Posts Tagged ‘Ness’

When You Ness With the Best

March 18, 2020

I was fortunate enough to have gotten a copy of Earthbound when it came out on the Super Nintendo. While quirky RPGs are nothing new these days, at the time the game was an extremely different experience from Final Fantasy and similar high-fantasy video role-playing games. It took place in a modern setting, eschewed magic in favor of psychic powers, and played up humor over drama. It was quite the trip!

Earthbound’s intro screen, depicting an epic scene that never happens in the game.

Later, we’d find out that the game was known as Mother 2 in Japan, being the second of what would be a trilogy of “Mother” games. But while the first game would eventually be given a domestic release (under the name “Earthbound Beginnings”), the third one has yet to be formally released outside of its home country. Even the release of the original game took years, and then only as a pay-for-download option.

The end result was that Earthbound, while achieving a cult following, would likely have been forgotten. But then something unexpected happened that breathed new life into the series, at least in terms of its wider acknowledgment in the gaming community.

Ness, the main protagonist of Earthbound, was brought into the Super Smash Bros. series of games.

Appearing as an unlockable character in the first game, and selectable from the start in each subsequent one, his role in these hit games took Ness from being obscure to wildly popular. Nor was Earthbound’s influence in the game limited to Ness alone. The Mr. Saturns – the basketball-sized rotund little alien-creatures – would also make an appearance, as thrown items of all things. The Franklin Badge, which reflects projectiles, was likewise added as an item that characters could use. And eventually Lucas, the star of Mother 3, would also join the games’ ever-expanding roster of characters.

One thing that confused fans of Earthbound when they first discovered Ness in Super Smash Bros., however, was his roster of powers. While Ness was a powerful psychic in the original game, the powers he used in Smash Bros. were actually those of his friend Paula. This was answered in later games where it was explicitly stated that Paula (and Poo, another of Ness’s psychic friends) taught him to use their powers prior to his inclusion in Smash Bros.

Now that’s a war face!

So given that we’ve see Ness in a traditional turn-based RPG, and in a fighting game series, I couldn’t help but wonder what he’d look like with d20 stats. Using Eclipse: The Codex Persona and The Practical Enchanter, here’s what I think the answer would look like:

Ness, 13th-level psychic savant

Available Character Points: 336 (level thirteen base) + 42 (feats at levels 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13) + 6 (“starting traits”) + 13 (restriction: may not wear armor) = 397 CP.

While Earthbound differed from traditional RPGs in many ways, the lack of equipable armor wasn’t really one of them. Rather, the game simply provided different varieties of defense-improving items for its characters, such as hats, bracelets, amulets, etc. In the d20 System, however, we can treat those as being magic items (see below) and so say that Ness’s eschewing armor is worth some extra CPs as a restriction.

Ability Scores (25-point buy): Str 13 (+1 level = 14), Dex 12 (+6 enhancement = 18), Con 15 (+1 level = 16), Int 11 (+1 level = 12), Wis 16 (+2 racial +6 enhancement = 24), Cha 12.

As this point-buy allotment makes clear, Ness is using the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Human, Esper (25 CP/+0 ECL)

  • Bonus feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized in skills (3 CP).
  • Like all humans, espers get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Package Deal bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).
  • 1 caster level, specialized in the psion progression (3 CP).
  • 1 augmentable psionic power (far hand) (3 CP).
  • 3d6 (10) power points (6 CP).

Ness was born with latent psychic abilities, as we find out during Earthbound that as a baby he would telekinetically grab his bottle when it was out of reach. As such, we’ll say that Ness is an esper, a type of human with inborn psionic powers.

For Ness’s bonus feat, he’s taken Immunity/the inability to jump while in mid-air (very common/minor/trivial) (4 CP), Reflex Training/may make an Acrobatics check to jump while jumping, falling, or otherwise in mid-air (6 CP), and Immunity/the normal limits of jumping via Acrobatics (uncommon/minor/minor) (2 CP). That’s 12 CP altogether, specialized for one-half cost/must be psionically focused, not wearing armor, and carrying no more than a light load. Note that the second Immunity grants him a +10 bonus to Jump checks, removes the penalty for not making a running start before jumping, and makes the result of a high jump a number of feet equal to the check result instead of the check result divided by 4.

Basic Abilities (167 CP)

  • Proficiencies: Limited set of weapons (3 CP).
  • Hit Dice: 13d8 (52 CP).
  • Base Attack Bonus: +9 (54 CP).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort +4 (12 CP).
    • Ref +4 (12 CP).
    • Will +8 (24 CP).
  • Skills: Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/skills only, and corrupted for two-thirds cost/only to be added to Adept skills (4 CP) and Adept (Knowledge (psionics), Perception, Psicraft, and Martial Arts (little slugger)) (6 CP).

Ness’s weapon proficiencies consist of the baseball bat and combat yo-yo, detailed below.

Psionic Prowess (211 CP)

  • 13 levels of psion progression (with thirteen specialized caster levels) (156 CP).
  • Two additional (id insinuation and power turning) powers known (6 CP).
  • Mighty Invocation (12 CP).
  • 13 levels of wilder progression (without any caster levels), corrupted for two-thirds cost/no powers known (26 CP).
  • One additional psion caster level (3 CP).
  • Two d0 Hit Dice (8 CP).

Ness’s psion progression uses a customized power list, giving him access to a few powers that a normal psion wouldn’t receive. We’ll also say that, since Eclipse doesn’t use class-based progressions, energy-based powers such as energy bolt and energy wave can be used to their most effective degree (i.e. as if Ness were a kineticist) rather than needing to expend and regain psionic focus to change their energy type.

Note that the last bullet point is not a typo; Ness has bought two zero-sided Hit Dice. While that might seem pointless, these not only grant his Constitution bonus in hit points, but also count when measuring abilities whose effects vary by Hit Dice (and, in most cases, by level; this includes his Defender ability, listed below).

Power Turning

The power turning ability is the psionic version of the spell turning spell. While it was present in 3.0, it was deleted when the psionic rules were updated to 3.5. Presumably this was done because 3.5 psionic psionics put a heavier emphasis on augmenting lower-level powers, which didn’t actually change their base level. That meant that power turning was more effective than its spell-based counterpart.

Since this power emulates one of the psychic abilities from Earthbound, we’ll go ahead and reintroduce it here. Originally the power noted that it was Constitution-based (3.0 psionics keyed different powers to different ability scores based on their psychic discipline), but this has been eliminated to bring it into line with how psionics works in 3.5 and Pathfinder (and add it to the tactician’s power list).

POWER TURNING

Discipline psychokinesis; Level psion/wilder 7, tactician 7

Display mental, visual

Manifesting Time 1 standard action

Range personal

Target you

Duration until completely expended or 10 minutes/level

Power Points 13

Powers (and spell-like effects) targeted against the manifester rebound on the original manifester. This power only turns psionic powers that have the manifester as a target. Effect and area powers are not affected. Power turning also fails to affect touch range powers.

From 7 to 10 (1d4+6) power levels are affected by the turning. The DM secretly rolls the exact number. Each power turned subtracts its level from the amount of power turning left.

A power might be only partially turned. Subtract these from the power level of the incoming psionic power. Divide the number of the remaining levels of the incoming power by the power level of the incoming power to see what fraction of the effect gets through. For damaging power, the power turning manifester and the original manifester each suffer a fraction of the damage. For nondamaging powers, each has a proportional chance to be affected.

If the manifester and an attacker are both warded by power turning effects in operation, a resonating field is created. Roll randomly to determine the result:

d% Effect
01-70 Power drains away without effect.
71-80 Power affects both characters equally at full effect.
81-97 Both turning effects are rendered nonfunctional for 1d4 minutes.
98-100 Both characters go through a rift into another plane.

Creative Combatant (13 CP)

  • Reflex Training/3 actions per day variant, specialized for one-half cost/only to use a psionic power (3 CP).
  • Defender/dodge bonus, specialized for double effect/only while not wearing armor, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only while not carrying a medium or heavy load (4 CP).
  • Enhanced Attacked/Crushing, variant/must be made as a charge, specialized for increased effect/on a missed attack, must continue moving the full distance, gains shocking burst on a successful attack, corrupted for increased effect/does not gain 1 free use per minute, charge works in any direction and ignores rough terrain, and all other non-barrier impediments (e.g. holes, caltrops, etc.) (6 CP).

The third bullet point is representative of Ness’s ability to hit himself with his PK Thunder power and launch himself as a projectile, to devastating effect. While this is technically an attack, there’s no reason why Ness can’t use it (as he often does in Smash Bros.) to move himself tactically around the battlefield. However, as written here, this ability costs him 3 power each time he uses it.

Well-Rounded (6 CP)

  • Change human Fast Learner from half-price to double effect (3 CP).
  • Privilege/allowance (3 CP).

In one of the more amusing twists in Earthbound, while defeating enemies nets you experience and (on occasion) item drops, you don’t actually receive any money from them. Rather, Ness’s father makes periodic deposits into his son’s bank account, though those deposits just so happen to correspond with enemies being defeated. Nevertheless, we’ll say that he has an allowance here. Since Privilege is undefined for what it grants, we’ll have this correspond to Ness being +1 levels higher for determining his wealth-by-level (which, since he’s a major heroic NPC, will be equal to that of a PC).

Gear

  • Combat Yo-yo: merciful battle yo-yo +2 (18,321 gp)
  • Legendary Bat: wooden baseball bat of collision +1 (18,304 gp)
  • Handy haversack (2,000 gp)
  • Goddess Band (35,000 gp)
  • Hard Hat (26,200 gp)
  • Rabbit’s Foot (42,000 gp)
  • Souvenir Coin (36,000 gp)
  • Star pendant (minor artifact)

While the above approximates the gear that Ness has by the end of Earthbound, the actual effects of these items are things that we need to approximate, since the mechanics of that game are different than the d20 System. Equipment in Earthbound offers stacking bonuses (e.g. multiple items contributing to your Defense score), which is something the d20 System shies away from unless the bonuses are all of different types. As such, the mechanics for the above go a little further than the rest of this article does in what they offer.

Before listing those, however, the following are the weapon stats for the baseball bat and battle yo-yo, presented using Pathfinder’s weapon design system.

BATTLE YO-YO Price 21 gp
Type light melee Proficiency exotic
DMG (M) 1d4 bludgeoning DMG (S) 1d3 bludgeoning Critical x2
Weapon Group close, monk Weight 1 lb.
Qualities additional design points (0), attached (1), concealed (1), improved damage (1), weapon feature (disarm) (1), weapon feature (trip) (3).

 

BASEBALL BAT Price 4 gp
Type two-handed melee Proficiency simple
DMG (M) 1d8 bludgeoning DMG (S) 1d6 bludgeoning Critical x3
Weapon Group hammers Weight 3 lbs.
Qualities improved damage (3), improved critical multiplier (3), weapon feature (blocking) (1).

While the battle yo-yo is always made out of metal in order to have sufficient mass to inflict damage, a baseball bat may be made out of wood or metal. This doesn’t alter any of the above statistics, but does change how it interacts with spells such as heat metal or warp wood, as well as for characters that have a restriction against using weapons of a certain type (such as druids forswearing metal weapons).

GODDESS BAND Price 35,000 GP
Aura moderate abjuration, enchantment, and transmutation CL 9th Slot wrists Weight 1 lb.
This elaborate bracelet provides the wearer with a +6 enhancement bonus to Wisdom, as well as a +4 resistance bonus to saving throws. It also provides immunity to all magical and non-magical effects that would cause them to fall asleep or otherwise render them unconscious, such as the sleep spell or blue whinnis poison. It does not prevent unconsciousness due to nonlethal damage, ability damage, or hit points going below 0.
Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, enhance wisdom III (TPE, p. 17), rouse (PHB2, p. 123), warding rune (TPE, p. 39) Cost 17,500 GP

 

HARD HAT Price 26,200 GP
Aura moderate illusion and transmutation CL 9th Slot head Weight 2 lbs.
This headpiece provides the wearer with a +4 natural armor bonus. Upon command, the hard hat can be made to change its shape and appearance to appear as another type of headgear, such as a cap, ribbon, headband, etc. It retains all of its properties (including weight) when it is so disguised. Only a true seeing spell or similar magic reveals the true nature of the hard hat when disguised. If removed, the hard hat immediately returns to its normal form.
Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, barkskin, disguise self Cost 13,100 GP

 

RABBIT’S FOOT Price 42,000 GP
Aura faint transmutation CL 5th Slot none Weight
This charm grants the wearer a +6 enhancement bonus to Dexterity. It also allows them to act as though under a perpetual haste spell.
Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, enhance dexterity III (TPE, p. 17), haste Cost 21,000 GP

 

SOUVENIR COIN Price 36,000 GP
Aura moderate evocation CL 9th Slot none Weight
So long as it remains in the wielder’s possession, this oversized gold coin grants them a +3 luck bonus on attack rolls, damage rolls, Armor Class, and saving throws. The bonus to damage rolls does not apply to damage from spells or spell-like abilities.
Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, karmic shield (TPE, p. 32) Cost 18,000 GP

 

STAR PENDANT (MINOR ARTIFACT) Slot neck
Aura strong abjuration, conjuration, and enchantment CL 12th Weight 1 lb.
This pendant grants the wearer resistance 30 to acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic damage, as well as a +4 deflection bonus to their Armor Class. Additionally, the wearer is immune to paralysis (but not being entangled, pinned, or other conditions that restrict movement) and confusion.
Destruction The star pendant is destroyed if worn by a being with the air, earth, fire, and water subtypes for an entire year.

Ness’s total gear value, as listed above, comes out to 177,825 gp out of 185,000. Of course, the star pendant should throw that off considerably (if made as a standard magic item, it would cost over 100,000 gp on its own). But that’s the nice thing about minor artifacts: they have no price, and so don’t count against a character’s total gear value.

The Star Pendant as a Magic Item

If you want to use the star pendant as a magic item instead of a minor artifact, use the following statistics:

STAR PENDANT Price 100,800 GP
Aura strong abjuration, conjuration, and enchantment CL 12th Slot neck Weight 1 lbs.
This pendant grants the wearer resistance 30 to acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic damage, as well as a +4 deflection bonus to their Armor Class. Additionally, the wearer is immune to paralysis (but not being entangled, pinned, or other conditions that restrict movement) and confusion.
Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, clarity of mind, remove paralysis, resist energy, shield of faith Cost 50,400 GP

The clarity of mind spell used in the construction of this version of the star pendant is a custom spell, as follows:

CLARITY OF MIND

Level bard 1, cleric/oracle 1, inquisitor 1, psychic 1, shaman 1

This spell functions like calm emotions, except that it only removes the confused condition from all targets.

Derived Stats

  • Hit Dice: 8 (d8; 1st level) + 54 (12d8) + 45 (Con bonus) +13 (“favored class” bonus) = 120 hp.
  • Speed: 30 ft. (base) + 30 ft. (haste) = 60 ft.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +4 (base) +3 (Con) +4 (resistance) +3 (luck) = +14.
    • Ref: +4 (base) +4 (Dex) +4 (resistance) +3 (luck) +1 (dodge) = +16.
    • Will: +8 (base) +7 (Wis) +4 (resistance) +3 (luck) = 22.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +4 (Dex) +6 (dodge) +1 (dodge) +4 (natural armor) +3 (luck) +4 (deflection) = AC 32, touch 28, flat-footed 21.
  • Attacks:
    • Combat Yo-yo: +9 (BAB) +2 (Str) +2 (enhancement bonus) +3 (luck) +3 (martial art) +1 (haste) = +20/+20/+15 (1d8+7 plus 1d6 nonlethal)
    • Legendary Bat: +9 (BAB) +2 (Str) +1 (enhancement bonus) +3 (luck) +3 (martial art) +1 (haste) = +19/+19/+14 (1d12+12/x3)
  • Combat Maneuver Bonus: +9 (BAB) +2 (Str) +3 (luck) +3 (martial art) +1 (haste) = +18 (plus weapon enhancement bonus) CMB.
  • Combat Maneuver Defense: 10 (base) +9 (BAB) +2 (Str) +4 (Dex) +6 (dodge) +1 (dodge) +3 (luck) +4 (deflection) = 39 CMB.
  • Power: 147 (level 13 psion) +147 (level 13 wilder) +45 (Wis) +10 (racial) = 349 power.
  • Powers Known (ML 15th; concentration +22)
  • Skills: 26 (Fast Learner) +13 (Int bonus) + maximum ranks in Acrobatics, Perception, Psicraft, and Martial Arts (little slugger) = 39 (plus four maximum) skill ranks.
Skill Ranks Class Bonus Ability Modifier Misc. Total
Acrobatics 3 +3 +4 Dex +12 speed (jump), +10 Immunity (jump) +10 (+32 jump)
Diplomacy 3 +3 +1 Cha +7
Escape Artist 3 +3 +4 Dex +10
Handle Animal 3 +3 +1 Cha +7
Heal 3 +3 +7 Wis +13
Knowledge (geography) 3 +3 +1 Int +7
Knowledge (history) 3 +3 +1 Int +7
Knowledge (local) 3 +3 +1 Int +7
Knowledge (psionics) 13 +3 +1 Int +17
Martial Arts (little slugger) 13 +3 +2 Str +18
Perception 13 +3 +7 Wis +23
Psicraft 13 +3 +1 Int +17
Ride 3 +3 +4 Dex +10
Sense Motive 3 +3 +7 Wis +13
Survival 3 +3 +7 Wis +13
Swim 3 +3 +2 Str +8
Use Psionic Device 3 +3 +1 Cha +7

Ness’s class skills are, obviously enough, the ones listed on the above chart. Note that Knowledge (psionics), Psicraft, and Use Psionic Device all function as per their magical counterparts under the default assumptions of most campaign worlds. On a related note, Ness should have one additional language due to his Intelligence bonus; I’d recommend whatever language it is that the Mr. Saturns speak.

Little Slugger (Str)

While technically patterned off of baseball, this martial art is actually far older. In fact, it goes back to the very beginnings of tool use in humans: hit your enemies with a big stick, or failing that, throw something at them. In this case, it’s been adapted to the baseball bat and battle yo-yo (a mild variation on pitching), but its roots are obvious for all to see.

This martial art has no occult techniques, being developed by non-psionic practitioners. The entry requirements are correspondingly lower as a result.

  • Requires: proficiency with baseball bat.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Power 2, Strike.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Mighty Blow, Vital Strike, Weapon Kata (battle yo-yo).
  • Known: all except Strike.

Further Development

The statistics given above represent Ness after the end of Earthbound, subsequent to Paula and Poo having taught him their psychic techniques for his joining the fight in Super Smash Bros. As he is now, Ness is a powerhouse, albeit one that could be optimized a little more. His hit points could be greater, his Armor Class could be higher, and he really should learn another martial art, ideally one focused on Wisdom that he can use to raise his defenses somewhat. But overall, he’s a fairly solid build, being able to hold his own in melee, having plenty of combat-focused psionic powers for up-close and ranged combat, and a decent selection of utility powers. And of course, his gear is top-notch for what it does.

Of course, given the caliber of characters that he’s up against these days, he’s going to need all of that and more in order to win.

From PSI to Psionics

The list of psionic powers that Ness knows represent the entirety of the PSI (or, as they’re called in Super Smash Bros., PK) abilities used by him and his friends in Earthbound. As noted previously, Ness’s most recent appearances have him using powers taught to him by his friends. For the purposes of this article, we’re assuming they’ve taught him all of their powers known, including the ones we haven’t seen him use yet.

The PSI powers used in Earthbound have different degrees to them, much like augmentable psionic powers. But the PSI powers are measured with Latin letters, and have effects that are specific to Earthbound’s mechanics. That makes matching them to d20 psionics a tricky proposition. If you’re inclined to do so, use the following list to match Ness’s psionic powers in this article to the ones we see used in Earthbound/Smash Bros. The combination of various powers (exempting only far hand, since we don’t see any PSI powers that telekinetically manipulate objects the way we were told Ness did as a baby) and their augmentations should allow for a satisfactory translation of abilities.