Posts Tagged ‘My Little Pony’

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) +2 enhancement 17 (+3)
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 (13,200 gp; 14 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)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Wis (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 (2 CP)

  • Body Fuel, specialized for one-half cost/only for physical ability scores, corrupted for one-third cost/ability damage cannot be translated into XP loss via limited wish or stronger magic (2 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) +3 (Wis bonus) +3 resistance (cloak) +3 profane (aura of darkness) = +15.
  • 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 +3 Wis +7
Profession (jeweler) 3 +3 Wis +3 +9
Sense Motive 0 +3 Wis -3 disadvantage +0
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 (i.e. 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
——————–
Defense
——————–
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
——————–
Offense
——————–
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*
——————–
Statistics
——————–
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.
——————–
Special Abilities
——————–
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.

Song of the Sirens

December 28, 2014

Recently, Netflix uploaded Rainbow Rocks, the second movie for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Needless to say, I not only watched it immediately, but once again can’t help but blog about it in conjunction with my habit of translating characters from various media into d20 stats using the excellent point-buy character-builder that is Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

A direct sequel to Equestria Girls, Rainbow Rocks has several things going for it that make it a better movie than its predecessor. One of these is that it highlights the now-repentant villain from the first film, Sunset Shimmer, as she tries to atone for her previous actions. Her personal quest for redemption is a central aspect to the movie, and it’s stronger for it (particularly since this has only lightly been touched upon for previous redeemed villains, such as Luna and Discord).

Another notable strong point for the movie is the music. While they’re not all winners (“Tricks Up My Sleeve” and “Awesome as I Wanna Be” are sub-par, to my mind) the vast majority of the movie’s songs are not just catchy, but quite masterful in their presentation. This is especially true for the songs sung by the Dazzlings (the band formed by the villains), which were appropriately captivating.

The Sirens - Adagio, Sonata, and Aria

Clearly they’re monsters that have to be stopped.

It’s these villains that form the remaining strong point in Rainbow Rocks. While the trio of sirens – Adagio Dazzle, Sonata Dusk, and Aria Blaze – have a far simpler plan than Sunset Shimmer did (wanting only to be adored by the masses, rather than desiring domination and conquest), they’re by far more charismatic characters, at least in terms of being bad guys.

A large part of this is due to their singing, which as I noted above, is wonderful to listen to (I’m honestly starting to think that Kazumi Evans, the voice of Adagio – as well as the singing voice of Rarity and Luna – is simply incapable of singing anything less than heavenly). However, they also have a degree of aplomb that Sunset never did. Notwithstanding their sisterly sniping at each other, the sirens never lose their poise, keeping the heroines on the defensive throughout the entire film (at least before the climactic battle at the end).

It’s on that note (pun intended) that we’ll present stats for the leader of the sirens:

Adagio Dazzle, level 5 equestrian siren

Banished to Earth millenia ago by the unicorn wizard Star-Swirl the Bearded, Adagio – along with the other sirens – loathes her life here. Unable to draw much power from the negative emotions of non-magical beings, and therefore incapable of manipulating people on a grand scale, Adagio is tormented by her inability to attain the adulation to which she feels entitled.

It’s thus with dark glee that she notices that magic from her native Equestria is being used at a local high school. Now that a source of magic is finally within reach, Adagio will stop at nothing to restore the sirens’ full powers, and make everyone on Earth adore them!

While the stats below are for Adagio, Sonata and Aria are virtually identical to her. The only differences are likely to be their ability scores (except for Charisma) – Sonata has definitely made Intelligence her dump stat! – and their skill ranks (except for Perform (sing)).

Available Character Points: 144 (level 5 base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 12 (levels 1 and 3 feats) + 6 (human bonus feat) = 172 CP.

Adagio’s disadvantages are Accursed (Mystic Artist abilities that require skill level 15 or above – as well as the Conditioning modifier – cannot be used, unless they have used Rite of Chi with a group of people that have magical powers within the last 24 hours; see below), Showman (Adagio often sings exactly what she and the other sirens are doing with their songs), and Unarmored (wearing armor imposes arcane spell failure chances on their use of mystic artist each round).

Ability Scores (25-point buy):

Ability Scores Initial Scores (Point Cost) Level Bonuses Total
Strength 10 (2) 10 (+0)
Dexterity 11 (3) 11 (+0)
Constitution 10 (2) 10 (+0)
Intelligence 13 (5) 13 (+1)
Wisdom 13 (5) 13 (+1)
Charisma 15 (8) +1 (4th level) 16 (+3)

As the above point-buy total makes clear, Adagio is being built as a 3.5 character, rather than using the Pathfinder rules.

Human Traits (9 CP/+0 ECL)

  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills (3 CP).
  • Bonus feat (6 CP).

Originally, the sirens had bodies that were like that of hippocampi. However, as with all Equestrian natives that come to Earth (save, apparently, for dragons, which become dogs), their bodies were changed to that of humans. As such, they have the physical characteristics of humans.

Of course, having been on Earth for several thousand years, it’s likely that the sirens are, in fact, the original sirens from Greek mythology! They’re likely also the basis for several others mythological creatures as well.

Basic Abilities (87 CP)

  • Simple weapons proficiency (3 CP).
  • 5d8 Hit Dice (20 CP).
  • +2 BAB (12 CP).
  • Fort +1, Ref +4, Will +4 (27 CP).
  • 25 skill points (25 CP).

The vast majority of their basic abilities are purchased under the assumption that they must have developed some minor skills over the last few millenia, rather than anything we see them do in the course of the film.

Elder Evil (6 CP)

  • Immunity to aging (uncommon/minor/great) (6 CP).

Like many of Equestria’s power-players, the ravages of time simply cannot touch the sirens.

Unparalleled Performance (23 CP)

  • Perform (sing) 8 ranks (8 CP), with Skill Emphasis (3 CP), and Skill Focus with double Mastery (12 CP), all specialized for double-effect/may only be used with Mystic Artist, and corrupted for increased effect/may not be used without enchanted gemstone.

The 8 ranks in Perform (sing) taken here are separate from the 25 skill points that Adagio purchased as part of her basic abilities.

When the sirens are defeated in the final battle, their mystical gemstones shatter. This not only prevents them from using their song-based powers, but leaves them completely tone-deaf. Between that, and that they apparently never tried to use their singing to gain fame via mundane means, we can confidently say that their ranks in Perform were artificially inflated via the corruption and specialization given above.

Enchanting Intonations (42 CP)

  • Mystic Artist (Perform (sing)) (6 CP).
    • Basic Ability modifiers: Amplification (x9) (54 CP), Echoes (6 CP), Enduring (x10) (12 CP), Projection (6 CP), Rapid (6 CP), Whispers (6 CP).
    • The Path of Whispers modifiers: Subliminal (6 CP), Conditioning (6 CP).
    • Art of the Occult modifiers: The Hidden Way (6 CP).
    • All of these powers are specialized/uses of Mystic Artist must be recharged via Rite of Chi, and corrupted/may not be used without enchanted gemstone, for one-third cost (except Mystic Artist itself, which is for triple effect).

As listed in her skills table below, Adagio has a +48 bonus in the type of Perform skill that’s the focus of her Mystic Artist ability. As such, she has thirteen basic Mystic Artist abilities, in addition to the modifiers purchased above: (inspiration abilities:) emotion, (manipulation abilities:) fascinate, hold audience, suggestion, emotional auras, freedom, mass suggestion, alter attitudes, puppet master, (synergy abilities:) block, group focus, amplify, harmonize, rule the horde.

Tripling the effect of the basic Mystic Artist ability means that it can be used three times as often, which for Adagio is 3 rounds per level per day, or 15 rounds per day in other words. However, rounds that are used are not automatically restored each day, but must instead be regained via Rite of Chi, below.

Spiteful Convalescence (10 CP)

  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may only be used when in the presence of a group of people who are angry or upset, specialized for one-half cost/results are minimized results unless the crowd has magical powers (4 CP).
  • Reflex Training/may use Rite of Chi whenever in proximity to an angry group of people (6 CP).

While Rite of Chi normally recovers mana, spell levels, or psionic strength points, it’s not too much of a stretch to use it to restore rounds of Mystic Artist. In this case, we’ll say that a typical use recovers 2d4 rounds’ worth of Mystic Artist. Of course, in conjunction with the specialization of the above ability, this will only ever return 2 rounds’ worth each time it’s used, unless the crowd it’s used on has magical abilities. Together with their Accursed disadvantage, these are the main reasons why the sirens are unable to wield their full power on magic-poor Earth.

Pinnacle of Power (4 CP)

  • Inherent Spell (6 CP, specialized for one-half cost/only as a prerequisite) with the Advanced modifier (6 CP, specialized for one-half cost/may only be used during an instance of Mystic Artist). Both corrupted/may not be used without enchanted gemstone.
  • Eldritch/when using Rite of Chi with creatures that have magical powers, Adagio may manifest small, cosmetic changes to her personal appearance (e.g. pony ears, hair-tail, glowing red eyes, etc.) (0 CP).

The inherent spell used above is summon construct V (The Practical Enchanter, p. 85), using the “pre-specified construct” option to make it effectively a 4th-level spell. In this case, the construct uses the following options from Menu A: fly (x3), knockdown (variant that affects stored spells only), semisentient, and spell storing I (x2). The spells stored are five instances of lesser shout – a 2nd-level variant of the basic shout spell that cannot deafen or shatter objects, and deals 3d6 sonic damage to creatures with a save for half damage.

These are the copies of the sirens’ original bodies that they manifested during the final battle.

The Sirens’ Gemstones

The core weakness of the sirens is their reliance on their gemstones, without which they not only cannot absorb negativity and turn it into magical power, but can’t even sing.

Shattered at the end of the film, the sirens are said to be reduced to “ordinary teenage girls” without their gemstones (albeit ones who will likely live forever). However, that discounts the possibility that they could ever find a way to make new ones.

In game terms, the sirens’ gemstones have no powers unto themselves, serving only as a focus for their powers via corrupting a large number of their abilities. Creating new gemstones requires either Create Artifact or Create Item (wondrous items).

That would explain why the Mane Six feel so confident that the sirens’ power is beyond repair. After all, in a world as magic-poor as Earth, where could they possibly find someone that can create magic items? Of course, as the Mane Six themselves demonstrate, sometimes magic can be found where it’s least expected…

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 8 (d8 1st level) + 18 (4d8) = 26 hp.
  • Speed: 30 ft.
  • Init: +0 (Dex bonus) – 3 (showman disadvantage) = -3 Initiative.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +1 (base) + 0 (Con bonus) = +1.
    • Ref: +4 (base) + 0 (Dex bonus) = +4.
    • Will: +4 (base) + 1 (Wis bonus) = +5.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) + 0 (Dex bonus) = 10, touch 10, flat-footed 10.
  • Attacks: +2 (BAB) +0 (Str bonus) = +2 unarmed strike (1d3 nonlethal).
  • Skills: 25 skill points (25 ) + 8 for Perform (8 CP) + 8 (Int bonus) + 8 (human bonus) = 49 skill points.
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Misc. Modifier Total
Bluff 3 +3 Cha +6
Concentration 3 +0 Con +3
Diplomacy 1 (2 points spent) +3 Cha +4
Gather Information 2 +3 Cha +5
Intimidate 3 +3 Cha +6
Knowledge (arcana) 1 +1 Int +2
Knowledge (geography) 1 (2 points spent) +1 Int +2
Knowledge (history) 1 (2 points spent) +1 Int +2
Knowledge (local) 1 +1 Int +2
Knowledge (the planes) 1 (2 points spent) +1 Int +2
Listen 3 +1 Wis +4
Perform (sing) 24 (8 points) +3 Cha +21 (Skill Emphasis and Skill Focus) +48
Sense Motive 1 (2 points spent) +1 Wis +2
Speak Language 2
Spellcraft 3 +1 Int +4
Spot 3 +1 Wis +4
Survival 2 (4 points spent) +1 Wis +3
Swim 3 +0 Str +3

For the sake of simplicity, we’re giving Adagio twelve class skills – Bluff, Concentration, Gather Information, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (local), Listen, Perform, Speak Language, Spellcraft, Spot, and Swim – as well as Craft and Profession, though she hasn’t taken any ranks in the latter two.

In terms of Adagio’s languages spoken, the only language she uses throughout the movie is English. If we presume that she’s been on Earth for several thousand years, however, then it’s likely that she knows at least a few others. Given her Intelligence bonus and her ranks in Speak Language, she should know three languages plus English. Since, as mentioned above, she’s likely the source of the mythological sirens, I’d recommend Greek, Italian, and Latin.

Overall, Adagio – like the other sirens – makes for a very poor combatant. In this regard, she’s very similar to the Elite Beat Agents, save that she uses her musical powers to exploit others, rather than coming to their aid.

Having no martial skills worth noting, her power is entirely focused on manipulating those around her. If things were to come to blows, she would likely use the power of her voice to either beguile her attackers, or charm bystanders to do her fighting for her.

Like many villains, Adagio has achieved a great deal of power by taking multiple shortcuts (via her many specializations, corruptions, and her accursed disadvantage), something which ultimately comes back to haunt her more than once. Now, with her power broken, it’s unlikely that she and the other sirens have learned anything, instead trying to figure out how she and her companions can come back for an encore attempt at captivating the world’s attention.

My Little Candy-Colored Pony

November 28, 2014

A few months ago, I wrote a series of posts using the rules for Eclipse: The Codex Persona to flesh out characters, races, and items from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. One of them was for my original pony character, Lex Legis.

More recently, a poster over on the Paizo forums by the name of VrisKCa started offering to draw anyone’s character, free of charge. Given that paid-for commissions to draw someone’s PC are a thriving cottage industry, I was quick to leap at the generous offer, submitting Lex as my character of choice.

Much to my delight, VrisKCa picked my character as one of the first to draw out of the initial batch of submissions. Thanks to her talented work, I can now present Lex Legis, in living color:

Lex Legis - sketch by VrisKCaThis picture actually shows Lex several months after the events described in his original entry. The major difference is that he’s grafted the Horn of King Sombra onto himself, after his original horn was torn off in a grueling fight.

Doing so restored Lex’s ability to use magic (something unicorns can’t do without their horn), and awoke even greater powers in the Horn itself, allowing Lex to win the battle and save not just himself but several other ponies as well. But binding a relic that uses dark magic onto himself is not without consequences…

More Horsing Around

June 28, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how to go about doing it…?

Lex Legis, level 4 unicorn arcanomancer

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

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

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

Ability Scores (32-point buy):

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

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

Unicorn Pony Traits

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Strength (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier where appropriate (7 CP; 5,400 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • +3 competence bonus to all Intelligence-based skills (1,400 gp).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Immunity/needing to concentrate on spells (common/major/trivial – only for spells of level 0 or 1), specialized for half cost/only applies to innate enchantments (1 CP).
  • Immunity/verbal, somatic, and material components when casting spells (very common/major/minor – only for spells of level 3 or below) (10 CP).
  • Eldritch, a unicorn’s horn glows when using innate enchantments or spellcasting, and a matching glow surrounds the target (0 CP).
  • Skill Focus, Governance (6 CP).
  • Accursed. Any damage, or other harmful effect, that befalls a unicorn’s horn (e.g. must target their horn specifically, rather than the unicorn overall) causes all innate enchantments and spells cast to immediately end. No more can be used until the effect is healed (-3 CP).

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

Basic Abilities (35 CP)

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

Flawed Arcanism (46 CP)

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

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

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

Manipulate the Imperfect Power (31 CP)

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

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

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

Intuitive Aptitude for Magic (10 CP)

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

Fruits of Lesser Experiments (14 CP)

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

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

Potential for Greatness (6 CP)

Magic Items

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

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

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

The Horn of King Sombra (2-CP relic)

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

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

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

Derived Stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celestial Aspirations

June 16, 2014

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

Princess Celestia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Princess Celestia, level 8 alicorn (ECL 9)

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

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

Ability Scores (32-point buy):

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

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

Alicorn (62 CP/+1 ECL race)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Abilities (138 CP)

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

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

Regina Magica (59 CP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eternal Princess of Equestria (24 CP)

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

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

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

Mystic Insight

  • Deep Sleep with Cosmic Awareness (12 CP).

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

Alicorn Magic (14 CP)

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

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

She Who Moves the Sun

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

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

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

Weapon of Last Resort

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

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

Magic Items

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

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

Derived Stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Level One Rarity

June 7, 2014

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

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

Rarity

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

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

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

Rarity, level 1 unicorn pony

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

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

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

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

Unicorn Pony Traits

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Strength (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp (7 CP; 6,000 gp)
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Greater mage hand (2,000 gp).
    • Detect gemstones (1,000 gp).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Immunity/needing to concentrate on spells (common/major/trivial – only for spells of level 0 or 1), specialized for half cost/only applies to innate enchantments (1 CP).
  • Immunity/verbal, somatic, and material components when casting spells (very common/major/minor – only for spells of level 3 or below) (10 CP).
  • Eldritch, a unicorn’s horn glows when using innate enchantments or spellcasting, and a matching glow surrounds the target (0 CP).
  • Skill Focus, Craft (tailor) (6 CP).
  • Accursed. Any damage, or other harmful effect, that befalls a unicorn’s horn (e.g. must target their horn specifically, rather than the unicorn overall) causes all innate enchantments and spells cast to immediately end. No more can be used until the effect is healed (-3 CP).

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

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

Basic Abilities (44 CP)

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

Soul of Generosity

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

Upwardly Mobile

  • Contacts x3 (3 CP).

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

Minor Spellcaster (7 CP)

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

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

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

Derived Stats

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

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

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

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

Pathfinder Rarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intuitive Insight (12 CP)

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

Superlative Seamstress (9 CP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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