Posts Tagged ‘My Little Pony’

Tails of Equestria – Character Levels and the Mane Six

June 18, 2017

One of the most enjoyable parts of an RPG adaptation of a popular series is seeing how it stats out the characters from that series. That’s because – since RPG fans are inveterate tinkerers who want to quantify their fantasies so as to better understand (and so enjoy) them – this lets us get a better handle on what they can do. With that level of concrete information, we can evaluate them in more objective terms; this forms a more stable foundation that we can hang new possibilities on, and so let our imaginations run (even more) wild.

Tails of Equestria, with its stats for the Mane Six, is no exception to this.

Pony Power Levels

Chapter 11 goes over the process of gaining levels. In brief, a PC (pony character) gains a level every time they finish an adventure, regardless of how many sessions that takes. Experience isn’t tracked; it’s one level per adventure, period. (Mini-adventures, such as The Gift Horse, are typically meant to be dropped into their full-length counterparts as an extra scenario, rather than being treated as full adventures in-and-of themselves.)

Gaining a level if a fairly simple process in Tails of Equestria. You increase one of your traits by one die size (and, if it’s Body or Mind, increase your Stamina points accordingly). You increase all of the talents that you used during the adventure by one die size (which means that canny players will try and find a way to use as many of their talents as they can during the adventure). You increase a single talent that you didn’t use by one die size OR learn a brand new talent at D4 value. You might choose an additional quirk, though this isn’t recommended.

That’s pretty much it.

The chapter also notes that characters that reach level 10 should typically be retired. Adventures for ponies beyond that point are “epic quests” due to the scope of the challenges that ponies of such a high level will likely face. (I also can’t help but note the amusing irony that ponies above level 10 are, essentially, “epic-level” characters.)

Naturally, this leads us to wonder if the Mane Six – whose stat blocks are on pages 136-137 – are epic-level ponies. At a glance, it’s not immediately obvious, since their stat blocks don’t list their character levels. Luckily, we can reverse-engineer their stats to figure out what level they are; while this can’t be done with their talents (since those are only raised if they were “used” or not during adventures, and so can’t be reliably measured), their traits have starting values and rates of increase that are set.

All 1st-level characters in Tails of Equestria start with a D4 and a D6, which they can place in either their Mind or Body traits as they choose. Their Charm trait always starts out as a D6. Finally, earth ponies – thanks to their Stout Heart racial trait – always bump up their Body value by one die size. In other words, we know what the total value of a 1st-level character’s traits will be. Since we know that characters always bump up a single trait by one die size when they gain a level, we can subtract this from a character’s starting trait values to figure out what their level is.

How does she not have “Being Awesome” as a talent?

For example, Rainbow Dash has Body D20, Mind D10, and Charm D10. Regardless of how she arranged her initial Mind and Body trait values (i.e. whether she started out with Body D6 and Mind D4, or Body D4 and Mind D6), we can chart the number of die increases she’s received, and the number will be the same either way. In this case, her current traits represent nine increases over a 1st-level character’s trait values…meaning that she’s level 10.

Some quick calculations show that this is the same for Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rarity; all are level 10 characters.

Twilight probably should be the same, but there’s a bit of an issue with saying for certain. If we judge her by the starting trait values of a unicorn (since she was one originally), then she’s received ten increases, rather then nine, which would make her a level 11 character. But as I noted previously, she should likely have the Stout Heart trait of an earth pony, due to her alicorn nature. Since having this talent automatically increases your Body trait by one die size, that would mean that Twilight has only gained nine increases, and so is a level 10 character, the same as her friends. That strikes me as being more in keeping with her character (even if she has had several adventures on her own, such as the events of Equestria Girls and Rainbow Rocks).

Naturally, this leads us to wonder what – out of over a hundred-fifty episodes – these nine adventures have been that raised the Mane Six’s levels. It’s tempting to consider the major two-parters that constitutes most of the season premieres and finales up through the beginning of season six (the earliest that Tails of Equestria can reasonably be set, since it references Flurry Heart), but not all of the Mane Six participated in those (e.g. the events of the season five finale, The Cutie Re-Mark – Parts 1 & 2).

Epic Ponies

By now it’s fairly obvious why the rules recommend retiring a character that hits 10th level: a unicorn or pegasus that hits 14th level (or an earth pony that hits 13th level) will be able to max out all of their traits as D20s! What happens if they continue gaining levels after that? Well, the rules don’t say, but they do give us a hint…

Several creatures have multiple dice for a trait, such as how the ursa minor has a whopping 3D20 for its Body trait! More relevant to ponies is that Zecora’s (p. 135) traits are Body D12, Mind D20+D6, and Charm D20. From this, we can infer what happens for ponies that want to increase their traits past a D20 value: they start adding a second die! As per Zecora’s stat block, second dice for the Body or Mind traits count towards your total Stamina points.

Presuming that Zecora started out with the trait values of a typical pony (i.e. a D4 and D6 for her Mind and Body stats and a D6 for Charm), then her current trait dice make her a level 15 character!

A second die for a trait – which I’ll go ahead and say should always start at a D4, just like a new talent – is most likely treated similarly to how you use talents in conjunction with traits. That is, you roll both dice at once, and take the highest value rolled; you do not add them together. So if Zecora were rolling her Mind trait, she would roll a D20 and a D6, and take whichever rolled the highest (if she were using a relevant talent,  such as Keen Knowledge: Potions (D20), she would roll that as well, taking the best result from all three dice). Having a second die therefore means that you’re much less likely to have bad rolls (this will become more true if you continue to increase your second die’s size). GMs should probably strictly enforce the note on page 87 that no trait should be more than two die sizes above any other…though ironically Zecora herself, with her Body D12 and Mind D20+D6, is breaking that guideline!

These same rules should apply for talents that are increased beyond a D20 as well. Note that any trait or talent that reaches a D20 value – let alone gets a second die – is no longer able to use the Exploding Hoof technique (page 57); when you’re already rolling a D20 normally, rolling a only single die in hopes of getting maximum die value so that you can roll the next larger die is pointless.

In the event that a character ends up with 2D20 and still wants to increase the die value, then they can add a third in the same way, with potentially no limit to the number of dice that can be gained, though at that point you’ve likely gone well beyond what the book would consider to be epic adventures!

For a character that powerful, becoming an alicorn is likely something of an afterthought.

Tails of Equestria – Suggested Errata

June 10, 2017

So I imagine that my longtime readers (all four of them) are wondering why I haven’t had anything to say about the official My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic RPG, Tails of Equestria, up until now. After all, I’ve made quite a few posts about ponies in RPGs up until now, so why not a peep about the game since it released a few weeks ago?

In fact, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the game since it was first announced, and have already gotten a copy and reviewed it on various other websites. I haven’t mentioned it here simply because I use this blog for making more substantive posts than simple reviews, such as posting sample builds, suggesting variant rules, or mentioning some changes that I think should be made. This post is one of the latter, as there’s a (somewhat minor) issue that I noticed:

There seems to be an error in Twilight Sparkle’s stat block.

Before going any further, I should note that – as with all RPG systems that I talk about here – familiarity with the game rules is assumed. Use the link to the aforementioned review for an explanation of how the Tails of Equestria game rules work.

Pages 24-29 lay out the characteristics of each of the three pony types, noting that each has a racial talent at a D6 value: Fly for pegasi, Telekinesis for unicorns, and Stout Heart for earth ponies. Page 30, which briefly covers alicorns (and flat-out says that you can’t play one) says that they combine the characteristics of all three types of ponies: “Alicorn magic is not fully understood, but it is known that Alicorns have the magical powers of the Unicorns, the flying abilities of the Pegasi, and the strength of the good, true-hearted Earth ponies.” That seems to suggest, in other words, that alicorns should have the talents of each type of pony.

On page 137, however, Twilight only has two of them: Telekinesis (D20) and Fly (D6).

“She is Twilight Sparkle. Equestrian. She will not complain, so I complain for her.”

While it’s a bit odd that her Fly talent is so low – that would mean that, since becoming an alicorn (presuming that she gained her Fly talent as a D6 and not a D4, which seems like a reasonable assumption), her ability to fly has never been “used” during an adventure, since every talent you use is automatically bumped up by one die value when gaining a level (see page 87) – that she doesn’t have Stout Heart at all is a notable oversight.

That’s because, as outlined on page 25, the Stout Heart talent represents the only time in the entire game where you modify a die roll via elementary arithmetic: in addition to bumping your Body trait up by one die size, Stout Heart lets you roll the die associated with it (that is, the die associated with the Stout Heart talent itself) and add the result to any test that uses your Body trait. That’s the only time addition or subtraction are used in the game; all other mechanical interfaces with the rules rely on changing the number of rolls you get, how many dice are rolled, or the size of the dice being used.

This means that Twilight not having Stout Heart listed among her talents isn’t a purely academic notation; she’s actually (albeit slightly) reduced in what she can accomplish under the game rules. Most likely, she should have this at a D6 value, the same as for her Fly talent. Hopefully this will be corrected in future printings.

From Dusk Til…Dusk

January 1, 2017

Sonata Dusk has lived an interesting life.

Born a Siren in Equestria, she and her sisters Adagio and Aria were long ago banished to Earth by the great pony wizard, Star-Swirl the Bearded. Living as humans there, they managed to retain a low profile for a long time, stewing in their frustration at having their powers stunted by Earth’s magic-poor nature. Without sufficient magic, they had no way to enchant others to shower them with the adoration that they knew they inherently deserved.

It was purely by chance that they noticed the presence of Equestrian magic in the battle that Twilight Sparkle and her friends fought against Sunset Shimmer. But that was enough for them to hatch a plan to regain their full powers, eventually succeeding only to be near-immediately defeated again. That seemed like the end of the Sirens’ story, consigning them to an eternity of mundane drudgery on Earth, but something happened that no one could have predicted…

The three sisters somehow found themselves transported to the world of Everglow.

How exactly it happened remains unclear. Sonata remembers meeting an unknown pony on Earth – a dull-grey mare – who offered to restore their powers and transfer them to a world almost as magic-rich as Equestria, which she and her sisters eagerly accepted. But the identity of their benefactor is a mystery that she’s never felt was important enough to think back on, let alone solve.

What mattered to her was that, once on Everglow, Sonata and her sisters immediately returned to their old tricks. But a familiar face turned up to stop them; although Twilight had different friends with her this time, the result was the same, with the Sirens being defeated yet again.

For Sonata, that was enough. Renouncing her sisters (she’d never liked them very much anyway), she decided to try living in a way that didn’t make everybody want to stop them all the time. For a creature that wanted to be adored more than anything, the constant string of defeats was a pretty clear sign that they were doing it wrong.

That breakthrough had a profound effect on her, changing her from her original body (which she and her sisters had regained once they’d transferred to Everglow) into that of a pony. Precisely what precipitated that change was indeterminate, but was largely attributed to some sort of lingering mutability due to the body-altering side effects of the transfer between dimensions. Either way, Sonata was stoked by her new form, and started making a new life for herself, trying to learn about how to get people to like her without having to force them.

It was shortly thereafter that she met the unicorn Lex Legis.

Thrown together by happenstance, both of them were shocked when they began to develop feelings for each other over the course of their adventures. By the time they returned to Equestria, things between them had grown into a full-blown romance. Shortly thereafter, Lex took the western third of Equestria for his own, renaming it Legesia, and the two were wed as king and queen.

Current Sketch

Waifu 4 Laifu.

Waifu 4 Laifu.

Currently, Sonata is happier than she’s ever been. Her life is one of luxury, she’s still head-over-hooves in love with her new husband, and the public absolutely adores her. Everything is perfect, and she has no intention of letting anyone or anything disrupt that.

To that end, she’s almost as active socially as her husband is politically. While she does help him with very important negotiations and public addresses – he uses a message cantrip to transmit his words to her, and she parses them into more manageable and empathetic language, e.g. using her Diplomacy score rather than his – she spends a great deal of her time singing. From fundraising concerts to public rallies to private parties for important nobles and visiting dignitaries, Sonata’s voice has proven time and again to be the grease for the wheels of government that Lex has constructed.

Of course, it’s not very surprising that she’s been so effective, since she’s enchanting her audience.

Although she knows that Lex would be furious if he knew, Sonata regularly uses the magic of her voice to sway people so that they feel positively towards her husband and his regime. As far as she’s concerned, this is only fair, since most ponies simply can’t seem to appreciate the scope of his reforms; she’s heard plenty of them badmouth him for instituting taxes and regulations, but none of them seem to praise him for using that money to lay down a new series of brick roads or opening new schools. To Sonata, using some magic to help Lex get the recognition she feels he deserves is an act of love.

To that end, Sonata has no sympathy for those that she thinks are trying to ruin the happiness she’s found. Those who threaten her husband or her home will find that, in contrast to her usual sunny disposition, she’s capable of great cruelty. Although she respects the laws that Lex has made, if she feels that breaking them is necessary, she won’t hesitate to do so in order to protect everything she’s gained.

Sonata Dusk, Level 9 Enchantress

Naturally enough, Sonata’s stats are made with Eclipse: The Codex Persona, a d20 supplement that allows for point-buy character-generation.

Unique Race: Altered Siren (31 CP/+0 ECL)

  • Adept, specialized for one-half cost/only for Perform (sing) and Swim (3 CP).
  • Attribute Shift/-2 Int, +2 Cha (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized for one-half cost/only for skills, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for Adept skills (2 CP).
  • Adaptation/underwater (6 CP).
  • +2 bonus to Swim checks (2 CP).
  • +3 bonus to Perform (sing) checks, specialized for double effect/only for Mystic Artist (3 CP).
  • Immunity to aging (uncommon/minor/great) (6 CP).
  • Privilege/being treated as fey versus type-based effects (3 CP).
  • Being a quadruped grants +10 movement speed, +50% carrying capacity, and +4 on checks to avoid being tripped. This is balanced against minor penalties (much smaller than normal for quadrupedal creatures): their ring and hand magic item slots are combined (as anklets), and they are only considered to have a single hand for wielding/holding things – that being their mouth; this does not prevent comprehensible speech or interfere with verbal spell components (no cost).

Having been born as a (hippocampus-like) Siren, spending centuries on Earth as a human, and finally becoming a pony after arriving on Everglow, Sonata’s racial characteristics are now a muddle of all three. She has a human’s skillfulness, applied to a Siren’s specialties, with a pony body.

Available Character Points: 240 (level 9 base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 30 (levels 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 feats) + 6 (starting traits) = 286 CP.

Sonata’s disadvantages are Foolish (she has trouble with concepts like “consequences” and “learning from experience.” Lex is helping her to offset this somewhat via the Mentor ability; see below), History (the events of Rainbow Rocks), and Inept (all Intelligence-based skills).

Ability Scores (20-point buy):

Ability Scores Initial Scores (point cost) Racial Bonuses Level Bonuses Items Total
Strength 10 (0) 10 (+0)
Constitution 12 (2) +2 +2 belt 16 (+3)
Dexterity 12 (2) 12 (+1)
Intelligence 10 (0) -2 8 (-1)
Wisdom 13 (3) +1 (8th level) 14 (+2)
Charisma 17 (13) +2 +1 (4th level) +4 headband 24 (+7)

Sonata uses the Pathfinder package deal. This gives her an additional +2 to an ability score (applied to her Constitution) and her “favored class bonus” has been put into hit points.

Basic Abilities (93 CP)

  • Proficient with simple weapons and light armor (6 CP).
  • 9d6 Hit Dice (18 CP).
  • +6 BAB, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (24 CP).
  • Fort +6, Ref +3, Will +6 (45 CP).
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

She’s an (Evil) Enchantress (95 CP)

  • 9 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/wizard progression only (27 CP).
  • 9 wizard progression levels (Charisma-based; arcane magic; components and studies (spontaneous casting) limitations), specialized for one-half cost/only spells with the mind-affecting or sonic descriptors are on her spell list (49 CP).
  • Immunity to charm effects (common/major/major), this grants immunity to charm effects of 5th level or below, and a +6 bonus on saves versus those of higher levels (6 CP).
  • Shaping, specialized for increased effect/only works for level 0 wizard spells on her spell list, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must be free to gesture and speak (4 CP).
  • Easy metamagic modifier, specialized for one-half cost/only for material and somatic components (3 CP).
  • Streamline, specialized for double effect/only for the Easy metamagic modifier (6 CP).

Since Sonata uses the studies limitation with her magic progression, set to limit her to a list of spells known, it’s necessary to list what specific spells she has. Ergo, her spells known are listed above. Note that she only treats sorcerer/wizard spells with either the mind-affecting or sonic descriptors as being on her spell list; this affects what spell trigger or spell completion magic items she can use.

For the spells listed above, those not in the SRD are hyperlinked to their source. However, trying to assign her twelve 0-level spells turned out to be rather difficult, since there simply aren’t that many sorcerer/wizard cantrips that have one of those two descriptors! As such, I had to reach further afield. She has two spells from the hedge wizard list (consider them to be arcane variants, since that’s a unique spell list), and one from the 3.5 Spell Compendium. One is from the SRD, and another is from an obscure Pathfinder supplement.

The last seven are new spells, listed below:

Backup Performers

Enchantment (Charm) [language-dependent, mind-affecting]

Level bard 0, sorcerer/wizard 0

Components V, S

Casting Time one standard action

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Target one creature/level

Duration 1 min./level

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

Creatures enchanted by this spell gain insight as to how to sing and dance in such a way as to enhance someone else’s performance. For the duration of the spell, they gain a +2 bonus on Perform (dance or sing) checks made to aid another.

Earworm

Enchantment (Compulsion) [mind-affecting]

Level bard 0, sorcerer/wizard 0

Components V

Casting Time one standard action

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Target one creature

Duration 1 minute

Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes

When casting this spell, you sing, hum, whistle, or otherwise vocalize a tune as part of the spell’s casting. If the target creature fails its saving throw, this tune then becomes stuck in their head, becoming a mild distraction that causes a -1 penalty on skill and ability checks.

 

Enchant Instruments

Transmutation [sonic]

Level bard 0, sorcerer/wizard 0

Components V, S

Casting Time one standard action

Range touch

Target one instrument touched/level

Duration 10 min./level (D)

Saving Throw none (object); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

When this spell is cast, the touched instruments begin to play themselves. The tune played can be adjusted by the caster as a free action. This accompaniment is of basic quality, and grants any musical-based Perform check a +1 circumstance bonus, even if the instruments are of masterwork quality. Damaged or substandard instruments still apply any penalties that they would normally impose.

Instrumentality

Transmutation [sonic]

Level bard 0, sorcerer/wizard 0

Components V, S

Casting Time one standard action

Range touch

Target object touched (see below)

Duration 1 min./level

Saving Throw none; Spell resistance no

This spell allows a touched object to serve as an improvised musical instrument, with no penalty for its improvised nature. This spell may work on a small group of objects if they’re all being used together as a single instrument. For example, this spell can be cast on a knife, fork, and metal bowl, allowing them to function together as a drum.

Know Performance (Various)

Enchantment (Charm) [mind-affecting]

Level bard 0, sorcerer/wizard 0

Components V, S

Casting Time one standard action

Range touch

Target creature touched

Duration 10 minutes

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

There are many different kinds of know performance spells, each one specific to a different type of performance. The recipient receives a +15 bonus to the relevant Perform check when making that particular performance. For example, a version of this spell keyed to the song The Ballad of Barnaby Bramble would receive a +15 bonus when making a Perform (sing) check to sing that song, but not for any other Perform check, including other instances of Perform (sing). The bonus received from this spell does not stack with any other skill bonuses the character might have in Perform, including ranks, synergy bonuses, Skill Focus, spells or magic items, etc. However, bonuses from ability score modifiers, masterwork items used in conjunction with the performance, and circumstance bonuses still apply. Penalties of all types still apply as normal.

Lend Assistance

Enchantment (Charm) [mind-affecting]

Level bard 0, sorcerer/wizard 0

Components V, S

Casting Time one standard action

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Target one creature

Duration 1 minute

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

You grant the target creature the ability to provide helpful assistance where it normally wouldn’t be able to do so. For the spell’s duration, it can make aid another attempts with trained-only skills that it has no ranks in. This does not help with skill checks for tasks that take longer than the spell’s duration (unless you can extend this spell to last as long as the period of time that the skill check covers), or allow aid another checks to be made for skill checks that cannot normally receive them. At the GM’s discretion, certain skills may be too alien for this skill to assist with (e.g. Occult Skills).

Rearrange Voice

Transmutation [sonic]

Level bard 0, sorcerer/wizard 0

Components V, S

Casting Time one standard action

Range touch

Target creature touched

Duration 10 min./level (D)

Saving Throw Fort negates; Spell Resistance yes

This spell causes a touched creature’s voice to change, allowing the caster to set it to anything from a squeaky soprano to a sepulchral bass. The determination is made when the spell is cast, and cannot be changed thereafter. This spell merely changes the recipient’s vocal range; it cannot be used to make them sound like someone else, though the altered voice does grant a +2 circumstance bonus to Disguise checks.

Alluring Voice (77 CP)

  • Mystic Artist for Perform (sing) (6 CP) with Amplification x3 (18 CP), Echoes (6 CP), Enduring (x10 modifier) (12 CP), Projection (6 CP), Rapid (6 CP).
    • Inspiration abilities: emotion, competence, greatness, mass greatness, mass excellence.
    • Manipulation abilities: hold audience.
    • Synergy abilities: block, amplify, harmonize (emotion and hold audience), serenity.
  • The Path of Whispers modifier: Subliminal (6 CP).
  • Art of the Occult modifier: The Hidden Way (6 CP).
  • The Celebrated Way modifier: Fame (6 CP).
  • Traceless/magic, specialized for one-half cost/only for Mystic Artist abilities (3 CP).
  • Skill Focus/+1 Perform (sing) (2 CP).

When she sings, Sonata’s Mystic Artist abilities make the magic she brings to bear virtually impossible to notice. The use of Subliminal, The Hidden Way, and Traceless allow for Sonata to use myriad abilities – including casting spells – during a performance without anyone being the wiser for it, even if they use detection magic.

Even without using spells, Sonata’s abilities allow her to manipulate her audience on a grand scale. She’ll typically utilize her emotion and hold audience powers to remind everyone of everything Lex has done for his country, with Echoes making that take effect the next time someone speaks ill of him or his accomplishments. And of course, Fame guarantees her access to the upper strata of society both in Legesia and Equestria (on top of her privilege; see below).

Monarch Among Social Butterflies (21 CP)

  • Mentor (6 CP).
  • Finesse/use Charisma for skill points per level (12 CP).
  • Privilege/nascent queen (3 CP).

Sonata’s mentor is, as mentioned previously, Lex. Although the queen of a country would normally have Major Privilege, Sonata still acts more like a pop idol than newly-minted royalty, eschewing formality and ranks in favor of having a good time.

Gear

  • Headband of alluring Charisma +4 (headband). 16,000 gp.
  • Chain shirt +3 (armor). 9,250 gp.
  • Ring of protection +2 (ring/hand). 8,000 gp.
  • Amulet of natural armor +1 (neck). 2,000 gp
  • Belt of mighty constitution +2 (belt). 4,000 gp.
  • Cloak of resistance +2 (shoulders). 4,000 gp.
  • Necklace of fireballs type II (slotless). 2,700 gp.
  • Pearl of the sirins (slotless). Free.
  • 50 gp.

Sonata’s gear was purchased for her by Lex, over the course of several trips to Everglow. As he was worried about her, he focused on defensive magic items, though he did bring her a few that would enhance her abilities. Her necklace of fireballs is meant to be used as a last-ditch weapon. Similarly, her pearl of the sirins was a wedding gift to her from Lex, and came out of his gear value rather than hers.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 6 (d6; 1st level) + 28 (8d6) + 27 (Con bonus) + 9 (“favored class bonus”) = 70 hp.
  • Speed: 40 ft.
  • Alignment: Chaotic Neutral.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +6 (base) +3 (Con bonus) +2 resistance (cloak) = +11.
    • Ref: +3 (base) +2 (Dex bonus) +2 resistance (cloak) = +7.
    • Will: +6 (base) +2 (Wis bonus) +2 resistance (cloak) = +10.
  • Armor class: 10 (base) +2 (Dex bonus) +7 armor (chain shirt +3) +2 deflection (ring of protection) +1 natural armor (amulet) = 22, touch 14, flat-footed 20.
  • Attacks: +6 (BAB) +0 (Str bonus) = +6 touch.
  • Ranged Attacks: +6 (BAB) +2 (Dex bonus) = +8 ranged touch.
  • Combat Maneuver Bonus: +6 (BAB) +0 (Str bonus) = +6 CMB.
  • Combat Maneuver Defense: 10 (base) +6 (BAB) +0 (Str bonus) +2 (Dex bonus) +2 (ring) = 20 CMD (24 vs. trip).
  • Skills: 45 skill points (Cha bonus) + 9 skill points (Fast Learner; only for Perform (sing) and Swim at half-cost each).
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Class Bonus Misc. Modifier Total
Appraise 9* -1 Int +3 -2 disadvantage +9
Bluff 9* +7 Cha +3 +19
Diplomacy 9 +7 Cha +3 +19
Perception 9 +2 Wis +3 +14
Perform (sing) 9 +7 Cha +3 +6 racial (Mystic Artist only), +1 Skill Focus +20 (+26 with Mystic Artist)
Perform (dance) 9 +7 Cha +3 +19
Sense Motive 9** +2 Wis +3 +10 (+18 to sense enchantments)
Spellcraft 9 -1 Int +3 -2 disadvantage +9
Swim 9 +0 Str +3 +2 racial +14

Sonata’s class skills are Acrobatics, Appraise, Bluff, Craft, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, Perception, Perform, Profession, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, Survival, Swim. As the above table indicates, she’s only taken ranks in a few of these.

*Because Sonata gains skill points from Charisma, rather than Intelligence, Charisma-boosting items such as her headband of alluring Charisma +4 grant her additional skill ranks. In this case, the additional ranks are for Appraise and Bluff.

**5 skill ranks purchased normally, the other 4 are specialized for double effect; only to detect if someone is under an enchantment.

Further Development

Sonata is vaguely aware that her powers aren’t good for all situations. While she knows that she can beguile enemies and support allies with her magic – and function to a great degree in watery environments – she’s fully aware that outside of these situations she’s relatively powerless. When facing off against creatures that are mindless or not vulnerable to enchantments, she has very few options open to her. Likewise, a single silence spell can severely curtail what she can do.

Despite this, Sonata has little desire to try and diversify her powers; even with Lex’s mentoring, she simply gains experience too slowly (thanks to her Foolish disadvantage) to make that feel worthwhile. She instead prefers to surround herself with protectors and allies that can cover her weaknesses should a fight break out. These are typically some of her husband’s retinue.

Beyond that, Sonata’s only ambition is to protect her current status quo. Although she worries about Lex’s continued striving to raise his power to new heights, she’s determined to stay by his side no matter what. Those who try to change that will find her preparing their funeral dirge.

A Magical Medieval Society: Equestria

October 16, 2016

I really don’t know how it is that I never purchased a copy of A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe, from Expeditious Retreat Press. It wasn’t like I was unaware of the book, given the accolades that it had accumulated upon its release, and its focus on verisimilitude in the game world was perfectly aligned with my interests. And yet somehow, I never picked it up.

This changed after I read a review of the book by Brandes Stoddard, over on Tribality, a few months previous. While it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, the author’s particular style of writing – a brilliant mixture of insightful and entertaining – was enough to convince me that it was time to rectify this particular gap in my library. And so I went to purchase a copy of the book, now well into it’s second edition.

However, I didn’t go through with the purchase, having found on the author’s blog that a third edition was in the pipeline. While it added only a new section on devising place-names (actually a separate product that was being incorporated into this one), I nevertheless waited for the new edition to be released, picking it up as soon as it was.

Having just concluded reading through the book, I have to admit that it lives up to the hype. Not only is it an excellent primer to medieval European life, but it does an incredible job taking that information and translating it into the magical society that’s presented by the d20 (specifically 3.5) game mechanics.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of these rules is their bottom-up – rather than top-down – nature. This allows them to function at smaller, very nearly individual, levels, rather than being a “big picture” sort of effort to simulate how a kingdom functions. Of course, this means that sometimes the minutia becomes teeth-gritting in how deep it goes, but that’s the price you pay for something this comprehensive.

As a gamer, I naturally wanted to put the book to use after I read it. Luckily, since MMS:WE’s focus is on the background elements of a campaign, this can be done as a world-building exercise. To that end, I naturally wanted to apply it to Equestria, the setting for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which I’ve written about here before.

However, that was something of an awkward fit. While MMS:WE isn’t set in any specific game world, it does presume that the sociopolitical and economic structures used in a campaign are inherently feudal in nature. That’s…iffy when it comes to Equestria. While certain aspects of the show do evoke a feudal system (such as having royalty and nobility), other parts suggest otherwise (such as the lack of taxation and the evidence of a free enterprise market).

Ultimately, Equestria’s nature as an idyllic realm seems to paint a picture of it being an enlightened absolute monarchy (or diarchy, or whatever a multi-princess system of government is called) with a laissez-faire market, which begs the question of how Princess Celestia and Princess Luna – to say nothing of all the other ponies whose cutie marks don’t seem to be career-oriented (such as the Cutie Mark Crusaders) – earn the money that they must surely need.

So giving the “magical medieval” treatment to Equestria proper was out, since the implicit assumptions of the show couldn’t be reconciled with those of MMS:WE. Luckily, there was a third option available. The update that I’d previously posted for my original pony character, Lex Legis, had him seizing a portion of Equestria and making it his own country. Since he’s an autocrat who’s obsessed with systems and processes, that makes his new nation perfect for being run through MMS:WE’s rules.

The Kingdom of Legesia

A full year after having founded his new nation, Lex has overcome multiple challenges both foreign and domestic. His policy of a strong and proactive government has, in the wake of his world’s assimilation into the wider multiverse, found many adherents among the population. Having made peace with an incursion of elementals, subdued a rampaging dragon, and dealt a severe blow to a belligerent Yakyakistan, Lex has amply demonstrated to the citizens of Legesia that their king is devoted to their safety and well-being.

To Equestria and its princesses, as well as the rest of the world, it’s rapidly becoming clear that – for the time being, at least – the Kingdom of Legesia is here to stay.

Country Name The Kingdom of Legesia; Ruler(s) Lex Legis/King Sombra II (king), Sonata Dusk (queen); Size 26,941 sq. mi.; Population 3,200,000; Population Density 118/sq. mi.; Rural Population 2,986,560 (93.33%); Urban Population 213,440 (6.67%); Acres Under Cultivation 1,493,280.

The Kingdom of Legesia is formed from what was formerly the western third of Equestria. Despite this, only a tenth of Equestria’s ponies lived there, owing to large concentrations of forests and mountains. Today, the vast majority live in the “little breadbasket” region in the northwest, with the rest occupying communities along the western coast, and a minority living in small woodland or mountain settlements.

The base assumptions regarding the size of Equestria and its population come from Thoth’s excellent article on the subject.

Metropolises 1 (Las Pegasus); Large Cities 2 (Tall Tale, Vanhoover); Small Cities 6 (Friesno, Seaddle, Tabiano Port and three others); Large Towns 16 (Bronco Downs, Hoofington, Pineville, Spurfield and twelve others); Small Towns 27 (Lipizzan Heights, Neighton, Pinto Creek and twenty-four others); Manors 6,637.

The designations used for each type of settlement are in accordance with the 3.5 DMG. That is, a “metropolis” has 25,001+ people, a “large city” has 12,001-25,000 people, etc. This breakdown is important since the number and category of urban settlements (along with manors) are one of the primary factors in calculating national revenue.

Station Number Manors Average Manors/Pony Allodial Holdings
King 1 133 133 50%
Great Landowners 8 996 124.5 37.50%
Nobility 64 1,327 20.73 12.50%
Gentry 1,600 4,181 2.61 0%

The table above serves to list how the country is broken down among its aristocracy. The “Number” column, for example, says how many individuals occupy each listing on the “Station” column (e.g. there are sixty-four members of the nobility in Legesia). “Manors” indicates the total number of manors, and associated villages, that are assigned to each social strata, while “Average Manors/Pony” breaks them down among individuals. Finally “Allodial Holdings” shows how much of the country’s land is owned by each class of the upper echelons.

Type Traditional monarchy; Strength of King Strong (with Sonata) or Average (without Sonata); Total Tax Revenue 19,512,000 gp; Total Scutage Revenue 9,756,000 gp; Total Mine Income Revenue 763,255 gp.

As indicated above, while Sonata does not technically occupy a rank on her own merits – her status as queen is dependent entirely on her marriage to Lex – her ability to connect with the populace at large, and to ameliorate her husband’s poor personality, is so significant that without her, Lex’s ability to govern would take a very large hit.

Station Base Manor Income Manor Income Tax Income Scutage Income Mine Income Town Income Total Income
King 8,250 gp 1,097,250 gp 8,390,160 gp 4,878,000 gp 381,627.5 gp 315,810 gp 15,070,247.5 gp
Great Landowners 6,500 gp 6,474,000 gp 7,219,440 gp 3,658,500 gp 286,220.63 gp 236,857.5 gp 17,875,018.13 gp
The Average Great Landowner 6,500 gp 809,250 gp 902,430 gp 457,312.5 gp 35,777.58 gp 29,607.19 gp 2,234,377.27 gp
Nobility 6,500 gp 8,625,500 gp 3,902,400 gp 1,219,500 gp 95,406.88 gp 78,952.5 gp 13,921,759.38 gp
The Average Noble 6,500 gp 134,773.44 gp 60,975 gp 19,054.69 gp 1,490.73 gp 1,233.63 gp 217,527.49 gp
Gentry 7,500 gp 31,357,500 gp 0 gp 0 gp 0 gp 0 gp 31,357,500 gp
The Average Gentry 7,500 gp 19,598.44 gp 0 gp 0 gp 0 gp 0 gp 19,598.44 gp

This table is the result of all of the other information posted above (though the pertinent calculations weren’t posted here). This chart lists how much money the government takes in, and where it goes. Note that, while the “King” row applies to that strata and the individuals within it simultaneously (since there’s only a single individual who is king), subsequent rows showcase either an entire social strata (e.g. “Nobility” is the sum of all the nobles in the country) or a particular individual within that strata (e.g. “The Average Noble” is for any particular member of the nobility).

While this amount of money – which represents the total income collected by the government per year – might look outrageous (over 78 million gp!), this money isn’t all personal revenue. On the contrary, Lex mandates that 90% of this must be spent on various government projects that he has outlined, with only 10% being allocated for personal income. To enforce this, he has created a branch of his Office of the Exchequer devoted to aggressively auditing income vs. expenditure among the aristocracy. Those who embezzle government funds are punished harshly.

Despite this, the money that remains is typically enough to afford very lavish living conditions. For example, even after giving back 90% of what they’ve taken in, the average member of the gentry can still afford to live a “wealthy”-class lifestyle, and have some money left over. This is even more true for the nobles and great landowners, who can afford to live extravagantly.

Lex naturally also adheres to this stricture, reducing his personal income to just over 1.5 million gp. Of course, he splits his income evenly with his wife, but even after this – and subtracting the 1,000 gp/month cost to live an extravagant lifestyle; done after all other calculations (see below) – he still has an enormous amount of gold coming in on an annual basis.

According to Appendix II of MMS:WE, a certain percentage of income comes in the form of magic items, rather than money. Lex maintains that this must be given back in the same proportion that it’s received in, which means that he – as king – receives only 10% of the above revenue in magic items. All of the rest is in coins, gemstones, valuable objets d’art, and other forms of non-magical wealth with high liquidity.

Given that he has only recently introduced divine spellcasting to his country, as well as created a college for arcane magic, most of the 75k worth of magic items that he’s received have been scrolls and potions, none of which are higher than 2nd-level, along with numerous charms and talismans created via Equestria’s native spellcasting. However, Lex is able to save all of these from year to year if he wants, since he’s voluntarily taking in less than the 25% level of magic item retention suggested in MMS:WE.

This, of course, leaves the question as to what Lex does with the 600,000+ gp in cash that he still has after all other considerations – such as magic items and lifestyle costs – are taken into account. While some is spent on stronger magic items that he goes on special off-world trips to acquire, most of the rest of his money is spent on various personal projects, some of which he keeps hidden from everypony…

Baby Got Backlash

March 27, 2016
Flurry Heart

Cutest engine of destruction EVAR!

The premiere of the sixth season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic introduces baby Flurry Heart, the daughter of Princess Cadence and Shining Armor. It also reintroduces a particular quirk that infant unicorns – or, in this case, infant alicorns – have in the show: that they’ll manifest powerful magic at random.

This idea was first brought up with the introduction of the Cake twins, way back in the show’s second season. While it makes for some amusing antics, and creates the conflict in the current season’s premiere, this particular quirk of unicorn physiology is somewhat awkward to model in d20 terms. As Thoth put it:

Even counting Twilight Sparkle as an exception, Pumpkin Cake can break chains, dimension door or teleport, phase through matter, move and animate objects, and fly around – at one month old. In the comics, Sweetie Belle, who certainly doesn’t seem to be a magical genius or exceptionally powerful, accidentally transforms half the ponies of Ponyville into animate fruit, apparently irresistibly. Yes, that seems to be mostly cosmetic (and so could be considered an illusion or a rather minor transformation rather than a major one) – but it’s still pretty impressive for someone who can barely levitate a broom.

Characters that get weaker as they grow up don’t fit into d20 as easily as most. Sure, you can just handwave it in a lot of games – but even if child PC’s are uncommon, kids are very common indeed. It makes it kind of hard to raise tension with a monster attacking a village if the smaller local kids panic-response can be expected to include blasting it with horrific spells. Given that that doesn’t seem to happen, it seems likely that very young unicorns only have mighty magical powers when it’s cute and funny for the audience.

Now, at least part of this problem is solved in the latest episodes, since there’s a line that Sunburst rather off-handedly (off-hoofedly?) tosses out when discussing what spells to use to solve the problems that Flurry Heart’s random magic has created:

“…and a little Fledgling’s Forbearance for the parents… Heh. That should curb the little one’s power fluctuations.”

Those two sentences help to provide a great deal of needed context with regards to how pony society deals with this problem. A spell designed to safely curtail the random discharges of magic that baby unicorns experience is one of those things that not only makes sense in-and-of itself, but helps to explain why, for example, Pumpkin Cake doesn’t seem to be running amok anymore.

But while that provides for an in-universe explanation for how this particular problem is dealt with, it doesn’t answer the question of how we’d model it in the first place. The underlying issues that make this difficult to manage in a d20 game (what with baby unicorns being, at least temporarily, stronger than the adults, and their magic being more disastrous than dangerous) are still present.

To answer the first problem, I’m of the opinion that the best way to model this is via a template. Since templates are a discrete aspect of a stat block, and can be added on top of a character, they can also be removed from said character (even if that is much more rare). Hence, we can simply create a template that includes whatever mechanics we’ll use, with the condition that it’s removed as the baby unicorn grows older (or has the appropriate spell cast on them).

Insofar as the second issue – that these magic surges tend to be troublesome more than truly hazardous (though they can be that too) – we’ll just make that into an aspect of the magic itself. That’s not particularly hard because only NPCs are going to have this template anyway, and so if we introduce a random element into how their magic works, that just creates more latitude for the GM.

In d20 terms – using Eclipse: The Codex Persona, of course – the result would probably look something like this:

Wild Child template (9 CP/+0 ECL)

  • 4d6 mana with Unskilled Magic (24 CP), specialized and corrupted for increased effect/caster level is equal to the user’s highest mental ability score (Int, Wis, or Cha) and maximum spell level is equal to the user’s lowest mental ability score, spells cast do not need to meet caster level minimums; subject to involuntary random spellcasting, when a spell is cast roll 1d6 – on a 1-2 the spell functions as intended, on a 3-4 the spell’s parameters (e.g. effects, targets, duration, etc.) are randomized, and on a 5-6 a different spell is cast instead.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/does not allow for additional uses of Rite of Chi at the cost of negative levels, requires at least a short nap to use (4 CP).

In addition to what’s above, the entire template is specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/this template can only be applied to a character at the “infant” life stage (level -2), and is automatically removed when they advance to “child” (level -1), or if a casting of fledgling’s forbearance spell is used on them.

Given that it’s a spell with no applications beyond removing this template, there’s not really any need to write up fledgling’s forbearance. At most, we’d only need to know its spell level, which I’d presume is 1st.

With a total cost of 9 CP, this template is one that’s fairly cheap to apply for what it offers. Of course, the cost is somewhat academic anyway, as there’s really no way to apply this to any character that’s remotely likely to be a PC. But if you want to make sure that your plot hook has stats, this should do the trick.

The Dark Side of the Horse

March 11, 2016

A little while back, I wrote an original pony character named Lex Legis – and later posted a picture of him – as a potential low-level adversary. What follows is a higher-level version of that character, making use of some Ponyfinder concepts to help justify how a realm as idyllic as Equestria could produce a character this powerful.

Equestria’s conjunction with the wider multiverse was not a peaceful one.

While the cause was never determined (at least, not publicly), Equestria found itself suddenly brought into orientation with other planes of existence. This was a cataclysmic shift, as the Inner Planes – which were dimensionally “closest” to Equestria – temporarily overlapped with large sections of the pony world, causing massive devastation. This was the homecoming that Lex Legis, who had been sent to Everglow in an accident six months prior, received when he returned to his homeworld.

Horrified at what had happened to Equestria and furious that Celestia and Luna weren’t doing more to help the recovery – the two sisters preferred to encourage their subjects to help each other, rather than rely on them – Lex sprang into action. He headed for the distant city of Vanhoover in northwestern Equestria, which had experienced severe flooding with no subsequent relief efforts, and installed himself as the city’s sovereign.

The results were dramatic. For all his lack of social graces, Lex’s intelligence and magical abilities were able to turn the Vanhoover’s fortunes around virtually overnight. Within three months, the city went from being among the slowest places to recover to being one of the fastest. Nor did Lex stop there. Enacting new governmental and trade policies, he quickly spread his influence across Equestria’s western coast, bringing prosperity and security as he did.

These things came with many changes to the social structure of Equestria. Gone were the days of every pony letting harmony guide their communities. Instead, new laws, taxes, and regulations became the underlying principles of Lex’s rule. While some ponies complained that their most cherished values were being lost, Lex argued that such sentimentality had to be put aside in the face of so many new dangers (particularly since creatures from other worlds had begun to trickle into Equestria in the wake of the disasters).

Given his successes, it was inevitable that Lex took the next step. Declaring that the lands under his jurisdiction were an independent nation, Lex crowned himself king of his new country. While a few ponies could not abide by this and left, the vast majority welcomed his proclamation.

To date, Lex controls the western third of the Equestrian continent. While his current focus is on solidifying his rule, he still hungers to reign over all of Equestria, being more convinced now than ever that his leadership is what Equestria needs if it’s ever to regain its former glory. To that end, although his rule is more strict than that of the alicorn princesses, Lex ceaselessly endeavors to make sure that his government is proactive in promoting the general welfare. Very soon, he believes, the day will come when all ponies offer their gratitude to him for what he’s done…

Current Sketch

Lex has gained a great deal of power. While some of this is due to his adventuring on Everglow, it is also the result of his embrace of dark forces. Despite this, he remains Lawful Neutral in alignment. This is partially due to his stubbornly clinging to his personal code of conduct, but is largely because he’s finally found something that brings joy into his life: he met a girl.

While on Everglow, Lex had a chance encounter with Sonata Dusk – a former Siren who, due to adventures of her own had come to that world, abandoned her sisters, and subsequently become a true pony (changing her game stats completely) – and against all odds the two of them started a romance. Although they’re complete opposites (her being a CN ditz and him being a LN control freak), they’ve managed to make this into a strength rather than a weakness, as each of them covers for the other’s deficiencies (for example, when conducting most official business, Lex will transmit his words to Sonata via a message cantrip, and she’ll parse them into statements that lack his brusqueness).

In this way, Sonata is the central pillar of Lex’s government. The very fact that such a dour and fearsome-looking pony is so dearly loved by the country’s idol – who is herself massively popular with the citizenry – is a huge vote of confidence in Lex’s regime. Without her natural charisma, he would likely be unable to retain the public’s goodwill. While it seems unlikely that they’ll split up – currently the two of them are deeply in love – if something were to happen to Sonata, it would almost certainly send Lex spiraling into darkness.

Lex Legis, ECL 11 unicorn arcanomancer

It goes without saying that Lex’s stats are built using Eclipse: The Codex Persona, which allows for point-buy generation of d20-based characters.

Blessed by the Dark Goddess (64 CP/+2 ECL template)

Equestria’s conjunction with the rest of the multiverse was quickly noticed by the deities of Everglow, who were eager to insert themselves into a world full of potential new worshippers. Among these was the Night Mare, a Lawful Evil goddess of tyranny, particularly over the monsters that would threaten ponykind.

Although Lex resents the intrusion of foreign deities into his homeland, he recognizes that it’s better to contain and control this “outbreak,” rather than try and fight it…for now. To that end, he’s cut a deal with the Night Mare: in exchange for a great deal of personal power and influence, he’s made her the patron goddess of his new country, with her church being part of his government. This way he can not only take a direct hoof in how her religion spreads, but also use it as a bulwark against the influence of other gods.

All of the abilities below are corrupted for two-thirds cost/contingent on propagating the Night Mare’s worship and otherwise keeping her appeased.

Tailor Made (8 CP)

  • Finesse/may use Intelligence instead of Charisma for channeling (4 CP).
  • Finesse/may use Intelligence instead of Charisma for leadership (4 CP).

The Night Mare has granted Lex a considerable amount of power, which has been attuned to his particular use. He wields her might via conscious and deliberate effort, rather than by intuition or force of will.

King of the Monsters (44 CP)

  • Channeling/variant (only works to rebuke/command magical beasts) 3 + Int mod. times per day (6 CP) at +6 intensity (8 CP) with +2d6 magnitude (4 CP), plus the Great Channeling (4 CP) and Heightened (4 CP) modifiers.
  • Path of Infusions/Imbuement (4 CP).
  • Favored Foe, corrupted for increased effect/only for magical beasts (4 CP).
  • Leadership with the Beast Lord and Born Leader modifiers, specialized for double effect/may only be used with magical beasts that have been personally subdued via channeling (10 CP).

As the goddess of tyranny and monsters, it is unsurprising that the Night Mare’s greatest blessing allows for the direct control and subjugation of such creatures. For his part, Lex can command a grand total of 102 levels’ worth of magical beasts, with individual creatures being limited to level 8 or lower (for simplicity, treat levels as equal to CR), though he must overcome them with a channeling attempt to do so. He currently has this filled with 51 levels’ worth of creatures:

      • Four winter wolves named Solvei, Kaija, Rafal, and Kael (CR 5 each). Lex keeps this small pack out of gratitude to Solvei; an odd set of circumstances led to them saving each other’s lives on Everglow.
      • A mated pair of giant bulettes that Lex has named Grit and Gristle (CR 8 each). Lex regards these two as living siege weapons, having paid a small fortune to have them undergo combat training (as per Handle Animal).
      • A kirin named Cóng Shàngmiàn Tiānshàng de Guāng (“Heavenly Light from Above,” usually shortened to Tian; CR 7). An agent of the celestial planes, Tian acts as an advisor to Lex, hoping to “guide the young king down the proper path.”
      • A gynosphinx-manticore mix named Nenet (a gynosphinx with a manticore’s spiked tail and spike attack; CR 8). Nenet remains at Lex’s side largely because he is a font of intellectual stimulation for her.

Note that Lex may spend a channeling attempt to bolster magical beasts, granting them a number of positive levels equal to [Intensity – their level]/2 for 10 rounds (a positive level adds +1 to BAB, AC, and saves, as well as 6 CP of abilities, chosen by Lex). He usually only does this for those creatures he already controls via Leadership.

Lex’s Favored Foe only applies to magical beasts, but the bonus still increases as per the listed levels for that ability. With its corruption, this ability currently grants him a +6 bonus; this is applied to channeling magnitude, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana), Perception, and caster level checks to overcome spell resistance.

Prophet of the Night (4 CP)

  • Major privilege/Night Mare’s religion (4 CP).

Lex’s major privilege with the Night Mare’s religion allows him, in addition to being a high-level functionary in her church, to treat his body as an unholy symbol.

Dark Armor (8 CP)

    • Innate Enchantments (building on his preexisting ones) (4 CP).
      • Protection from chaos (1,400 gp).
      • Aura of darkness (+3 profane bonus to saves; from The Practical Enchanter, p. 40) (1,400 gp).
      • Ward of darkness (+3 profane bonus to AC; from The Practical Enchanter, p. 42) (1,400 gp).
      • Fortune’s Favor 0 (+1 luck bonus to channeling intensity checks; from The Practical Enchanter, p. 32) (700 gp).
      • Phylactery of faithfulness (1,000 gp).
    • Empowerment/Innate enchantments with defensive abilities (4 CP).

Lex’s protection from chaos has its deflection and resistance bonuses against chaotic creatures subsumed with his shield of faith Innate Enchantment and his cloak of resistance, respectively. However, it still grants him near-total immunity to possession and mental control, as well as physical contact, by chaotic summoned creatures.

Note that Lex’s Empowerment here increases the effectiveness of all of his Innate Enchantments, not just the ones from this template. As such, his shield of faith Innate Enchantment grants a +3 deflection bonus, rather than the base +2.

Everglow Unicorn Pony (31 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • Privilege/treated as fey versus type-based effects (3 CP).
  • Attribute Shift/-2 Dex, +2 Int (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/low-light vision (6 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis/concentration checks, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for casting defensively (2 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (caster level 1 x spell level 1 or ½ x 2,000 gp; 0.7 personal-only multiplier where appropriate), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only grants two-thirds gp value (3,300 gp) (4 CP).
    • Unseen servant (2,000 gp)
    • Light (personal only) (700 gp)
  • Immunity/being unable to concentrate on more than one thing at a time (common/minor/minor), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for spells, powers, and Innate Enchantments (allowing up to three spells or effects of up to level 3) (3 CP).
  • Bonus feat/Skill Focus (governance) (6 CP).
  • Speak Language/Sylvan (1 CP).
  • Being a quadruped grants +10 movement speed, +50% carrying capacity, and +4 on checks to avoid being tripped. This is balanced against minor penalties (much smaller than normal for quadrupedal creatures): their ring and hand magic item slots are combined (as anklets), and they are only considered to have a single hand for wielding/holding things – that being their mouth; this does not prevent comprehensible speech or interfere with verbal spell components (no cost).

The accident that originally sent Lex to Everglow did more than just expel him from his homeworld; it subtly stripped him of his nature as an Equestrian pony. Insofar as Lex knows, all that’s happened is that he’s overcome his racial reliance on using his horn to cast spells.

Available Character Points: 240 (level 9 base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 30 (levels 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 feats) + 9 (restrictions) + 6 (starting traits) = 295 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).

Lex’s restrictions are against his wearing armor.

Ability Scores (20-point buy):

Ability Scores Initial Scores (point cost) Racial Bonuses Level Bonuses Innate Enchantments Total
Strength 10 (0) 10 (+0)
Dexterity 12 (2) -2 +2 enhancement 12 (+1)
Constitution 12 (2) +2 +2 enhancement 16 (+3)
Intelligence 17 (13) +2 +2 (4th and 8th level) +2 enhancement 23 (+6)
Wisdom 15 (7) 15 (+2)
Charisma 7 (-4) 7 (-2)

As the point-buy values in the table above likely make clear, Lex is now using the Pathfinder package deal. For Everglow unicorns the +2 ability score bonus this adds goes to Constitution.

Basic Abilities (70 CP)

  • Proficient with all simple weapons (3 CP).
  • d10 Hit Die (1st level) + 8d4 Hit Dice (6 CP).
  • +4 BAB, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (16 CP).
  • Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +6 (45 CP)
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

Flawed Arcanism (93 CP)

  • 11 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 (44 CP).
  • 11 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/sorcerer progression only (33 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +12 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 (8 CP).
  • Easy metamagic theorem with Streamline, both specialized for one-half cost/only for eliminating the need for material components costing 1 gp or less, both corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for his sorcerer spells (4 CP).
  • Shaping, specialized for increased effect/only works for level 0 sorcerer spells, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must be free to gesture and speak (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 (42 CP)

  • Spell Storing/multiple embedment level I (gemstones, rather than scrolls) (9 CP).
  • Superior Improved Power Words (15 CP).
  • Compact metamagic theorem (6 CP).
  • Glory with the Amplify metamagic theorem (12 CP).

This suite of abilities allows Lex to get more out of his limited spellcasting abilities. He’ll typically use his circlet or Body Fuel (see below) in conjunction with his Foresight skill and Power Words; all of these allow him to cast several spells that are perfectly suited to the situation without using any that have actually been prepared. If pressed, he’ll use Action Hero/Crafting (see below) 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 usually saves his Compact metamagic theorem for his actual spell slots, often preparing spells that would otherwise be beyond his casting ability via a longer casting time and/or taking personal damage to cast. While he normally uses these very carefully and with great purpose, since acquiring a major artifact he’s become less reluctant to use his prepared spells.

Lex can spontaneously add up to three levels of metamagic from the Amplify theorem to spells that he casts, up to three times per day. Note that this can be applied to any of his spells, including clerical spells from Inner Fire or even to his witchcraft abilities.

Intuitive Aptitude for Magic (26 CP)

  • Buying off the corruption on Action Hero/Crafting from the Pathfinder Package Deal; this allows Lex to ignore the time requirement for crafting magic items (though not the GP cost), but retains the limitation that he can craft them only via action points (9 AP remaining; 2 CP).
  • Adept/Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (planes), 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).
  • Finesse/use Intelligence bonus for Charisma-based skills, specialized for one-half cost/only for Use Magic Device (3 CP).
  • Skill Focus/Use Magic Device +1 with the Stunt modifier (8 CP).
  • Create Artifact, specialized for one-half cost/only for use with Action Hero (3 CP).

Having spent a thousand years in stasis, Lex has vowed to never again be caught helpless by temporal magic. To that end, he has used Action Hero/Crafting and Create Artifact to craft (at a cost of 15 action points) the following item.

Liberotempus

This steel ring is actually a Mobius strip. Looking closely, a short phrase is written over and over on its surface, the lack of punctuation making it impossible to tell if it’s saying “free time shall be” or “time shall be free.”

The wearer of Liberotempus gains the following abilities:

  • The wearer can perfectly calculate the passage of time, and automatically knows of any alterations to the passage of time in their locale (e.g. any time-based planar traits).
  • The wearer automatically knows the duration of a spell or effect, even if it would otherwise be random, presuming that they can identify it with a Spellcraft (or similar, e.g. Psicraft) check.
  • Once per day, the wearer may use stop the sands (The Practical Enchanter, p. 23).
  • If a creature within 200 feet with line of effect to the wearer uses time stop (or a similar effect), the wearer is also taken into the stopped time, as though they had also cast the spell. During this time, they can interact with the time stop’s caster normally.
  • The wearer is immune to spells and effects that manipulate time. This includes slow, sands of time, temporal stasis, aging attacks, etc. This includes beneficial effects such as haste (using Liberotempus to cast stop the sands is the sole exception). Further, the wearer’s personal timeline cannot be tampered with; changes to their past do not affect their present or future.

Fruits of Lesser Experiments (23 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).
  • Empowerment, specialized for increased effect/wands only, no use-per-day limit (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (11,800 gp; 13 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)
    • +3 competence bonus to Intelligence-based skills (1,400 gp)
    • Immortal vigor I (1,400 gp)
    • Shield of faith (1,400 gp)

Lex keeps several wands, most of which were purchased cheaply due to having less than full charges, on his person for various contingencies. Many of these are for spells not on his spell list (including destructive area-effect spells), a restriction he sidesteps via Use Magic Device. He is adept at using this skill to perform Stunts to use these wands for creative effects.

Potential for Greatness (6 CP)

Thanks to his +20 Governance skill, Lex has enacted the following in his country: a shrine or temple to the Night Mare in each town, providing their communities with clerical support (4); a militia in each town, able to respond to local disturbances and minor disasters (2); a school of magic in Vanhoover (4); a national bank with branches in most larger towns, raising the local economy (2); a series of public works programs (2); mystic warding around Vanhoover, preventing low-level scrying and summoning spells (2); struck a treaty with a nearby dragon, which can be asked for a major favor every few months (4).

Nascent King (3 CP)

  • Privilege/king (3 CP).

Normally, being a king would require major privilege for 6 CP. However, Lex’s reign is so young, his personal demeanor so unpleasant, and the concept of an active and engaged central government is so new to most ponies, that this is all the privilege he’s earned so far. This will likely change as he further cements his rule.

The Painful Price (3 CP)

  • Body Fuel, specialized for one-half cost/only for physical ability scores (3 CP).

Lex retains this ability for desperate situations, where he has to cast a prepared spell that he is certain he’ll need later.

The Lure of Corruption (14 CP)

  • Finesse, use Intelligence instead of Charisma for witchcraft (6 CP).
  • 4 levels of wilder progression (no caster levels), corrupted for two-thirds cost/no actual powers learned (8 CP).

Lex is thoroughly enamored of the power he’s gained from King Sombra’s Horn, to the point where he’s become an expert at utilizing it. While he’s stopped short of using any pacts to access more of its dark magic, he isn’t willing to rule out doing so in the future.

Use the Old Magic (6 CP)

  • Occult Ritual (6 CP).

To date, Lex has discovered only one occult ritual, that being Beneath the Dark Moon’s Light. This ritual allows for direct a direct audience with a particular power associated with darkness, the night, or the moon, and is how he was able to contact the Night Mare in order to bargain with her.

One with the Nightmares (9 CP)

  • Companion with one level of Template, specialized for one-half cost/Lex is unable to receive morale bonuses due to the deleterious effects of Emptiness (see below) (6 CP).
  • Immunity to sleep and dream spells and effects (uncommon/minor/major); this grants immunity against effects of up to 5th level, and a +6 bonus to saves against higher-level effects (3 CP).
  • Spell Conversion/Black Will path (Paths of Power Complete Collection, p. 36) (0 CP – normally 6 CP; gained for free as a Companion bonus).

Emptiness

Lex’s “companion” is a form of tulpa – a psychic construct – given to him by the Night Mare. It hides in Lex’s shadow, causing it to project in ways that don’t match the ambient lighting. It uses the base stats of a heavy horse that has been trained for combat, with the following template:

Incarnation of Self-Loathing (94 CP/+2 ECL template)

This entire template is specialized for one-half cost/Emptiness cannot communicate with anyone outside of its mystic link with Lex, does not obey Lex’s commands, voices his self-doubts to him via their psychic connection, and torments him with nightmares each night (though not enough to prevent Lex from resting normally).

Rebellious Fragment of the Mind (28 CP)

  • Extraordinary Returning, cannot be permanently killed while Lex is alive; killing Emptiness simply causes it to reform in one day (this does not spare Lex from its voice or nightmares) (6 CP).
  • Immunity to dimensional barriers (very common/severe/major), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only usable to visit the co-existent planes, to use its senses and maintain its link with Lex across those barriers, to cast spells across those barriers, and always leaves a tell-tale trace on the co-existent planes (6 CP).
  • No Constitution score. This grants immunity to ability damage (including all poisons), ability drain, energy drain, and effects requiring Fortitude saves unless they work on objects or are harmless. Does not breathe, eat, or sleep, cannot tire, and can move, work, or remain alert indefinitely. Instantly destroyed at 0 hit points (but see Extraordinary Returning, above) (0 CP).
  • No Strength score. Use Dexterity score to make attack rolls. Can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. Immune to all non-magical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for positive energy, negative energy, force effects such as magic missile, or attacks made with ghost touch weapons) (6 CP).
  • Mystic Link with Communications, specialized for one-half cost/Emptiness may sense Lex’s state of mind and “speak” to him telepathically, but not the other way around (1 CP).
  • Immunity to mind-affecting effects (common/major/legendary), specialized for one-half cost/has no intuition or greater understanding of others (e.g. cannot perform or receive aid another, make Diplomacy or Sense Motive checks, grant or receive flanking bonuses, etc.) (9 CP).

Strength Borne of Fear (28 CP)

  • Inherent Spell, levels 3, 4, 5, and 6, each with +2 Bonus Uses. These spells are, respectively, deep slumber, dream conjuration (as per shadow conjuration), nightmare, and dream walk (as per shadow walk, but through the realm of dreams; must enter and exit in proximity to a sleeping creature, which cannot be taken along) (18 CP).
  • Immunity to the distinction between its own and Lex’s effective caster level and spellcasting ability modifier (common/major/major), specialized for one-half cost/only for Inherent spells (2 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment. All Innate Enchantments are spell level 1, caster level one, and unlimited-use use-activated (x2,000 gp), with the 3/day modifier (x0.6) (3 CP).
    • True initiative 3/day (as per true strike, but for initiative) (1,200 gp).
    • True strike 3/day (1,200 gp).
    • True spell 3/day (as per true strike, but for caster level checks) (1,200 gp).
    • True armor 3/day (as per true strike, but for Armor Class) (1,200 gp).
  • Immunity to dispelling, antimagic, and countermagic (common/major/great), specialized for one-half cost/only for innate enchantments (4 CP).
  • Immunity to the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).

Just A Shadow (38 CP)

  • Cloaking/Emptiness’ aura registers as that of Lex (3 CP).
  • Reflex Training/Innate Enchantments (3 CP).
  • Reflex Training/Inherent Spells (3 CP).
  • Traceless/magic (3 CP).
  • Damage reduction 10/–; note that this is universal, applying to all physical, magical, and energy damage. It is applied after relevant damage types are halved due to Emptiness’ incorporeal nature (22 CP).
  • Fortitude/evasion (3 CP).
  • Grant of Aid, specialized for one-half cost/only to restore hit points (1 CP).

Emptiness was forced onto Lex by the Night Mare, both as punishment for his temerity in contacting her directly and as a tool to help him grow stronger. It whispers discouragement to him during periods of stress when he’s awake, and when Lex sleeps it makes him experience his worst fears and doubts. This is severe enough that even magical encouragement (e.g. morale bonuses) cannot reach him anymore. Until Lex makes a dedicated effort to conquer his fears – buying off the specialization on the companion ability and purchasing another two template enhancements to buy off Emptiness’ specialization – he will continue to be haunted.

Lex is aware that, if he’s in immediate danger of dying, Emptiness will react to his fear of death and use its deep slumber and dream walk powers to pull him (and anyone touching him) bodily onto the Plane of Dreams to escape. He also knows that Emptiness keeps his dreams isolated from magical intrusion; he’s unaware that it reflexively attacks would-be invaders with nightmare (or that it can use dream conjuration at all). He’s likewise unaware that, as a reaction to his fear of failure in high-stress fights, Emptiness will use its Innate Enchantments to briefly augment him. Should he ever master his fears, Lex could make Emptiness use these powers at his command.

Gear

  • Circlet of wizardry (headband). 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. 4,880 gp.
  • Ring of mind shielding (ring). 8,000 gp.
  • Amulet of natural armor +2 (neck). 8,000 gp.
  • Cloak of resistance +3 (shoulders). 9,000 gp.
  • Handy haversack (slotless). 2,000 gp.
  • Stone salve, 1 ounce (slotless). 4,000 gp
  • Pearl of the sirins (slotless). 15,300 gp.
  • Wand of dispel magic (25 charges; 5,625 gp) wand of lightning bolt (30 charges; 6,750 gp), wand of fireballs (20 charges; 4,500 gp), wand of cure critical wounds (12 charges; 2,040 gp) (slotless).
  • 10 waterproof bags (5 gp), portable alchemist’s lab (75 gp), traveler’s outfit (1 gp), small tent (10 gp), wizard’s kit (21 gp), 2 antiplagues (100 gp), 2 alchemist’s fire (40 gp), 2 thunderstones (60 gp), 2 onyx gems (1,000 gp), violet garnet (200 gp), star rose quartz (50 gp), 343 gp.

As a major NPC Lex uses PC-level wealth, which for an 11th-level character is 82,000 gp. He’s set aside 10,000 gp for use with Action Hero/Crafting; the rest is listed above.

Lex found his circlet of wizardry on one of his earlier travels, and thinks it might have belonged to Star-Swirl the Bearded. The circlet is one of Lex‘s most prized possessions, and he will not part with it willingly. Likewise, his pearl of the sirines isn’t for himself; he can simply use The Umbral Form if he needs to operate underwater. Instead, he’s planning to give it as a gift to Sonata when he works up the courage to ask her to marry him.

In addition to these, Lex possesses two other items of note:

The Horn of King Sombra (3-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.

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. Further, the Essence pact causes this corruption effect to be applied to all magic the wielder uses, with no corresponding gain.

Lex has grafted this horn onto himself, replacing his original horn with it, and in doing so awakened this relic’s full power. Because of its influence, whenever he uses magic – any magic, from any source (other than magic items) – his eyes turn green and manifest purple flames. Moreover, during any instance of strong negative emotions, black crystals spontaneously manifest around him.

Severance (major artifact)

One of the Night Mare’s personal weapons, Severance is an everdancing keen merciful ghost touch defending adamantine scythe of speed +6. It deals 2d6 points of damage on a hit, and grants its wielder proficiency with itself and Improved Trip. Further, its wielder may treat their BAB as being equal to their Hit Dice when attacking with Severance.

More than just a weapon, Severance is alive. It is Lawful Evil in alignment, and can perceive its environment out to 120 ft. with blindsense. It is capable of communicating via telepathy, but usually restricts itself to empathic communication. It can speak and read Common, Draconic, Infernal, and Sylvan. It possesses Intelligence 17, Wisdom 15, and Charisma 21. It has an ego score of 30. Moreover, it can move and attack on its own (via its everdancing ability).

Severance has the power to cut the barriers between planes, acting as a gate spell (with no material components needed). It can also detect chaos/evil/good/law at will. It almost certainly has other powers, but so far these remain unknown.

Severance also carries a curse: anyone who wields it must make a Will save (DC 30) or shift one step closer to Lawful Evil in alignment. This happens for each week of use until the wielder has become Lawful Evil. Further, this change does not end if the wielder gives Severance up, persisting until a successful remove curse is received, followed by a dispel law and dispel evil, in that order. All of these effects must be received in the same round to be effective.

Completely devoted to the Night Mare and her interests, Severance tries its best to twist its wielder into a model of its goddess’s ideals. It continually pushes its wielder to assert themselves into positions of leadership, and to be suspicious and distrustful of anyone who tries to stand in their way. It has no compunctions about using force when it feels it necessary, whether by dominating its wielder or simply attacking on its own.

As a major artifact, Lex is able to use Severance as a power source for preparing his spells. Since he’s currently acting in the Night Mare’s interests, along with his lawful nature and evil aura (thanks to King Sombra’s Horn), Lex is able to wield Severance without undue difficulty. This may change if the scythe perceives Lex’s actions to be deviating from the Night Mare’s goals.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 10 (d10; 1st level) + 12 (immortal vigor; 1st level) + 20 (8d4) + 33 (Con bonus) = 75 hp.
  • Speed: 40 ft.
  • Alignment: Lawful Neutral.
  • Power: 12 (basic witchcraft) +17 (wilder levels) +11 (wilder levels (relic)) = 40 PSPs.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +3 (base) +3 (Con bonus) +3 resistance (cloak) +3 profane (aura of darkness) = +12.
    • Ref: +6 (base) +1 (Dex bonus) +3 resistance (cloak) +3 profane (aura of darkness) = +13.
    • Will: +6 (base) +2 (Wis bonus) +3 resistance (cloak) +3 profane (aura of darkness) = +14.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +1 (Dex bonus) +4 armor (mage armor) +4 shield (shield) +2 natural (amulet) +3 deflection (shield of faith) +3 profane (ward of darkness) +4 martial art = 31, touch 23, flat-footed 30.
  • Damage Reduction: 1/– DR (martial art).
  • Attacks: +9 (BAB) +6 (weapon bonus) +0 (Str bonus) = +15/+15 Severance (2d6+6 plus 2d6 nonlethal/19-20/x4).
  • Ranged attacks: +4 (BAB) +1 (Dex bonus) = +5 ranged.
  • Combat Maneuver Bonus: +4 (BAB) +0 (Str) = +4 CMB (+12 to trip with Severance).
  • Combat Maneuver Defense: 10 (base) +9 (Hit Dice; Defensive Combat Training) +0 (Str) +1 (Dex) +2 (amulet) +3 (shield of faith) +3 (ward of darkness) +4 (martial art) = 32 CMD (38 vs. trip with Severance).
  • Skills: 54 skill points (Int bonus), plus 9 skill points (“favored class” bonus), plus 18 skill points (Fast Learner; only for Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (planes), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device at half cost each).
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Class Bonus Misc. Modifier Total
Acrobatics 3 +1 Dex +4
Bluff 0 -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -5
Craft (alchemy) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Craft (precepts) 6 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +18
Diplomacy 0 -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -5
Foresight 5 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +17
Governance 5 +6 Int +3 +3 competence, +3 Skill Focus +20
Intimidate 8 -2 Cha +3 +9
Knowledge (arcana) 9 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +21
Knowledge (geography) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Knowledge (history) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Knowledge (local) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Knowledge (nobility) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Knowledge (planes) 9 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +21
Linguistics 4 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +16
Martial Arts (umbral glyph) 6 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +18 (corrupted for +27)
Perception 4 +2 Wis +6
Profession (jeweler) 3 +2 Wis +3 +8
Sense Motive 0 +2 Wis -3 disadvantage -1
Spellcraft 9 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +21
Swim 4 +0 Str +4
Use Magic Device 9 +6 Int +3 +3 competence, +1 Skill Focus +22

Lex’s class skills are Craft, Foresight, Governance, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana, geography, history, local, nobility, planes), Linguistics, Profession, Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device.

With his +18 in Craft (precepts), Lex has modified his magic items as follows: his handy haversack can be used in conjunction with other extradimensional spaces without complications (1); extended his amulet of natural armor’s bonus to his CMD (2) and to touch attacks (3); upgraded his circlet of wizardry so that it can use detect magic for 5 rounds without concentration (2) and detect as though it’s received concentration for 3 rounds (2), as well as grant it a fourth charge (3); makes his ring of mind shielding also grant a +5 bonus on Bluff checks against Sense Motive (3); his cloak of resistance can reroll a single save once per day, before the result is declared (2).

Despite his dealings with the Night Mare, Lex has no ranks in Knowledge (religion); he does not worship her, nor is interested in her religion except as a tool to solidify his own power. This might change as he grows more comfortable with their relationship. Likewise, in addition to being able to speak Common and Sylvan, Lex has an additional ten languages from his Intelligence bonus and ranks in Linguistics; these may be assigned as needed.

Having taken 6 ranks in his martial art, it is also a treated as a class skill (Eclipse, p. 9).

Umbral Glyph (Int)

Practiced primarily among those warlocks that have become creatures known as shades, this tenebrous martial art entwines the practitioner’s magic through both their shadow and the shadows of others. The user avoids blows by momentarily turning portions of their body to shadows to let them slide past, while at the same time striking at their enemies’ shadows to land their spells. This martial art is corrupted for increased effect/does not function in areas of bright light (e.g. outside in direct sunlight, or within the area of a daylight spell).

  • Requires: spellcasting ability, the ability to turn into shadow (or equivalent ability).
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2 (adds to spell attack rolls OR save DCs), Defenses 4, Strike (allows spells to deal nonlethal damage), Synergy (Stealth), Toughness 2
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Blind-Fight, Defensive Combat Training, Mind Like Moon, Mobility
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength (x2), Serpent Strike, Vanishing.
  • Known: Attack 2, Defenses 4, Strike, Toughness 1, Defensive Combat Training, Mind Like Moon, Mobility, Inner Strength (x2), Vanishing.

Further Development

At this point, Lex has gained sufficient power that he could challenge Celestia or Luna – perhaps even both of them together – and conceivably win. He considers such a battle something to be avoided if at all possible, however. Not only is he uncertain just how strong the alicorn princesses really are, but he knows that such a conflict would in all likelihood indelibly paint him as a villain to the rest of Equestria. For now he would much rather try to conquer via a socioeconomic cold war.

In the meantime, Lex will continue trying to increase his personal power. Other than a few more hit points and some expanded healing options, Lex has sufficient defenses that he’ll instead look at expanding his versatility and offensive power, likely via further metamagic theorems. He’ll also want to shore up his base of power, probably with Sanctum, a Reputation, and buying the Major modifier for his Privilege.

Of course, that presumes that everything follows his plans. Should something unexpected happen to push Lex towards the darker aspects of his nature, he could wind up becoming a monster far worse than King Sombra ever was.

Why I’m (Not) Anti-Zebritic

April 16, 2015

I’m not very engaged with the fandom of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Given how many MLP-related posts I’ve made recently, that might sound like a rather odd (if not downright hypocritical) claim to make. However, the fact is that while I enjoy the show a lot, I simply don’t have much to do with the wider fan community that’s sprung up around it. I’ve watched some analysis videos of the series on Youtube, looked into its unofficial Pathfinder adaptation, and even read a fanfic or two, but that’s about it – and given how much fan-material is out there, that’s not very much at all.

I mention that as a caveat, in that it’s entirely possible that I’m misrepresenting the brony community with what I’m about to assert. That said, what I have seen is that the following is generally held to be a consensus viewpoint:

That Zecora, the zebra shamaness in MLP:FiM, is a character of considerable magical power.

Zecora

“With nothing more than roots and sticks, I left them in awe of my tricks.”

This stance never fails to exasperate me whenever I encounter it, because it seems to run completely counter to what we actually see within the context of the show itself. However, most fans are quite forthright in holding that, while it might be more subtle and indirect than the glowing, unmistakable magic of unicorns, Zecora has magical powers that are comparable to Twilight’s (at least before she became an alicorn).

To be fair, this is a view that the show itself does seem to encourage. In the third season episode “Magic Duel,” Zecora offers to train Twilight in using magic to defeat Trixie (who has gained unparalleled magical power thanks to a cursed item), which implies that she knows more than Twilight does (e.g. you can’t train someone in something unless you possess more advanced knowledge than they do). She even says, in her usual rhyming couplet, that “when it comes to magic, it would be tragic if somepony licked me, especially Trixie.”

So the show is implying that Zecora has notable magic, and the fan community has run with the idea. But if you look at what Zecora actually does within the context of the series, she simply doesn’t have very much to show for her actions.

Let’s take a detailed look at everything we’ve seen Zecora do in the first four seasons of MLP, and see if we can quantify her abilities. Since objective measurements work best using an objective metric, we’ll default to using the d20 System, specifically the point-buy character-generation rules used in Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

Zebra Magic

Herbalism/Potion-making: One of the most common things we see Zecora do is make potions, along with various other tonics, powders, tinctures, etc. These seem to have some obviously-magical effects. In “Bridle Gossip,” she knows the herbal recipe that will reverse the effects of the Poison Joke plant on Twilight and the Mane Six. In “Luna Eclipsed,” she throws powder that makes misty shapes that put on a short play that she narrates. She makes a potion that can fix Apple Bloom’s chipped tooth in “The Cutie Pox,” as well as making a potion to help a rooster crow using a Heart’s Desire flower – a flower that Apple Bloom later steals and inadvertantly curses herself with (becoming afflicted with the eponymous cutie pox). Later in the same episode, Zecora shows up with the Seeds of Truth that are the cure for Apple Bloom’s condition.

In virtually all of these cases, the concoction that Zecora is making is clearly having some sort of magical effect, but in every instance it’s fairly obvious that the actual magic involved isn’t coming from her. Plants like Poison Joke or Heart’s Desire have their own inherent magic (which is not inconsiderable, since the former can do things like shrink Applejack down to a few inches tall!), which she’s simply utilizing via a recipe. Her “mist-play powder” is similar to how we can make fireworks form a picture, but using the magic in the ingredients to make it move. Zecora, like any classical alchemist, is simply utilizing natural resources to create the (relatively minor) effects that she wants.

In d20 terms, this is simply an application of Craft (alchemy). The proviso that only spellcasters can make alchemical items using this skill is waved due to the inherent magic of her ingredients; anyone with the proper training, spellcaster or not, would be able to accomplish this.

Her “plot-device” potion: This one is important enough to warrant its own discussion. In the fourth season premiere, Zecora whips out a potion that, when Twilight drinks it, allows her to witness events long-passed. That would seem like a stretch regarding what magical plants can do, but there’s a fairly major catch here: Zecora out-and-out admits that Twilight’s alicorn magic is needed to activate the potion.

While it’s a fairly major contrivance that Zecora would just happen to have such a potion on her, all the more so since she apparently can’t catalyze it herself, her requiring Twilight’s power here only further dilutes the idea that Zecora is using any sort of magic on her own in brewing these potions.

In d20 terms this one is a little harder to analyze, due to the collaborative nature of what went into creating it. Zecora says of this potion, “I do not dare to use it myself, the results would be tragic. It only responds to alicorn magic.” However, what the “tragic” results of using the potion herself would be are undefined – it could very well be that the “tragedy” would simply be that it went to waste.

To this end, I’d say that this one was an actual potion, in d20 terms; that would explain why Zecora needed Twilight’s help, since in that case some actual spellcasting ability would be required to complete it. In Eclipse terms, this would likely be an instance of Create Artifact, specialized for one-half cost/only for herbal or alchemical magic items. I’d also give Zecora the Enthusiast ability with the Adaption modifier, all specialized for one-half cost/only for use with Create Artifact, in conjunction with this, so that she’d be able to know a given recipe as needed. In this case, Twilight’s alicorn magic (e.g. a point of mana) was simply the last ingredient.

Her “teacup trick”: That line that Zecora says in “Magic Duel” about how it’d be tragic if somepony outperformed her with magic wasn’t tossed out idly. As she says it, she waves her hoof over an empty teacup, and as she does it’s suddenly filled with tea again.

This is apparently supposed to be indicative of her having her own magic. Personally, I found that scene to indicate anything but. This particular trick isn’t anything we haven’t seen in our own world, performed by stage magicians; it’s a feat of legerdemain, rather than eldritch prowess.

In d20 terms, this is a simple Sleight of Hand check.

Personal stability: At this point, Zecora has very few notable abilities left to analyze. We do see her balancing on her head on a pole in “Swarm of the Century,” and easily standing on a single hind leg with her eyes closed in “Magic Duel,” but both of those are simply indicative of very skilled balance. Again, people have performed comparable tricks in the real world.

From a d20 standpoint, these are just good Balance (or, if you play Pathfinder, Acrobatics) checks.

Wisdom of the Woodlands: The last ability of note for Zecora is her knowledge of magical creatures. Interestingly, while she is able to diagnose Spike’s aging in “Secret of My Excess,” she doesn’t know how to stop the para-sprites in “Swarm of the Century.” Oh well, everyony fails a skill check now and then.

The d20 stats for these are self-evidently Knowledge (arcana) and/or Knowledge (nature) checks.

Skills and Stripes

Ultimately, everything Zecora does can be explained by the characteristics of the ingredients she’s using, or by personal skill. Nothing that we see of her indicates that she can control magical forces; even her potions and poultices manage to create only the most minor of effects, compared to the things that unicorns do casually (e.g. telekinetically rearranging things).

Based on the above, were I to write up Zecora with d20 statistics, I’d make her a skill-based character rather than a spellcasting one. Given that she seems to be a little older than the Mane Six, and is notably competent in her chosen area, I’d probably put her as being 2nd level (which is higher than most of the ponies we see). While she has one or two tricks of note (e.g. Create Artifact), that’s all they are: tricks. She’s familiar with, and knows how to utilize, the magic that can be found in nature, but that’s not the same as actually having magic herself.

Of course, Equestria is a land where friendship itself can manifest as magical rainbows of intense power, so maybe the new season will prove me wrong.

Further Musing on Celestial Aspirations

February 28, 2015

An interesting point came up lately on the forums for Ponyfinder – the unofficial Pathfinder adaptation of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

I had started a thread questioning a trend that I’d been noticing recently, that being the presumption that if Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were to be translated into d20-based statistics – such as for Pathfinder or D&D 3.5 – then they would be deities. Naturally, I disagreed with this line of thought.

My central point was that any such translation should focus solely on generating mechanics for the powers that we actually witness Princess Celestia using, discarding presumptions regarding what powers we think she might have or ought to have. In that regard, the vast majority of her abilities can be reconstructed fairly easily (albeit using Eclipse: The Codex Persona) without having to go anywhere near divine-level statistics.

The one ability she possesses that isn’t so easily relegated to low-level game statistics is also her central power – the ability to move the sun. However, this problem was one that solved itself; the second season episode “Hearth’s Warming Eve” stated outright that before Celestia and Luna rose to power, the tribe of unicorns collectively accomplished this feat on their own. Since this was apparently something that ordinary unicorns could accomplish, albeit as a group, then it couldn’t have been too difficult to do; certainly not so difficult that only a god could pull it off. Hence, I rated that ability as being similarly low-level.

What that thread brought to my attention, however, was that there was additional information that I wasn’t aware of…

The Journal of the Two Sisters

The Journal of the Two Sisters is the book that Twilight Sparkle finds in the fourth season episode “Castle Mane-ia.” An old diary – apparently (and rather oddly) kept by Celestia and Luna together – we never actually learn anything specific about what’s in it over the course of the episode.

What I didn’t know was that the Journal has also been turned into an actual publication. While it has some entries from the Mane Six during the events of season four, the bulk of it tells the story of how Celestia and Luna overcame various trials when they were young and eventually became the rulers of Equestria. In the course of doing so, it also provides some further revelations about how the sun and the moon were moved before the alicorn sisters took over those jobs.

While I don’t own the book and haven’t read it, a combination of spoiler-filled reviews on its Amazon.com page and its entry on TVTropes describe the bulk of its contents in some detail, including the section that’s relevant to our discussion here. To summarize:

One day, Celestia and Luna awoke to a darkened sky, with no sun and no moon or stars to lighten it. When they went to the unicorn tribe to ask why they had left the sky empty, they learned the grim secret that the unicorns had been keeping: that maintaining the cycle of day and night had cost them their magic.

Raising and lowering the sun and the moon each day was a job that required six unicorns working together. Even with their combined strength, however, the task was an incredibly arduous one, so much so that after a time the strain would become too great and the unicorns would permanently lose their ability to use magic. Once that happened, there was nothing that could be done except to have a new team of unicorns take over, doomed to eventually suffer the same fate.

While the unicorns had long borne this burden for the greater good, their sacrifices had finally caught up to them. All of the unicorns – save only for the wizard Star-Swirl the Bearded, whose unmatched magical powers had never been depleted despite his being a constant participant in the ritual – had lost their magic, leaving none to begin the day.

In desperation, Star-Swirl attempted to raise the sun on his own, hoping that his vast magical power would let him shoulder the burden for the depleted unicorns. For all of his strength, though, Star-Swirl succeeded only in pushing himself beyond his limits, not only causing him to finally lose his magic, but to prematurely age as well.

With no options left, Celestia and Luna tried to raise the sun and the moon by themselves. Miraculously, their nature as alicorns let them succeed where all others had failed – not only were they able to raise the heavens, but they realized that it had always been their destiny to do so, gaining their cutie marks in the process. The infusion of power was so great that they were able to restore magic to all of the unicorns.

It was the beginning of their reign, and the end of the beginning for the land of Equestria.

Given the information relayed in the Journal – to say nothing of the fact that it’s written by Amy Keating Rogers, who is a writer for the show itself – doesn’t that mean that I’d need to reevaluate the idea that raising and lowering the sun and the moon aren’t a big deal insofar as charting Celestia’s power is concerned? Shouldn’t she have a power-up, possibly one of considerable magnitude, in light of this information?

Having thought it over, the answer that I’ve come to is “no.”

 Magical Logic

The major problem with the story described above is that the scenario it presents – that moving the sun and the moon is so difficult for the unicorns that doing it for too long erodes their ability to use magic – fails to pass any kind of logical consideration. To put it another way, the problem that it has Celestia and Luna solve makes no sense, since it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

The reason the six unicorns that move the sun and the moon eventually lose their magic is due to the strain that this places on them. In other words, it’s the magical equivalent of pulling a muscle, over and over, until that muscle is completely shredded. Between that, and that six unicorns can perform a task that none of them can do alone, this makes it clear that the task of moving the sun and the moon is simply a matter of applying enough magical force to get the job done. In light of that, consider the following questions:

  1. Why does the group that moves the sun and the moon only consist of six unicorns? Why not sixteen unicorns? Or sixty? Or six hundred? In other words, why not increase the number of unicorns performing this job at any given time, so that the strain on each individual member is reduced, ideally to the point where they’re not inflicting serious harm on themselves?
  2. Even if you don’t increase the number of unicorns in the group, why have them keep doing it until they’ve sustained permanent injury? They’re said to lose their magic “over time” due to the strain; why don’t they swap in a new group when the old one starts to get tired, before they’ve pushed themselves so hard that they’ll never recover? Surely rest (and whatever the magical version is of physical therapy) would mean that the previous team would eventually be able to step back in at some point, allowing the burden could be perpetually passed around.

These poke some serious holes in the narrative described above, to the point where the entire premise is seriously compromised. It’s hard to believe that for their entire history, the unicorns didn’t consider either of the issues listed above.

(It’s also difficult to presume that the unicorns were able to keep this a secret. Even if we interpret that to mean that it was a secret from the earth ponies and pegasi – and that all unicorns knew about it – that’s still very hard to believe. As a rule, the more people who know a secret, the harder it is to keep; eventually somebody is going to let it slip, whether due to carelessness, ideological reasons (“you can’t suppress the truth!”), or simply being terrible at hiding things.

It’s not like the tribes were ever really all that isolated, either – the unicorns received all of their food from the earth ponies, and unicorn lands would still need to have weather, which is generated by the pegasi. Even if the tribes were insular and suspicious of each other, there was likely a not-inconsiderable amount of contact between them. That’s all the more reason why somepony should have hit upon the two points listed above – that these solutions were never thought of by anypony is inconceivable.)

“Official” vs. “Canon”

The points raised above make for compelling in-narrative reasons for discounting what we’re told in the Journal. But there’s also a meta-contextual reason that needs to be considered. After all, not only is the book written by one of the show’s own writers – albeit one who usually works on comedy and slice-of-life episodes, rather than adventure or world-building episodes – but the book’s own subtitle says that it’s official. Given that, don’t we have to take what it says to be true, regardless of how illogical it seems?

Again, I find the answer here to be “no.” That’s because there’s a difference between something that’s official, and something that’s canon.

The latter term is something of a loaded one, at least where fandom is concerned, as its definition often depends on whom you’re talking to. Insofar as this discussion is concerned, I’m using “canon” to mean “any information which is definitively held to be part of a given body of fiction, such as a narrative or setting.”

The operative part of this definition is the use of the word “definitively.” This means that, in order to be canon, any such information must be sanctioned by the authority that governs that body of fiction. Now, there are often disagreements over just whom that authority actually is  – should it be the original creator (Lauren Faust, in this case), the people working on it currently (e.g. the show’s writers, even if they state something in a tweet or a blog post without any oversight or approval from their company), or the corporate body that owns the intellectual property rights (e.g. Hasbro)? In this case, we’re going to adopt the latter view. At the end of the day, the intellectual property owners have final say over what is and is not part of the series they own.

So how does any of that speak to a difference between something that’s official and something that’s canon? Because, while all canon materials are official, not all official materials are canon. For something to be “official” means that the authority of that material has formally sanctioned its creation, which is not the same thing as acknowledging that it’s part of the wider body of lore.

That may sound like a completely technical distinction – one that’s too miniscule to take seriously – but in fact this principle is widely understood, even if it’s rarely formally recognized. Consider, for example, Darth Vader’s battle against the Energizer Bunny.

This is clearly official; Lucasfilm Ltd. gave permission to the Energizer Holdings company to use their character in this commercial. But not even the most diehard Star Wars fan would argue that what we see in the commercial is canon.

Where Friendship is Magic is concerned, the best example of this sort of thing is found in the comic books. While officially licensed to IDW by Hasbro, the comics contain contradictions that make them non-canon (e.g. the assertion that Twilight’s mother writes the “Daring Do” novels, which flies in the face of what we see in the fourth episode of the fourth season).

Contradiction in Terms

The above issue with the comics also points out the final reason not to consider the Journal to be a canon resource: it has a few points that contradict the source material. Since the source material is the standard by which canonity is held against, this further undermines the Journal as an authoritative source.

Going by what’s on the book’s TVTropes page, the contradictory points are:

  • Luna writes about having “fun” in the Journal, despite saying in the second season episode “Luna Eclipsed” that she wasn’t familiar with the term.
  • The characteristics assigned to Celestia and Luna in the Journal are aspects of the Elements of Harmony. However, these differ from the Elements that we see each sister using during the flashback sequence in the fourth season episode “Princess Twilight Sparkle – Part 2.”

Cantering to a Conclusion

It’s for these reasons – the illogical nature of its premise, the lack of narrative significance in its “official” status, and the contradictory elements that it contains – that I don’t think that The Journal of the Two Sisters is a reliable resource to draw upon when trying to objectively measure Princess Celestia’s powers.

While it may very well be an entertaining book, it serves to highlight one of the principle points of research: that secondary sources, especially when they venture outside of what’s established by primary resources, should be subject to heightened critical scrutiny.

Because as we all know, candy-colored ponies – and their D&D statistics – are very serious business.

Queen of the Ponies

February 22, 2015

Recently, I wrote up AD&D Second Edition stats (using The Primal Order) for Lashtada, a minor goddess from the world of Everglow, the campaign setting for Ponyfinder. In that entry, I mentioned how the tribe that worshipped Lashtada was wiped out as an indirect result of the actions of Queen Iliana, who was fighting to establish an empire.

In an amusing irony, at roughly the same time I was writing Lashtada up, the author of the Ponyfinder Campaign Setting was also drawing up Pathfinder stats for Iliana. While the original post can be found over here, I’m going to go ahead and copy them below (with some minor changes to the formatting) for ease of reference. (Items with an asterisk (*) denote materials from the Ponyfinder Campaign Setting.)

Queen Iliana
Pony sorcerer 20
NG Medium fey (ponykind)
Init +1 (Dex); Senses blindsense 60 ft., darkvision 120 ft., low-light vision; Perception +5
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Defense
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AC 16, touch 11, flat-footed 15 (+5 armor, +1 Dex)
hp 206 (20d6+124)
Fort +16, Ref +11, Will +21; +2 vs. poison, spells, and spell-like abilities
DR 10/cold iron; SR 18
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Offense
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Speed 40 ft., fly 30 ft. (clumsy)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 20th; concentration +33)
2/day—telekinesis
Sorcerer Spell-Like Abilities (CL 20th; concentration +33)
2/day—unseen servant
14/day—force ray
Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 20th; concentration +33)
9th (7/day)—mass hold monster (DC 40), overwhelming presence, teleportation circle, time stop, wish
8th (7/day)—binding (DC 34), irresistible dance (DC 34), maze, mind blank, sunburst (DC 29)
7th (8/day)—banishment (DC 28), lesser create demiplane, ethereal jaunt, plane shift (DC 28)
6th (8/day)—cloak of dreams (DC 32), contingency, greater dispel magic, geas/quest, mass suggestion (DC 32)
5th (8/day)—baleful polymorph (DC 26), break enchantment, mind fog (DC 31), symbol of sleep (DC 31), teleport
4th (8/day)—detect scrying, dimension door, enchantment foil, scrying (DC 25), symbol of laughter (DC 30)
3rd (9/day)—dispel magic, haste, magic circle against evil, nondetection, pegasus blessing*, tongues
2nd (9/day)—alter self, arcane lock, disguise other, glitterdust (DC 23), hideous laughter (DC 28), invisibility
1st (9/day)—alter winds (DC 22), beguiling gift (DC 27), charm person (DC 27), feather fall, identify, silent image (DC 22)
0 (at will)—arcane mark, dancing lights, detect magic, detect poison, mage hand, mending, message, prestidigitation, read magic
Bloodline Unification*
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Statistics
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Str 8, Dex 12, Con 22, Int 16, Wis 21, Cha 32
Base Atk +10; CMB +9; CMD 20 (24 vs. trip)
Feats Advanced Horn Magic*, Combat Casting, Endurance, Eschew Materials, Focused Horn Magic (enchantment)*, Greater Spell Focus (enchantment), Greater Spell Penetration, Leadership, Master Horn Magic*, Practiced Horn Magic*, Quicken Spell, Silent Spell, Spell Focus (enchantment), Spell Penetration, Spell Perfection (overwhelming presence), Still Horn Magic*
Traits classically schooled, day greeter*
Skills Acrobatics +1 (+5 to jump), Bluff +24 (+26 with all Fey creatures), Diplomacy +40 (+42 with all Fey creatures), Fly +7, Intimidate +16 (+18 with all Fey creatures), Knowledge (arcana) +16, Knowledge (geography) +9, Knowledge (local) +9, Knowledge (nature) +9, Knowledge (nobility) +9, Sense Motive +10 (+12 with all Fey creatures), Spellcraft +27, Use Magic Device +34
Languages Common, Sylvan
SQ ancestry (horn), ancestry (wings), earth-bound, fey monarch, fingerless, magic focus (enchantment), new arcana, unique destiny
Combat Gear robe of the archmagi (white); Other Gear +1 silken ceremonial armor, belt of mighty constitution +6, cloak of the diplomat, eyes of the dragon, handy haversack, headband of mental prowess +6 (Wis, Cha), page of spell knowledge (wish), queen’s slippers*, ring of freedom of movement, ring of inner fortitude (greater), tunic of careful casting, 174,290 gp.
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Special Abilities
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Ancestry (Horn) (Sp) You grow a unicorn horn from your head, allowing you to use unseen servant as a spell-like ability 2/day.
Ancestry (Wings) (Su) You gain feathered wings that, when activated, grant a base flight speed of 30 ft. (clumsy). At sorcerer level 20, the flight ability becomes permanent and activated at will.
Earth-Bound Gain a +2 racial bonus to saves vs Poison, Spells and Spell-Like effects, Endurance as a bonus feat.
Fey Monarch (Su) At 20th level, you become a mortal ruler of fey creatures. You gain DR 10/Cold Iron and a +2 bonus to Diplomacy, Sense Motive, Intimidate, and Bluff checks with fey creatures. Any aging penalties you had are removed and you cease to accrue new ones.
Fingerless Ponies and many other races of Everglow can manipulate any one-handed item with their mouths, despite their lack of fingers. Hand and ring slot items automatically adjust to fit, becoming anklets that otherwise function normally.
Force Ray (Sp) Ranged touch attack for 1d4+10 damage, 14/day.
Magic Focus (Ex) At 15th level, you gain +2 to the save DCs of the magic school of your choice. This stacks with Spell Focus, Greater Spell Focus, and Focused Horn Magic.
New Arcana (Ex) Add a spell to your spells known at 9th, 13th, and 17th levels.
Unique Destiny Gain a bonus feat at 1st level.

Purely for the fun of doing so, I’m going to take the above stats and recreate them using the d20 point-buy rules from Eclipse: The Codex Persona. There’s no real need to do so, since Eclipse is completely compatible with Pathfinder (and virtually all other d20-based games), but doing so helps to break down how optimized her character is.

Since this is a conversion of a Pathfinder sorcerer, we’ll go ahead and take our cues from Thoth’s article on that topic, making modifications as necessary.

Everglow Earth Pony (32 CP/+1 ECL race)

  • Privilege/treated as fey versus type-based effects (3 CP).
  • Attribute Shift/-2 Dex, +2 Wis (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/low-light vision (6 CP).
  • +2 to saves vs. poison (3 CP).
  • +2 to saves vs. spells and spell-like abilities (3 CP).
  • Endurance: Immunity/environmental hazards (common/minor/minor) (4 CP).
  • Bonus feat (6 CP). Classically Schooled Trait: Skill Focus +1/Spellcraft. Day Greeter Trait: Skill Focus +1/Diplomacy and Skill Focus +1/Intimidate.
  • Speak Language/Sylvan (1 CP).
  • Being a quadruped grants +10 movement speed, +50% carrying capacity, and +4 on checks to avoid being tripped. This is balanced against minor penalties (much smaller than normal for quadrupedal creatures): their ring and hand magic item slots are combined (as anklets), and they are only considered to have a single hand for wielding/holding things – that being their mouth; this does not prevent comprehensible speech or interfere with verbal spell components (no cost).

Several notes need to be made here. The first is that Pathfinder characters that are members of this race (such as Iliana) gain an additional +2 to Constitution when using the Pathfinder Package Deal.

The second is that Iliana’s bonus feat has been spent on three 2 CP abilities: a +1 Skill Focus on three different skills. These are technically starting traits, but insofar as a point-buy system is concerned, there’s no real difference.

What’s more notable is that these traits normally also make these skills into class skills (though technically Day Greeter only makes one of them a class skill). Since Eclipse characters simply pick the skills that are most associated with their character concept to be class skills (within reasonable limits), there’s no cost for this. Spending 6 CP on skill points in a given skill makes it into a class skill anyway, so there’s no real harm there.

Available Character Points: 504 (level 20 base) + 60 (levels 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19 feats) + 6 (starting traits) = 570 CP.

Basic Abilities (153 CP)

  • Proficient with all simple weapons (3 CP).
  • 20d4 Hit Dice (0 CP).
  • Self-Development/Constitution, only for hit points (x2) (12 CP).
  • +10 BAB (60 CP).
  • Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +12 (72 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for skills (6 CP).

Since Pathfinder sorcerers received a not-inconsiderable upgrade from their 3.5 counterparts (in the form of their bloodline abilities), we need to make up for those points elsewhere, hence the use of Self-Development and Fast Learner here.

Spellcasting (328 CP)

  • 20 caster levels, specialized in sorcerer progression for one-half cost (60 CP).
  • 20 levels sorcerer magic progression (260 CP).
  • Shaping, specialized for increased effect/only works for her limited list of level 0 sorcerer spells, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must be free to gesture and speak (4 CP).
  • Eschew Materials: Easy metamagic theorem with Streamline, both specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for eliminating the need for material components costing 1 gp or less, only for sorcerer spells (4 CP).

Unification Bloodline (71 CP, specialized for one-half cost; 35 CP total)

  • Path/Unification spells (6 CP).
  • Combat Casting: Skill Emphasis (x2)/+4 Concentration (6 CP).
  • Leadership (6 CP).
  • Buy off the specialization for the Easy metamagic theorem (2 CP).
  • Immunity to the distinction between creature types (uncommon/minor/legendary), specialized for one-half cost/only for the fey type, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only with regards to spells and spell-like abilities (4 CP).
  • Upgrade the Shaping ability’s corruption, making it have triple effect to allow the additional use of a single, slightly more powerful, effect – in this case a force bolt (1d6 + ½-level damage, 30 ft. ranged touch attack, 3 + Cha Mod uses per day) (2 CP).
  • Celerity with the Additional modifier/30 ft. flight, corrupted for two-thirds cost/”clumsy” maneuverability (12 CP).
  • Occult Talent, specialized for increased effect/only gains a single 1st-level and 0-level spell slot; may use the 1st-level slot 2/day, and the 0-level slot 3/day (6 CP).
  • 3 additional sorcerer spells known (6 CP).
  • Ability Focus +2/enchantment (6 CP).
  • Damage reduction 5, specialized for double effect/only for physical damage, corrupted for two-thirds cost/bypassed by cold iron weapons (8 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis (x4)/Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive, all specialized for one-half cost/only versus fey creatures (6 CP).
  • Immunity to aging (uncommon/minor/trivial)/you do not take penalties for aging (1 CP).

Since they’re being taken as a thematic package of abilities, the entire bloodline can be specialized for one-half cost, as mentioned in the header for these powers. In this case, the specialization is that they unambiguously mark her as having unnatural powers, give her notable physical mutations, and clearly denote her destiny to others.

Special Abilities (50 CP)

  • Practiced Horn Magic and Advanced Horn Magic: Extra Limbs/arms, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/psychic construct, serves only to wield weapons or shields (2 CP).
  • Spell Focus, Greater Spell Focus, and Focused Horn Magic: Ability Focus/enchantment school, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for +3 bonus (8 CP). Persistent metamagic theorem, specialized for one-half cost/only for enchantment spells (3 CP) with the Glory modifier, specialized for one-half cost/only once per day, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for personal-range spells (2 CP).
  • Master Horn Magic: Inherent Spell with one Advanced upgrade, both specialized for one-half cost/only as prerequisites (6 CP); another use of Advanced (telekinesis) with +1 Bonus Uses (8 CP).
  • Still Horn Magic: Change specialization on Streamline from one-half cost to double effect/only for eliminating the need for material components costing 1 gp or less and eliminating somatic components (2 CP).
  • Spell Perfection: Improved Glory, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only when using a particular spell (4 CP). Augmented Magic +3, specialized for increased effect, may be applied to any numerical aspect of a spell/only applies when increasing an existing bonus gained from another ability (9 CP).
  • Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration: Immunity to spell resistance (common/major/minor) – grants a +4 bonus to overcome SR (6 CP).

Altogether, this costs 566 CP out of Iliana’s 570 CP allotment. That’s shocking for how on-target it is; her build is using virtually all of the points that are granted to it.

Given that, it wouldn’t seem like there’s much that we can do to tighten her stat block up under the point-buy rules we’re using. Perhaps surprisingly though, there are. Primarily by way of earning extra character points via introducing various drawbacks into her character – or, more correctly, quantifying the drawbacks that are already part of her character.

Iliana Unleashed

The first thing we’ll do is add a Restriction to her character build/may not wear armor, for an extra 20 CP. This forces her to give up her +1 silken ceremonial armor, but that’s no great loss; it only granted her a +2 armor bonus, which was completely overwritten by the +5 armor bonus from her white robe of the archmagi anyway (and it frees up 1,180 gp as a nice little bonus).

Having also had to administrate a movement, that grew into an army, that eventually became a great empire, we’ll also say that she has Duties to fulfill, and so has earned an additional 2 CP per level, for an extra 40 CP now.

Duties are typically thought of as being a burden that’s only for PCs, rather than NPCs. In fact, duties can restrict an NPC also. Having this means that Iliana often won’t be available when PCs want to meet with her, and so they’ll have to deal with somepony else. It also limits her ability to act – in many cases, she won’t be able to simply show up and “fix it” when things go bad. To put it another way, having duties means that her “screen time” is far more limited than it would otherwise be.

Finally, we’ll give her some Disadvantages, specifically History (she’s waged several wars to unify her empire, including one of near-genocide against the Tribe of Bones) and Hunted (survivors of vanquished tribes, political dissidents, and scheming nobles all want her gone). Together, these are worth 6 CP.

We’re also going to corrupt her BAB for two-thirds cost/does not grant iterative attacks. Given that full-progression spellcasters virtually never take a full attack action – using their BAB only for when they cast touch or ranged touch spells – there’s no reason not to do this, particularly when it grants her an extra 20 CP.

Along with her unspent 4 CP from her original build, these collectively grant her an additional 90 Character Points. Quite a lot! So what can we spend these on? I’d personally buy the following abilities, which I’ve also grouped into thematic packages:

Corona of Life (40 CP)

  • Costly with the Improved modifier, specialized for increased effect/only affects necromantic spells and effects; functions against all types of magic (24 CP).
  • Grant of Aid with the Mighty and double Regenerative modifiers (15 CP).
  • Upgrade her Immunity to aging from trivial to minor (1 CP).

After her early battles against the Tribe of Bones’ necromancers came very close to slaying her, Iliana worked with clerics of the Sun Queen to ward herself against negative energy. This not only made it difficult for necromancy to affect her, but allowed her to heal herself should she be injured, and even extended her lifespan.

Enchantress Nonpareil (14 CP)

  • Mastery/may take 10 even when threatened on caster level checks to beat spell resistance, concentration checks, Bluff, Diplomacy, Fly, Intimidate, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device (6 CP).
  • Occult Ritual (6 CP).
  • Buy one additional sorcerer spell known (wish) (2 CP).

Iliana’s Occult Ritual ability is how she can perform powers above and beyond typical spellcasting, such as causing the very earth to bury the home of the defeated Tribe of Bones. Likewise, buying her an additional spell known removes the need for her page of spell knowledge, and frees up 81,000 gp.

Veteran Campaigner (9 CP)

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws (6 CP).
  • Defender/dodge bonus, specialized for one-half cost/does not apply when wearing armor or using a shield (3 CP).

Five times per day, Iliana can choose to forgo making a saving throw to treat it as though she’d rolled a 20, or may re-roll a failed save. She also gains a +4 dodge bonus to AC so long as she doesn’t wear armor or carry a shield (which she never does anyway), helping to bump up her otherwise-abysmal Armor Class.

Founder of the Empire (27 CP)

  • Major Privilege/Queen of the Pony Empire (6 CP).
  • Superior Improved Reputation/Iliana gains a +13 bonus on social skill checks towards those who look favorably on the Empire; however, this becomes a -13 penalty on social skill checks towards those who do not (12 CP).
  • Sanctum with Occult Wards (9 CP).

The first two bullet points largely pay for the social advantages she’d be expected to have as queen of a vast empire. The last bullet point requires some further detail, given below.

Iliana’s Sanctum

After a failed rebellion forced her from Viljatown, her capital city, Iliana has kept her distance from the populace. She resides in a small estate to the north, allowing only her most loyal servants and retainers to attend to her. This estate has numerous wards (treat as non-lethal magical traps of CR 10 and lower) to keep unwanted visitors away.

Unwilling to make the same mistake a second time, Iliana has enchanted her estate heavily. It now acts as a nexus of arcane might for her and her followers. While within it, she gains the following benefits:

A note should be made regarding Iliana’s gear. As a major NPC, Iliana should be treated as having PC-level wealth. That gives her a grand total of 880,000 gp to work with. Her original write-up gave her 568,180 gp in magic items, along with 174,290 gp on hand (on hoof?), for a total of 742,470 gp.

That’s 137,530 gp unaccounted for, or a little over one-eighth of her total gear value. Further, as previously mentioned, we freed up 82,180 by removing her +1 silken ceremonial armor and her page of spell knowledge. Finally, let’s go ahead and liquidate 150,000 gp from the aforementioned 174,290 that she has, since there’s no real reason to keep that much money around.

Altogether, that gives us an additional 369,710 gp to work with in outfitting her. Not coincidentally, the benefits of Siddhisyoga that she gains in her sanctum cost exactly 369,000 gp (remember that Siddhisyoga with the Efficient modifier means that the total value of each magic item costs 1.5x its market price). So she can keep the 710 gp left over, giving her “only” 25,000 gp to carry around.

Looking at these various changes and alterations, we can get a better sense of Iliana’s character. We’ve quantified the various drawbacks that she has to deal with, and in turn spent the points from them on various abilities that serve to highlight her history, personality, and current situation. This all serves to underscore the position that she’s in as she tries to maintain the empire that she fought so hard to build.

Of course, as the Ponyfinder Campaign Setting describes, even a queen can only do so much for so long…

Hearts and Hooves

January 31, 2015

I’ve been feeling somewhat nostalgic lately…

Like many tabletop gamers, my introduction to RPGs came from Dungeons & Dragons. More specifically, I came to the game with Basic D&D, using the black “board game” starter set, before transitioning to the Rules Cyclopedia.

From there, I eventually made the jump to AD&D 2nd Edition, and in many ways I never really moved on from there. I say that fondly, as I consider 2E to have been the game’s high point when it comes to setting development. Never before nor since has D&D made so many worlds, or developed them so richly (the closest we’ve seen since then is Eberron in Third Edition).

Of course, Second Edition’s mechanics were far less cohesive than those of the subsequent Third Edition. Still, even that was inspirational in a way; less structure meant more freedom in what was presented, and there were some truly inspirational – and bizarre – things to be found across the spectrum of 2E products.

Unfortunately, none of those things included statistics for deities, something which always bothered me. I’ve always looked askance on the idea that statistics for gods are somehow inherently “unbalanced” in D&D, mostly because nobody can seem to come to a consensus what “balance” means anyway (let alone find a way to measure it). Likewise, cries of “but that promotes munchkin-levels of optimization!” are also poor excuses to me – the min-maxers are going to do what they do, regardless of what they have to draw upon.

It also seemed particularly unfair, given that every other edition of D&D has stats for gods. After all, Basic has its Immortals, First Edition and Third Edition have their respective Deities and Demigods books (which are basically divine monster supplements), and even Fourth Edition had stat blocks for gods in various supplements and adventures. Only in Second Edition were we told “gods are beyond stats. Sorry.”

The irony was that, it would be well into the life of Third Edition before I found out that a third-party company named Wizards of the Coast put out a sourcebook designed specifically to address this very deficiency: The Primal Order.

Presenting a universal set of rules with appendices covering their specific implementation in well over a dozen different RPGs – something they called the “capstone system” – The Primal Order remains one of the best (if not the very best) book about how to make gods a natural, tightly-integrated part of your campaign. The insights it presents, and the rules that back them up, are required reading for any GM that wants to make their deities be active, dynamic facets of the game world.

Once I found out about this book, I had to acquire it. Having picked up a used copy of the first printing (the book has since become available for download and print-on-demand, but that’s only for the second printing, which excised the D&D materials) early last year – as well as all three supplements – I’m able to create stats for gods using the AD&D Second Edition rules at last. They may not be “official,” but for me they’re close enough.

As such, since I’ve recently given myself permission to post non-Pathfinder-related RPG materials here, I’ve decided that this post will have AD&D 2E stats for a Primal Order-style deity.

Riding in On a Pink Horse

…which brings us to the ponies (apparently I can’t seem to stop referencing this topic).

Though I haven’t mentioned it since I first started making pony-related posts, there’s a(n unofficial) pony sourcebook for Pathfinder called Ponyfinder, released by Silver Games. Even considering my burnout on Pathfinder supplements, I’m quite fond of Ponyfinder, since I find it fascinating how it takes a more grownup view of what ponies would be like if they were from a world with Pathfinder-based monsters and magic.

Moreover, Silver Games hasn’t sat idle since releasing the campaign setting. Several mini-releases have followed, the latest one being Forgotten Gods of Everglow, detailing two “new” deities for the game world.

As such, this struck me as the perfect opportunity to back-convert one of the deities here and give them AD&D 2E/TPO statistics. As such, allow me to present my own version of:

Lashtada, Goddess of Love

On the young world of Everglow, a particular tribe of ponies were the primary worshippers of Lashtada, the goddess of romantic love. While her status as the patron deity of a particular society guaranteed her a stable body of followers, her lack of cross-cultural recognition ultimately proved to be her undoing.

When Queen Iliana formed her great Empire, it was built on several wars that served to unify – or conquer, depending on whom you asked – the diverse pony tribes. Turning her attention to the minor tribe of Lashtada-worshippers, Iliana offered them a place among the ponies of the Empire. Uncomfortable with how she had used strong-arming rather than kind feelings to bring the ponies together, the tribe rebuffed her offer, though they feared the worst in doing so.

Their fears came true, but not in the way that they expected. Tired of war, the Queen surprised many by respecting the tribe’s wishes, leaving them to their own devices without any imperial oversight…or protection.

Iliana’s wars had not only reshaped the structure of pony society on Everglow, but had the secondary effect of taming the wilds, pushing back the primitive humanoids that had theretofore roamed freely. Forced to look elsewhere for prey, gnoll raiders thus caught the Lashtadans completely unaware, wiping out their society virtually overnight.

With her primary worshippers eradicated, Lashtada’s religion quickly faded away completely, and today the Goddess of Love is all but forgotten, with the dark goddess Kara incorporating love into her portfolio of seduction and manipulation. However, things may be about to change…

Lashtada, demigod C20/B10; AC 6 (-4 Dex); MV 9; hp 78; THAC0 8; #AT 1; Dmg 1d2 (hoof); SA primal powers; SD primal powers, immortality; MR 30%; SZ S (3’ tall); ML 14; AL N.

Detect Noise 65%; Hide in Shadows 45%; Move Silently 35%; Read Languages 40%.

Saving Throws: PPD 1; RSW 4; PP 3; BW 6; S 5.

Attributes: S 15; D 19; C 17; I 15; W 20; Ch 18.

Cleric Spells:

7th (x2): restoration, succor.

6th (x5): command monster (PO:SM), find the path, forbiddance, heal, heroes’ feast.

5th (x7): atonement, blessed abundance (ToM), cure critical wounds, consequence (ToM), magic font, quest, true seeing.

4th (x10): cloak of bravery, cure serious wounds, detect lie, free action, imbue with spell ability (x2), neutralize poison, reflecting pool, spell immunity, unfailing endurance (PO:SM).

3rd (x11): create food and water, cure blindness or deafness, cure disease, dispel magic, emotion control (ToM) (x2), glyph of warding (x2), prayer, remove curse, repair injury (PO:SM).

2nd (x11): aid, barkskin, charm person or mammal, detect charm (x2), enthrall (x2), mystic transfer (ToM) (x2), restore strength (PO:SM), withdraw.

1st (x12): bless (x2), blessed watchfulness (PO:SM), cure light wounds, dispel fatigue (PO:SM) (x2), orison (PO:SM), purify food and drink, sacred guardian (ToM) (x2), sanctuary (x2).

Bard Spells:

4th (x1): emotion.

3rd (x2): slow, spirit armor (ToM).

2nd (x3): bind, ESP, Tasha’s uncontrollable hideous laughter.

1st (x3): friends, hypnotism, sleep.

Lashtada’s Primal Base

Source Amount Notes
Miniplanes 200 Lashtada’s current residence
Rank 300 Demigoddess
Spheres -170 Love sphere, cause/dispel love and matchmaking powers
Evolution 2,500 Five hundred years of life
Servitors -250 Has created five servitors
Minions -10 Has created one minion
Total 2,570 Points of Primal Base

Lashtada’s Primal Flux

Source Amount Notes
Base 257 10% of 2,570 primal base
Worshippers 70 These are dead worshippers in her divine realm
Miniplanes 200 Lashtada’s current residence
Consecrated Ground 2 The “Dungeon of Love”
Servitors -25 Primally supporting five servitors
Minions -10 Primally supporting one minion
Priests -1 Primally supporting one level 1 priest
Total 493 Points of Primal Flux

While the previous exposition makes it clear that the above stats use The Primal Order, it’s worth putting that into a practical context.

Specifically, Lashtada is made under the normal rules for AD&D 2E characters (save that I changed what thief skills were available to her as a bard; things like “climb walls” don’t make much sense for a pony), and then has the TPO rules overlain on her stat block. As such, the materials for what powers and limitations Second Edition gods typically have (as laid out in Legends & Lore) don’t apply here. Since Lashtada is using the TPO rules for gods, we’re not applying any other rules.

(Also, for her spells, note that some have parenthetical notations for where they’re printed. ToM denotes the Tome of Magic, while PO:SM is Player’s Option: Spells & Magic).

As it is, the specific implementations of the TPO rules on Lashtada’s stat block are comparatively few. Mainly, they’ve improved her ability scores and her saving throws, as well as given her magic resistance.

Beyond that, the main implementation of The Primal Order is found in calculating her primal base and primal flux, which grant her an extraordinary amount of power, at least compared to mortals (compared to other gods, she’s very much a bit player). Unfortunately, it would take far and away too much space to reprint what can be done with primal energy, so I’ll briefly go over the major aspects below:

Primal blast: Spending 1 point of primal flux allows Lashtada to throw a primal blast, which always hits, allows no saving throw, and overcomes all defenses (except a primal shield, see below), inflicting 10 points of damage. This can be increased by another 10 points of damage for every additional point of primal flux spent, with no upper limit (save for her total primal flux available).

Primal shield: Lashtada can raise a primal shield by spending 1 or more points of primal flux. Each point allows the shield to stop 10 points of damage, or five spell levels (for non-damaging spells) – this is an ablative effect, so if a 1-point shield stops 10 spell levels, it then collapses unless given further primal flux. A primal shield also stops all forms of passive information-gathering spells (e.g. true seeing) without compromising the shield’s integrity.

Spells: Lashtada can cast any spell by silent act of will by spending a number of points of primal flux equal to the spell’s level. This is separate from her personal spellcasting ability (e.g. the spells listed in her stat block) and allows her to use any spell on any spell list, though she must know what the spell is first. Spells cast in this manner always hit, do not allow saving throws, and overcome all non-primal defenses.

Primal Lacing: When casting spells normally (e.g. from her spells listed in her stat block), Lashtada can “lace” a spell with a single point of primal flux. Doing so causes the spell to affect its target(s) without any to-hit roll or saving throw, and overcome all non-primal defenses.

Immortality: Lashtada cannot be slain so long as any of her primal base remains intact. Removing her primal base requires attacking her with primal abilities, or otherwise undermining her divinity (e.g. causing her to lose her demigod status).

Cause/Dispel Love: Lashtada can create or destroy romantic love between two individuals, though doing so requires her to spend 40 primal flux. These feelings are not artificial, as the love between the targeted individuals grows (or decays) naturally over time.

Matchmaking: By spending 30 primal flux, Lashtada can instantly determine whom the perfect romantic partner for a particular individual would be.