tirek).

So what does all of this look like in Eclipse? My guess would be something like the following:

Princess Celestia, level 8 alicorn (ECL 9)

Available Character Points: 216 (level 8 base) + 18 (levels 1, 3 and 6 feats) + 16 (duties) + 6 (disadvantages) = 256 CP.

Celestia’s disadvantages are History (we’ve seen a lot of her old enemies making reappearances) and Unarmored. Her duties involve administrating an entire kingdom.

Ability Scores (32-point buy):

Ability Scores Base Racial Levels Items Total
Strength 12 +2 14 (+2)
Dexterity 14 14 (+2)
Constitution 14 +2 16 (+3)
Intelligence 14 +1 +2 (crown) 17 (+3)
Wisdom 12 +1 13 (+1)
Charisma 14 +2 16 (+3)

Given Celestia’s status as one of the oldest and most powerful characters in Equestria, it seemed appropriate to give her the largest point-buy for her ability scores.

Alicorn (62 CP/+1 ECL race)

  • +2 Charisma (12 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier where applicable. (11 CP; 10,200 gp).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Strength (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Constitution (1,400 gp)
    • Cloud walk (1,400 gp)
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Heavenly lever (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).
  • Workhorse, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (4 CP).
  • Celerity with the Additional modifier, all set to flight, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (12 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/major – only for spells of level 5 or below) (15 CP).
  • Eldritch, an alicorn’s horn glows when using innate enchantments or spellcasting, and a matching glow surrounds the target (0 CP).
  • 1d6 Mana, with the spell enhancement natural magic, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may only be used to pay for spell enhancement or other special abilities (4 CP).
  • Skill Focus (Spellcraft), specialized for double effect/only for checks to move celestial bodies (6 CP).
  • Accursed. Any damage, or other harmful effect, that befalls an alicorn’s horn (e.g. must target their horn specifically, rather than the alicorn overall) causes all innate enchantments and spells cast to immediately end. No more can be used until the effect is healed (-3 CP).
  • Valuable. Alicorns are desirable to dark forces for their purity and magic (-3 CP).

Celestia’s Skill Focus, and the last item in her Innate Enchantment, are specific to her. Other than that, the above is the racial writeup for alicorns in general.

Alicorns are essentially a mix of the racial abilities of pegasi, unicorns, and earth ponies. The notable differences are the addition of “alicorn magic” – which is their racial mana, the increased ability to use spells without verbal, somatic, or material components, and an additional disadvantage.

Celestia’s last Innate Enchantment spell, heavenly lever, is a 1st-level spell that grants a +10 competence bonus to Spellcraft checks to move celestial bodies. According to The Practical Enchanter, a spell of this level would normally grant a +5 bonus; given the limited circumstances of the check, doubling it seemed appropriate.

Fans of the show might realize that there’s a slight issue with making alicorns a +1 ECL race.

When Twilight changes her base race from unicorn to alicorn at the end of season three, that would put her a level behind her friends, since she needs to pay for the effective level in assuming a more powerful race, whereas they can level up normally. That’s a little awkward, since Twilight doesn’t seem to be any less capable than her friends after her transformation.

The answer here ties into Princess Celestia’s primary role on the show being Twilight’s mentor, as mentioned above. Specifically, she’s the justification for Twilight taking the Mentor ability, specialized for double effect/only to pay for a racial ECL modifier. That grants her +20% extra XP, used only to pay (proactively) for changing up from a +0 ECL race to a +1 ECL race. (She likely retrains this to remove the specialization afterwards, since it’s no longer needed as-is.)

Of course, given that the XP awards on the show are probably fairly small overall, it’s likely that Twilight was still at an XP deficit when the transformation actually happened. Hence the Equestria Girls movie following immediately thereafter. That’s exactly the sort of solo adventure a GM would run for a character that needs just a little more XP to get over the top.

Basic Abilities (138 CP)

  • No weapon or armor proficiencies (0 CP).
  • 8d10 Hit Dice (48 CP).
  • +6 Warcraft, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (24 CP).
  • Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +2 (36 CP).
  • 30 skill points (30 CP).

Celestia’s basic abilities showcase her background. She hasn’t had to fight many battles, but she’s fought enough to have invested in large Hit Dice and a decent BAB, though not in iterative attacks or high saving throws (most of the spells she faces involve attack rolls anyway). She’s spent a fair amount on skill points, as you tend to learn quite a bit over such a long lifespan.

Regina Magica (59 CP)

  • 11 caster levels, specialized in the ranger progression for one-half cost (33 CP).
  • 11 levels of ranger magic progression (spontaneous casting, arcane magic, studies and restrained limitations). Specialized for one-half cost/not usable in armor (11 CP).
  • Spell Flow (6 CP).
  • Spell Pool (6 CP).
  • Enthusiast, specialized for double effect/only for spells (3 CP).

I’ve mentioned before that magic is provident but not powerful in Equestria. My interpretation of that is that the most “advanced” form of magic – the kind likely taught at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns – is the spontaneous arcane variant of the ranger/paladin progression listed above. Celestia’s casting attribute is Charisma.

Since she has Spell Flow (taken at 1st level) Celestia has 22.5 spell levels that she can spend to “learn” various Spells Known (0-level spells are a half-level), though these must be on her spell list (which isn’t defined here, but as a four-level arcane progression with the “restrained” limitation, is going to be quite small). Once made, these choices cannot be changed.

As mentioned above, some of the spells she already knows (and their level on her spell list) are arcane lock (1), dimensional anchor (4), searing light (2), and “dark crystals” (3). I’ll also throw light (0.5) in there as a utility spell that every spellcasting pony is likely to know. That leaves her with 12 levels’ worth of spells she can add to her Spells Known List.

Likewise, her Spell Pool ability means that Celestia has a grand total of 14.5 spell levels that she can cast in a day. She can use these in any combination of spell levels, save that she cannot use more than four 4th-level, five 3rd-level, six 2nd-level, seven 1st-level, or eight 0-level spells.

Finally, her having Enthusiast allows her to know any particular spell, though it’d still need to be one that’s on her spell list. This is usually used in conjunction with mana and/or a Dominion Point to cast a spell of extraordinary power.

Eternal Princess of Equestria (24 CP)

  • Immunity to aging (uncommon/minor/great) (6 CP).
  • Major privilege (6 CP).
  • Dominion (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills for double effect (6 CP).

Technically, Celestia and Luna both have Dominion for Equestria. That seems odd, but there’s nothing particularly counterintuitive about it; it’s not unusual to have areas ruled by multiple people simultaneously. Though at this point Celestia has a much greater store of Dominion Points than Luna does.

On an interesting note, Celestia has spent a Dominion Point on assigning at least one office; that of the Captain of her Royal Guard. Until the end of the second season of the show, this was Shining Armor, Twilight’s older brother (hence how he was able to cast such a large force field around the city).

Mystic Insight

  • Deep Sleep with Cosmic Awareness (12 CP).

This explains not only Celestia’s prophetic dreams, but also how she was able to rule over the day and night for a thousand years. Not needing that much sleep makes it easier to get a lot done.

Alicorn Magic (14 CP)

  • 3d6 additional mana, corrupted for two-thirds cost/as per her racial mana (12 CP).
  • Blessing, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for mana, causes her to lose all magical abilities while mana is donated (2 CP).

Twilight confirms in the fourth season finale that alicorn magic, while inherent, is something an alicorn learns to control (and presumably strengthen) over time. Hence, Celestia has a fairly high amount of mana. Likewise, she can bestow it on another, though doing so leaves her severely weakened.

She Who Moves the Sun

  • Skill Emphasis (x2), specialized for double-effect/only to move celestial bodies (6 CP).

Between her +16 skill bonus in Spellcraft (below), the +6 from her racial Skill Focus, the +10 from her racial Innate Enchantment, and the +8 from this ability, Celestia has a total of +40 to Spellcraft checks to move celestial bodies. Ergo, by taking 10 on the check, she can hit a DC 50, which is the result needed to be able to rearrange the heavens.

Note that this particular application of Spellcraft – which has no prerequisites besides being able to cast spells – only works in Equestria (or realms with similar cosmologies). In a “normal” fantasy world, this would be an Epic Stunt (from Skill Focus), and the DC would be much, much higher. For a good comparison, see the 23rd-level spell orbital adjustment in Eclipse.

Weapon of Last Resort

  • Martial arts, 1d4 damage with unarmed strike (3 CP).

This is to represent that Celestia can use her horn as a melee weapon. We never see her do this, save for momentarily locking horns with Queen Chrysalis in A Canterlot Wedding, but it’s not a bad idea for her to have the option anyway.

Magic Items

  • Crown of Insight. This crown grants the wearer a +2 enhancement bonus to Intelligence, as well as a +2 competence bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy, Knowledge (nobility and royalty), and Sense Motive (5,540 gp).
  • Torc of Royal Aegis. This torc combines the effects of bracers of armor +4 and a cloak of resistance +3 (25,900 gp).
  • Horseshoes of Swift Travel. The wearer of these horseshoes is under a continual personal haste spell (from The Practical Enchanter) (4,000 gp).

As a 9th-level character, Celestia has 36,000 gp (using the PC wealth-by-level table). However, like most characters from popular media, she isn’t shown to wrap herself in magical gear the way d20 characters do. Ergo, the best compromise is to say that what few items she does wear are themselves magical, providing continuous but unobtrusive effects.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 10 (1st level) + 38 (7d10) + 24 (Con. bonus) = 72 hp.
  • Speed: 30 ft., fly 30 ft. (perfect) + 30 ft. (horseshoes) = 60 ft., fly 60 ft. (perfect).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +5 (base) +3 (Con. bonus) +3 (torc) = +11.
    • Ref: +5 (base) +2 (Dex. bonus) +3 (torc) = +10.
    • Will: +2 (base) +1 (Wis. bonus) +3 (torc) = +6.
  • Armor Class = 10 (base) +2 (Dex) +4 (torc) = 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14.
  • Attacks: unarmed strike +6 (BAB) + 2 (Str) = unarmed strike +8 (1d4+2).
  • Skills: 30 skill points (30 CP) + 22 (Int. bonus) + 22 (Fast Learner) = 74 skill points.
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Misc. Modifier Total
Bluff 0 +3 Cha +2 competence +5
Concentration 5 +3 Con +8
Diplomacy 4 +3 Cha +2 synergy (Knowledge (nobility and royalty)), +2 competence +11
Gather Information 2 (4 points) +3 Cha +2 synergy (Knowledge (local)) +7
Intimidate 3 +3 Cha +6
Knowledge (arcana) 5 +3 Int +8
Knowledge (geography) 5 +3 Int +8
Knowledge (history) 5 +3 Int +8
Knowledge (local) 5 +3 Int +8
Knowledge (nobility and royalty) 5 +3 Int +2 competence +10
Knowledge (the planes) 2 +3 Int +5
Listen 2 (4 points) +1 Wis +3
Perform (sing) 4 +3 Cha +7
Search 2 (4 points) +3 Int +5
Sense Motive 4 +1 Wis +2 competence +7
Spellcraft 11 +3 Int +2 synergy (Knowledge (arcana)) +16
Spot 2 (4 points) +1 Wis +3
Survival 0 +1 Wis +2 synergy (Knowledge (geography)) to keep from getting lost or avoiding hazards or when on other planes +1

Celestia’s class skills are the twelve in the above table that have ranks which have been bought on a 1:1 basis – Concentration, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana, geography, history, local, nobility and royalty, the planes), Perform, Sense Motive, and Spellcraft. Craft and Profession are also class skills for her, though she has no ranks in either.

There’s no Pathfinder presentation for Princess Celestia, unlike in the previous article. That’s because using the Pathfinder rules in Eclipse – not just the package deal and the extra CPs, but the Pathfinder ability score point-buy values, skill system, and even PC wealth-by-level table – present just enough differences that, for a higher-level character like Celestia, she’d need to be near-totally rewritten.

Needless to say, that was a little more than I wanted to portray, so I’ve elected to show only her 3.5 game stats.

Overall, Princess Celestia is a moderately powerful character for her level. She presents a fairly mixed balance between skills and spellcasting, being capable at both while overwhelming at neither. Of course, to the citizens of Equestria she’s akin to a demigod – that’s to be expected, since the disparity in power between a 9th-level character compared to a 1st-level one is overwhelming.

Insofar as the other alicorns on the show are concerned, Luna’s build would probably look extremely similar to Celestia’s (which is to be expected, given that they perform extremely similar tasks), being maybe a level or two lower and swapping out the prophetic dreams for actual dreamwalking. Cadence would be more of a support character, having buffing and healing instead of offense and utility powers.

And Twilight…well, we’ll just have to see where the show takes her.

A Level One Rarity

June 7, 2014

Having presented the pony races of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in general, I wanted to go ahead and give Eclipse stats to some specific individuals from the show. While my initial inclination was to portray Princess Celestia – one of the most powerful characters in the series – I instead decided to showcase an average pony, as that better sets up a contrast to the alicorn princess.

Given that the Mane Six are the characters with the most presentation on the show, and are ponies from average walks of life, choosing one of them was a no-brainer. But surprisingly, several of them were unsuited for being presented as your typical, average pony in Equestria.


Bold choice, being a fashionista in a world where no one wears clothes.

Twilight Sparkle, for instance, is indicated early on to have untapped potential greater than other ponies, foreshadowing that comes to a head at the end of the third season with her alicorn transformation. Rainbow Dash is athletic, which by itself isn’t a deal-breaker, but some fans have posited that her physical prowess is such that she could defeat Starscream – yes, that Starscream – in a fight. Pinkie Pie’s antics are over-the-top to such a degree that she seems to have narrative powers (and quite possibly some immunity to the fourth wall), which is very interesting but in no way “average.”

Given that Applejack seems to be notably strong (even for an earth pony) and that Fluttershy’s rapport with animals seems to be at least somewhat mystical in nature (to the point of being able to communicate with them verbally), that left only…

Rarity, level 1 unicorn pony

Available Character Points: 48 (level one base) + 6 (level one feat) + 2 (duties) = 56 CP.

Rarity’s duties are focused around her business, the Carousel Boutique. Considering that there have been several episodes that involve her running or promoting her shop, this seems to be appropriate.

Ability Scores (15-point buy): Str 9, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 10, Cha 13. These include her racial ability score modifiers.

The point-buy for the above ability scores uses the 3.5 rules, from the DMG p. 169. Here, all ability scores start out at 8 rather than 10, and 15 points is the “low-powered campaign” option, which seemed appropriate.

Unicorn Pony Traits

  • 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).
    • Detect gemstones (1,000 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, Craft (tailor) (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).

Rarity’s detect gemstones ability functions as per detect magic, save that it locates gemstones only. Luckily, in Equestria, perfectly-cut gemstones are often found just a foot or two underground, or waiting inside large rocks that can be cracked open like piñatas.

Her Skill Focus being used for Craft (tailor) is, of course, representative of her cutie mark. This skill was used rather than Profession (fashion designer) because the former represents her creative ability itself, whereas the latter skill is focused on her ability to market and make a living off of her talents.

Basic Abilities (44 CP)

  • No weapon or armor proficiencies (0 CP).
  • 1d6 Hit Die at 1st level (2 CP).
  • +0 Warcraft (0 CP).
  • Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +2 (12 CP).
  • 30 skill points (30 CP).

Soul of Generosity

Since the Elements of Harmony are retired in the fourth season premiere, and since the characters in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic seem to gain experience quite slowly, it’s not unreasonable that Rarity retrained these 2 Character Points to spend elsewhere after the Elements are gone.

Upwardly Mobile

  • Contacts x3 (3 CP).

These contacts represent the celebrity and high-society connections Rarity makes over the course of the show.

Minor Spellcaster (7 CP)

  • 1 caster level, specialized for half cost/only for generic spell levels (3 CP).
  • Mana, 2d4 (5) generic spell levels option, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no form of natural magic (4 CP).
  • Spells known: dancing lights, light, mending, prestidigitationshear (0-level Compact version; 2 min./level duration) (0 CP; purchased with gp).

It’s off-handedly mentioned near the end of the first season that Princess Celestia has a School for Gifted Unicorns. Given that it’s for unicorns only, and that its entrance exam is a test of magic, it seems to follow that this school is for formal education in spellcasting.

There’s no indication that Rarity ever attended this school, however. As such, her spellcasting abilities don’t use a formalized progression. That’s fine for her though, as she only uses – and only needs – a few cantrips anyway.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 6 (1st level) + 0 (Con mod.) = 6 hp.
  • Speed: 30 feet.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +0 (base) +0 (Con mod.) = +0.
    • Reflex: +2 (base) +0 (Dex mod.) = +2.
    • Will: +2 (base) +0 (Wis mod.) = +2.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +0 (Dex mod.) = 10.
  • Attacks: unarmed strike +0 (BAB) -1 (Str mod.) = -1 (1d3-1 nonlethal).
  • Skill points: 30 (CP) + 0 (Int mod.) = 30 skill points.
Skills Ranks Ability Bonus Misc. Bonus Total
Appraise 3 +0 Int +3
Bluff 2 +1 Cha +3
Concentration 2 +0 Con +2
Craft (tailor) 4 +0 Int +3 Skill Focus +7
Diplomacy 2 +1 Cha +3
Knowledge (local) 3 +0 Int +3
Knowledge (nobility and royalty) 3 +0 Int +3
Perform (sing) 3 +1 Cha +4
Profession (fashion designer) 4 +0 Wis +4
Search 2 +0 Int +2
Sense Motive 2 +0 Wis +2

Rarity’s class skills are Craft and Profession, plus another twelve skills. In this case, she’s chosen nine of her class skills, with three left unspecified. I’d recommend these be basic functions like Jump, Listen, and Spot.

Unsurprisingly, Rarity makes a poor adventurer by typical d20 standards. As a 1st-level character from a relatively peaceful society, she has – as we’ve seen before – no particular reason to learn any combat abilities. Instead, she’s focused primarily on easily-learned mundane skills that are of practical use in her community. Even her use of magic is all but negligible, being limited to a few innate abilities and a couple of minor spells.

Given that, it’s little wonder that the episodes of MLP:FiM that focus on actual adventuring are so uncommon. The threats that a typical 1st-level D&D party faces would be overwhelming to ponies like Rarity, so what few enemies they face tend to be ones that can be avoided or talked down. Though when exceptions do happen, they tend to be pretty epic.

Pathfinder Rarity

Like the previous article, the statistics presented above are for 3.5 rather than Pathfinder. That’s because using Pathfinder standards pushed Rarity’s overall level of power up by a surprisingly considerable amount. This is understandable; for a low-level non-optimized character, any boost is going to seem like a large one.

To bring Rarity up to spec for Pathfinder, we’ll start by applying the Pathfinder package deal to her character. This gives her a “favored class bonus” that we’ll use for hit points, bringing her total hp at 1st-level up to 7.

It also applies a +2 bonus to her Intelligence, but rather than applying it straight, we’ll recalculate her ability scores using the (more generous) point-buy allocation in the Pathfinder Core Rules, where all ability scores start off at 10, and a “low fantasy” build gives 10 points. Using these guidelines, and the racial bonuses for unicorns, Rarity’s Pathfinder ability scores are as follows:

Ability Scores (10-point buy): Str 11, Dex 12, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 14.

That’s a not-inconsiderable amount of inflation to her attribute scores, compared to her 3.5 incarnation, which helps to highlight the degree to which Pathfinder tends to introduce power creep. This changes her derived stats as follows:

  • Hit points: 6 (1st level) +0 (Con mod.) +1 (“favored class” bonus) = 7 hp.
  • Speed: 30 feet.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +0 (base) +0 (Con mod.) = +0.
    • Reflex: +2 (base) +1 (Dex mod.) = +3.
    • Will: +2 (base) +0 (Wis mod.) = +2.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +1 (Dex mod.) = 11.
  • Attacks: unarmed strike +0 (BAB) +0 (Str mod.) = +0 (1d3 nonlethal).

This isn’t the end of the changes we need to make, however.

Rarity is a skill-based character, and Pathfinder’s skill system has some notable differences from the 3.5 version. For one thing, a character is limited to a number of ranks equal to her level, rather than level +3. That means that, if we keep the number of Pathfinder skills Rarity has relatively even with her 3.5 skills, she’s going to have a lot of leftover points.

Most of the skills listed in her 3.5 skill table have a Pathfinder equivalent – only Concentration is eliminated entirely. That leaves her with ten skills, each with only a single rank; since she gets 1 free skill rank from her Intelligence bonus, she’s now spending only 9 CP on skills.

Since she originally spent 30 CP on skills, the other 21 CP will have to be re-spent elsewhere. Given that her overall nature as a skill-focused character hasn’t changed, it’d be awkward to spend these on special powers or combat abilities, since the show makes it very clear that she has none. As such, we’ll spend these remaining Character Points on yet more skill-boosters:

Intuitive Insight (12 CP)

  • Augmented Bonus/may add Charisma bonus to Intelligence-based skills (6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus/may add Charisma bonus to Wisdom-based skills (6 CP).

Superlative Seamstress (9 CP)

  • Speed enhancement to her racial Skill Focus (Craft (tailor)) ability (6 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis, +2 bonus to Profession (fashion designer) (3 CP).

This is without even getting into the fact that, since very early on, Pathfinder has encouraged characters to take starting traits, two “half-feats” – which I interpret to mean “an additional 6 CP” – taken at character creation to help flesh out a character’s pre-adventuring background. Since traits are still (technically) an optional rule, we’ll spend those on a thematically-appropriate power that has virtually no in-character representation:

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized in skill and ability checks for one-half cost (6 CP).

Altogether, this changes her skill table to look like the following:

Skills Ranks Ability Bonus Class Bonus Misc. Bonus Total
Appraise 1 +1 Int, +2 Cha +3 +7
Bluff 1 +2 Cha +3 +6
Craft (tailor) 1 +1 Int, +2 Cha +3 +3 Skill Focus +10
Diplomacy 1 +2 Cha +3 +6
Knowledge (local) 1 +1 Int, +2 Cha +3 +7
Knowledge (nobility) 1 +1 Int, +2 Cha +3 +7
Perception 1 +0 Wis, +2 Cha +3 +6
Perform (sing) 1 +2 Cha +3 +6
Profession (fashion designer) 1 +0 Wis, +2 Cha +3 +2 Skill Emphasis +8
Sense Motive 1 +0 Wis, +2 Cha +3 +6

Between the additional abilities given above, her heightened ability scores, and Pathfinder’s mandate that all class skills automatically gain a +3 bonus, Rarity’s skills are the most stark showcase for how much strength Pathfinder gives low-level characters. Pathfinder-Rarity is in every way superior to her 3.5 counterpart!

As a note, using the standard metric of twelve class skills plus Craft and Profession, Rarity has four more class skills. I’d recommend Climb, Heal, Intimidate, and Knowledge (geography). These aren’t quite as utilitarian as I’d like, but are the least intrusive with regards to what Rarity’s good at (unlike, say, more athletic- or knowledge-focused skills).

Now that we’ve established what the everyday ponies are like, it’s time to look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Next time, we’ll look at alicorns in general and Princess Celestia in particular!

Race-ing Ponies

May 31, 2014

Continuing with last week’s theme, I’m posting more d20 stats for various aspects of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic using the point-buy rules in Eclipse: the Codex Persona. Whereas before I kept a narrow focus by writing up the mechanics for a single magical relic, this time we’ll examine something far more universal in the show’s presentation: the various pony races.

Earth Ponies (20 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Dexterity (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier. Corrupted for two-thirds cost/only provides two-thirds usual gp value (4 CP; 3,400 gp).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Strength (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Constitution (1,400 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).
  • Workhorse, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (4 CP).
  • Skill Focus (6 CP).
  • Blocked. Earth ponies are not able to take any spellcasting progressions (-3 CP).

Frienship is Magic initially presents earth ponies as the most boring of the three types of ponies. Pegasi get to fly and walk on clouds, unicorns get to use magic, and earth ponies…don’t really get anything.

The show eventually gives earth ponies some unique attributes, but does so in a rather hesitant manner. We’re told midway through season two that the tribe of earth ponies are the only ones that practice agriculture, which all ponies rely on since they’re all herbivorous. The problem is that that’s specialized knowledge, rather than a racial ability. It’s only at the end of season four that we’re told that earth ponies have inherently magical strength that allows them to work the land.

…which, when you think about it, is still kind of lame. Especially since there are plenty of earth ponies that we see in the show that don’t display any sort of exceptional strength. That suggests that this strength is notably minor, which is probably best represented by the Workhorse ability in the above build. Purely to make them a more attractive racial choice, I’ve bolstered that power with Innate Enchantments that boost Strength and Constitution as well.

That doesn’t make earth ponies quite as attractive to play as unicorns or pegasi – as those races’ greater CP expenditures demonstrate – but it does help to close the gap.

Some communiques from the show’s staff have suggested that instead of – or possibly in addition to – having greater strength than other ponies, earth ponies have a special connection to the land and its creatures.

If you want to add that ability, change the Innate Enchantment listing for earth ponies to the following:

  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier. (7 CP; 6,000 gp).
    • +3 competence bonus to Handle Animal (1,400 gp)
    • +3 competence bonus to Knowledge (nature) (1,400 gp)
    • +3 competence bonus to Profession (farmer) (1,400 gp)
    • +3 competence bonus to Survival (1,400 gp)

That increases their racial build to 23 CP – still within the 31 CP cutoff for an ECL +0 race – and makes them a bit more equitable with their fellow equines.

If you want to have the above in addition to the increased Strength and Constitution, simply add those abilities back in and increase the CP value of the Innate Enchantment to 10 (9,000 gp), giving them a total racial cost of 26 CP.

Pegasus Ponies (26 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Constitution (6 CP).
  • Celerity with the Additional modifier, all set to flight, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (12 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier. Specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only provides one-third usual gp value (2 CP; 1,700 gp).
    • Cloud walk (1,400 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).
  • Skill Focus (6 CP).
  • Blocked. Pegasus ponies are not able to take any spellcasting progressions (-3 CP).

That pegasus ponies’ ability to fly is magical – as stated during the fourth season finale – makes a great deal of sense, since it neatly explains how we constantly see them flying with the adroit maneuverability of hummingbirds. The statistics given above let pegasus ponies fly at a rate of 30 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Their equally unique ability to walk on clouds was slightly more tricky. Ultimately, I decided to modify the water walk spell into a lower-level version specific to clouds. Since that’s much more limited in scope – clouds only, rather than all liquids – and has a much more limited set of useful circumstances (simply getting up to the clouds isn’t going to be possible without being able to fly in the first place), I set the spell level as being 1. The full version of the spell is below:


School transmutation [air]; Level cleric/oracle 1, ranger 1

Components V, S, DF

Range touch

Targets one touched creature/level

Duration 1 hour/level (D)

Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

Subjects of this spell can walk upon clouds as though they were solid ground. This spell only works with regard to clouds, and not other forms of aerial obscurement such as smoke, mist, or fog. The subjects can walk, run, charge, or otherwise move across the surface of the cloud as if it were normal ground.

There is, of course, no particular reason for pegasus ponies to purchase an immunity to stacking limits with regard to their Innate Enchantments, but its worth having if only to allow for individual ponies that manage to increase their innate powers somehow.

Unicorn Ponies (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).
    • One additional 0- or 1st-level spell.
  • 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 (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).

It’s not wrong to suggest that unicorns are, to put it politely, first among equals. This is primarily due not to any particular power that they have, but rather one limitation that they lack: the inability to become spellcasters. Unicorns alone can use magic actively, rather than relying solely on innate abilities.

Speaking of which, the listing for their Innate Enchantments is not an error; greater mage hand is there twice to show that unicorns are able to manipulate two things at once. Their third Innate Enchantment is specific to each unicorn, reflecting their individual dispositions.

The greater mage hand spell is from the 3.5 Spell Compendium. It functions as per the normal mage hand spell, save for being first level, having a duration of concentration, medium range, and allows for things of up to 40 lbs. to be lifted with an effective Strength of 10, and can be moved up to 20 ft. per round.

A Few Rules of Hoof

There are a few general notes that should be mentioned with regards to the above races.

The major one is that none of these have been specialized or corrupted due to being quadrupeds that lack proper hands. That wasn’t an oversight – ponies aren’t penalized for their lack of opposable thumbs because, as they’re portrayed on the show, they can effectively work around that limitation.

Partially through using their mouths and partially through the cartoon fiat that lets their forelegs function akin to human arms at convenient times, ponies don’t seem to lack any particular ability to manipulate their environment in the same ways a human would. Ergo, they don’t get any price break.

Likewise, each race has Skill Focus, but the particular skill is unspecified. That’s on purpose, as this is the special talent that each pony discovers for themselves as they reach maturity – in other words, their cutie mark. That this shouldn’t technically happen until the pony reaches first level, and is displayed with a unique mark on each flank, is too minor to warrant mechanical extrapolation.

I also elected to keep the ponies Medium-sized, rather than Small. That wasn’t my initial plan – after all, they’re called My Little Ponies – but I made a rough determination (using some extremely pedantic reasoning) that the smallest adult ponies, such as Twilight and her friends, were four feet tall, which is the minimum height for Medium creatures. Add in that several other ponies are taller than this (e.g. Big Mac), and the decision became an easy one.

It’s worth noting that every breed of pony had Charisma as the ability score that received a +2 bonus to reflect how, on the show, ponies of all sorts have a gregarious disposition. Being outgoing, if not always friendly, is second-nature to ponies of all kinds, making Charisma a natural choice for which ability score gets a racial boost.

Finally, none of these ponies has a favored class, using the 3.5 meaning of the term. Just like humans, a pony’s favored class is whichever base class they currently have the most levels in.

Pathfinder Ponies

As the above paragraph makes clear, these races are all built to 3.5 standards. Under the Eclipse rules, this is distinct from Pathfinder only in that each race has a total ability score modifier of +0. This is deliberate, as Eclipse makes Pathfinder modifications separately via a package deal.

If you want to use these ponies in a Pathfinder game, the aforementioned package deal requires the additional +2 bonus to be mandated by race, rather than freely assigned. As such, here’s the listing for the additional ability score bonus for the various pony tribes:

  • Earth ponies: +2 Wisdom.
  • Pegasus ponies: +2 Dexterity.
  • Unicorn ponies: +2 Intelligence.

Next time, we’ll look at some particular pony personages!