Posts Tagged ‘Pathfinder’

Eclipse and Psychic Magic

May 26, 2017

Pathfinder is often hailed as being “3.75,” a moniker that it comes by honestly. However, as much as it kept the central components of 3.5 alive, it altered or eschewed several of the peripheral elements. One of the more notable instances of this is in how Pathfinder has discarded psionics in favor of psychic magic.

Presented as filling the same conceptual niche as psionics, psychic magic has several differences from arcane or divine magic. So how easy is it to use with Eclipse: The Codex Persona? To answer that, let’s take a look at the various aspects of psychic magic and see how well they can be translated over.

Neither Arcane Nor Divine: The rules for psychic magic state: “Psychic spellcasters aren’t affected by effects that target only arcane or divine spellcasters, nor can they use arcane or divine scrolls or other items or feats that state they can be utilized by only arcane or divine spellcasters.” This is a distinction that can be taken as-is. The magic progressions in Eclipse (pg. 11-14) determine things such as spells per day, spells known for spontaneous casters, and how broad your spell list is. Determining what type of magic buying levels in a progression represents is a separate consideration – much like determining which ability score is tied to your spellcasting – and so has no CP cost.

Thought and Emotion Components: The single largest difference between psychic magic and other kinds of magic is that it doesn’t have verbal or somatic components. Rather, it has thought and emotion components. What’s important here is what the text says about how these correlate to each other: “If a spell’s components line lists a somatic component, that spell instead requires an emotion component when cast by psychic spellcasters, and if it has a verbal component, it instead requires a thought component when cast by psychic spellcasters.”

This tells us that psychic spells are still using components; they’re just using ones which introduce different possible interferences to casting spells. Specifically, spells with emotion components can’t be cast when under the effect of a non-harmless emotion or fear effect, and spells with a thought component have all of their concentration DCs increased by 10 unless the spellcaster spends a move action focusing their mind immediately before casting. The text also notes that there are special metamagic feats to alleviate these restrictions, just as there are for verbal and somatic components.

At a glance it might look like these limitations are easier than traditional verbal or somatic components, but if we think about it that’s really not the case. After all, being affected by non-harmless emotion or fear spells is hardly something that happens less often over a character’s adventuring career than being grappled. Likewise, you’re likely to make concentration checks far more often than you are to be affected by an area of magical silence. So in this regard these aren’t really problems.

What’s more notable – and only obliquely covered in the psychic magic rules – is that psychic spellcasting doesn’t need inexpensive material components; only expensive ones, and focus components, are required. Moreover, it indirectly indicates that psychic spells can be cast in armor (mostly by way of saying that it’s not subject to effects specific to arcane magic, such as armor’s arcane spell failure chance).

So how can we represent all of this in Eclipse?

While the swapping of verbal and somatic components for thought and emotion components would seem to indicate that this is simply an alteration of the Components limitation (p. 11), that isn’t the case, hence why armor can be freely used and minor material components aren’t necessary. In fact, this is a minor variation of the Conduct limitation, representing a high grade of personal mental discipline, similar to the faith-based aspect of divine spellcasting, though not focused around any religious traditions.

Sentimental Substitution: One often-overlooked aspect of psychic magic is that it allows for a tiny bit of flexibility where expensive material components (but not foci) are concerned: “When a spell calls for an expensive material component, a psychic spellcaster can instead use any item with both significant meaning and a value greater than or equal to the spell’s component cost. For example, if a spiritualist wanted to cast raise dead to bring her dead husband back from the grave, she could use her 5,000 gp wedding ring as the spell’s material component.”

Unlike the previous entries, this represents something above and beyond what most other forms of spellcasting normally can do. Components are still components, for example, but this ability allows for characters with it to have more options than those that don’t. As such, this one is going to actually have a cost associated with it, since greater flexibility represents an advantage under the game rules.

Being able to substitute another item of equal or greater value for an expensive material component, so long as it’s one of notable personal value, can be represented via Privilege for 3 CP. That’s not very costly, but then again this is only a minor bit of flexibility. Plenty of GMs, for example, seem to hand-wave changing 5,000 gp worth of coins into a 5,000 gp diamond for casting raise dead.

Undercasting: Psychic spellcasters can – when casting a spell that has multiple versions of a different spell level each (e.g. summon monster I, summon monster II, summon monster III, etc.) – choose to cast that spell and invoke a lower-level effect. “For example, a psychic spellcaster who adds ego whip III to his list of spells known can cast it as ego whip I, II, or III. If he casts it as ego whip I, it is treated in all ways as that spell; it uses the text and the saving throw DC for that spell, and requires him to expend a 3rd-level spell slot.”

This is, quite obviously, a rather poor ability. As written, the psychic caster is giving up a 3rd-level spell slot in order to use a 1st-level version of the 3rd-level spell in question, but there’s no reason given for why they’d want to do that. While there might be certain situations where you’d want to restrain the power of an effect you’ll unleash, there’s no inherent benefit presented in this example. At least when you cast summon monster III as though it was summon monster I you get extra creatures as a result.

Given just how poor of an option this is, the best way to represent undercasting in an Eclipse game is simply to throw it out in favor of metaspells (p. 30). As written, that requires that characters purchase the metaspells in question, but as with purchasing spells directly with Character Points (p. 11) you can instead simply have them be available in the setting for characters to buy (with gp), steal, discover, or otherwise acquire, though this should require some care on the GM’s part. Either way, this isn’t an option that should be directly tied to psychic spellcasting.

With that, all of the salient aspects of psychic magic have been covered. As we can see, not only is it not at all difficult to make use of this style of spellcasting under Eclipse, it’s not even that expensive to build a psychic spellcaster compared to their arcane or divine peers. The entire net cost is 3 CP for a tangential ability that, if not wanted, can be easily discarded while keeping the rest.

And that kind of character customization is what Eclipse is all about.

Divine Inflation

April 16, 2017

It was recently pointed out to me that Pathfinder deities – not necessarily the deities of Golarion that Paizo uses, but any deities written for a Pathfinder game – have had the bar raised on the information they “need” to have included. Traditionally, the bare minimum you needed was only the following:

  1. Clerical Domains: Self-evident in their necessity, every god has clerical domains that reflect their various portfolios. Traditionally, any god will always have the alignment domains that correspond to the non-neutral portions of its alignment. Pathfinder has stated that, for their setting, true gods have five domains, whereas demigods and other quasi-divinities (e.g. archdevils, empyreal lords, etc.) only have four.
  2. Alignment: This is necessary so that clerics (and other classes, such as warpriests) can follow the “one step away” rule with regard to their alignment and their deities. This also goes for things like the prohibition on casting spells with an alignment descriptor opposite of part of their deity’s alignment.
  3. Favored Weapon: In Pathfinder, clerics et al automatically gain proficiency with their deity’s favored weapon. This also matters for a few tidbits here and there, such as the spiritual weapon spell.

That’s technically all you’re required to have, in terms of game mechanics that are necessary for potential PCs. Obviously, most entries will want to flesh that out with things like the deity’s areas of concern, holy symbol, etc. But those three are the main things that the game rules are concerned about insofar as what’s salient with regards to PC character sheets.

But the ever-expanding options that Paizo has put out has resulted in numerous other options for PCs with a strong focus on the divine. The result is that there are now quite a few other things that deities can offer, meaning that what options a particular god makes available now needs to be taken into consideration when presenting new deities. This can be tricky, if for no other reason than because some of these options are quite easy to overlook. These include:

  1. Subdomains: The most popular of the optional divine rules, subdomains represent a twist on a domain, typically to make the god’s domains more closely match their portfolio. Each subdomain is tied to a particular domain, and if the deity offers both than you can choose whether or not to take the subdomain when you take the parent domain; if a particular subdomain is not offered, then you can’t select it. Interestingly, the Inner Sea Gods book clarified that a god can offer a subdomain but not the parent domain; that allows you to take the parent domain as modified by that subdomain, but not take the unaltered domain. Paizo has also established, for their setting, that true gods offer six subdomains whereas quasi-divinities only offer four.
  2. Animal and Terrain Domains: These are domain options that can only be taken by druids (though a particularly-focused nature-adherent that gets domains might be able to choose them also). The tightly-focused aspect of what sort of characters these apply to means that not all deities might offer these, which will characterize several of the other options found here. A god of urban development, for example, probably won’t have any of these domains.
  3. Inquisitions: These are essentially clerical domains without granted spells, offered as specific choices for members of the inquisitor class, though a cleric (or similar class) could take one in place of a domain if they really wanted to. While it’s odd to consider, the presentation of the inquisitor class seems to imply that – unlike druids or paladins – they’re universal with regards to what deities have them. It’s odd to think of an inquisitor of a deity of peace and tolerance, but apparently they’re out there!
  4. Mysteries: Including mysteries here is a bit of a stretch. The flavor text for oracles specifically says that they draw their power from multiple patron deities who support their ideals, rather than any single god. However, I’ve also seen that particular bit of fluff overlooked or ignored quite a few times…possibly more often than I’ve seen it followed. To that end, having deities include specific mysteries seems like a “better to have it and not need it”-type thing. If you really want an oracle that’s dedicated to a single deity, having specific mysteries for them is a nice touch.
  5. Paladin Oaths: While these are all technically variations of the Oathbound Paladin archetype, each oath is essentially an archetype unto itself. Given that these are explicitly tied to compatible deities – rather than being secular variations of how particular (orders of) paladins operate – it’s self-evident that deity presentations have these, albeit only for gods that would have paladins in the first place.
  6. Variant Channeling: Not all deities are concerned with healing the living and harming the undead (or vice versa). Variant channeling offers alternate channeling options based around the theme(s) of a deity’s portfolio. Given that channeling is ubiquitous, and rather iconic, among clerics and similar classes, listing what variants are available should be remembered much more often than it is.
  7. Witch Patrons: This is another dubious inclusion. I’ve spoken before about the possibility of a witch’s patron being a deity, but that remains nebulous at best. I prefer to look at it this way: if divine spells can be granted by non-deities (e.g. demon lords, fey elders, Great Old Ones, etc.), then why can’t deities be a kind – though not the only kind – of patrons granting arcane spells to witches?
  8. Deific Obediences: This one feat typically requires more work than any of the other options here. Open to potentially any character regardless of class, this feat requires that every deity not only have their own obedience bonuses and requirements to achieve them, but also expanded benefits for the evangelist, exalted, and sentinel prestige classes…which I suspect leads to a lot of GMs either disallowing those classes or ripping off the expanded obedience entries in Inner Sea Gods wholesale.

As a note, I haven’t included spirits – the shaman class’s version of domains – here because shamans are explicitly stated to turn to spirits as an alternative to gods. If, however, you think that spirits should be more closely tied into the divine hierarchy, it may make sense to treat gods as having dominion over certain types of spirits as well.

That’s quite a lot, and more than virtually any divine entry bothers to include. That’s a shame, because not presenting those listings essentially locks out – or at least puts the onus on the GM to invent – those options for players that want to know the full range of what their deities offer. More than that, expanding that information helps to present (albeit in a rather metagame-y way) the manner in which the gods make their influence felt in the game world.

And that’s without getting into things like a deity’s preferred planar ally.

Removing Alignment From Pathfinder – Addendum: Core Prestige Classes

April 16, 2016

Several years ago, I wrote a brief series of articles about removing alignment-based mechanics from Pathfinder, focusing specifically on the Core classes, spells and magic items, and monsters. Since then, these posts have become some of the most popular parts of Intelligence Check, getting regular hits even after all of this time.

It’s because of that that I’m a little chagrined to have only recently realized that there’s an area of the Pathfinder Core Rules that I overlooked in my original series: the prestige classes found in the Core Rulebook.

Of course, the fact that no one ever bothered to point this out to me says, I think, something about how prestige classes are viewed these days. Even back during the heyday of 3.X, most prestige classes tended to be regarded with suspicion – at least insofar as their balance went – and a vague sense of frustration for how they seemed to nod in the direction of in-game story potential even as they were typically used for purely mechanical purposes.

Throw in the issues that come along with multiclassing, and it’s easy to see why archetypes – as introduced in the Pathfinder’s first major splatbook, the Advanced Player’s Guide – quickly replaced prestige classes as the go-to for how to customize your character (besides feats, races, etc.). But that doesn’t mean that they’ve gone away entirely. Should someone want to make use of a prestige class, whether for the mechanics or the story potential or both, the basic PrCs are right there in the Core Rules.

Now let’s see what they look like shorn of alignment.

Core Prestige Classes

Below are the changes necessary to remove alignment-based mechanics from the prestige classes in the Core Rulebook. Those PrCs that aren’t listed here have no such mechanics, and so require no changes.

Arcane Archer: Delete the “enhance arrows” ability gained at 9th level, replacing it with the following:

“At 9th level, every nonmagical arrow fired by an arcane archer gains the keen and bane weapon qualities. The keen quality functions even if the arcane archer fires arrows that deal bludgeoning damage. The creature type to which the bane quality applies may be changed once per day as per the arcane archer’s elemental and elemental burst qualities.”

The goal here is to grant the arcane archer a total of +2 weapon qualities to replace the alignment qualities he’s losing. Bane is the obvious choice to replace alignment-based additional damage, and since this narrows the range of foes that will be subject to extra damage, we can ameliorate this (at least somewhat) by adding in keen as well (along with a note so that the arcane archer isn’t penalized if using blunt arrows).

Arcane Trickster: Delete the alignment requirement for this prestige class.

Honestly, this particular restriction is so flimsy I’m surprised that it’s there at all. If rogues can be lawful, and wizards and sorcerers can be lawful, then why exactly can’t a rogue-wizard mashup be lawful? As such, we can get rid of this requirement without a second thought.

Assassin: Delete the alignment requirement for this prestige class.

You have to admire this particular restriction, as it managed to tick off both the story-gamers (who wanted to roleplay being a professional contract killer) and the power-gamers (who wanted the death attack power this PrC offered) by requiring an alignment that most GMs disallowed as a matter of course.

Shadowdancer: Change the second sentence of the “summon shadow” description to read as follows:

“Unlike a normal shadow, this shadow cannot create spawn.”

This removes the clause about the shadow having the shadowdancer’s alignment, which while a minor change (particularly with the removal of all other alignment-based effects), might still be significant if you want to place more emphasis on the shadowdancer having an undead familiar like this.

Conclusion

There wasn’t much to change here, but hopefully these alterations will be worthwhile if you’re looking at taking a Core prestige class in an alignment-free game. After all, why can’t the good guys have assassins too?

The Dark Side of the Horse

March 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current Sketch

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

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

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

Lex Legis, ECL 11 unicorn arcanomancer

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

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

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

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

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

Tailor Made (8 CP)

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

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

King of the Monsters (44 CP)

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

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

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

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

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

Prophet of the Night (4 CP)

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

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

Dark Armor (8 CP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lex’s restrictions are against his wearing armor.

Ability Scores (20-point buy):

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

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

Basic Abilities (70 CP)

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

Flawed Arcanism (93 CP)

  • 11 sorcerer magic progression levels (Intelligence-based; arcane magic; components and restrained limitations), corrupted for two-thirds cost/must locate or invent new spells to be able to prepare them, specialized for one-half cost/can only replenish spell levels with Rite of Chi (44 CP).
  • 11 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/sorcerer progression only (33 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, corrupted for two-thirds cost/requires a one-hour ritual, specialized for one-half cost/only works with a large external source of arcane power, such as a major magical relic, nexus of mystical energy, or specific days of the year (8 CP).
  • Easy metamagic theorem with Streamline, both specialized for one-half cost/only for eliminating the need for material components costing 1 gp or less, both corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for his sorcerer spells (4 CP).
  • Shaping, specialized for increased effect/only works for level 0 sorcerer spells, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must be free to gesture and speak (4 CP).

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

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

Manipulate the Imperfect Power (42 CP)

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

This suite of abilities allows Lex to get more out of his limited spellcasting abilities. He’ll typically use his circlet or Body Fuel (see below) in conjunction with his Foresight skill and Power Words; all of these allow him to cast several spells that are perfectly suited to the situation without using any that have actually been prepared. If pressed, he’ll use Action Hero/Crafting (see below) together with Spell Storing to be able to produce a gemstone (his focus of choice for storing spells) with up to 10 instances of a spell for each AP spent.

He usually saves his Compact metamagic theorem for his actual spell slots, often preparing spells that would otherwise be beyond his casting ability via a longer casting time and/or taking personal damage to cast. While he normally uses these very carefully and with great purpose, since acquiring a major artifact he’s become less reluctant to use his prepared spells.

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

Intuitive Aptitude for Magic (26 CP)

  • Buying off the corruption on Action Hero/Crafting from the Pathfinder Package Deal; this allows Lex to ignore the time requirement for crafting magic items (though not the GP cost), but retains the limitation that he can craft them only via action points (9 AP remaining; 2 CP).
  • Adept/Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (planes), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/skills only, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for Adept skills (4 CP).
  • Finesse/use Intelligence bonus for Charisma-based skills, specialized for one-half cost/only for Use Magic Device (3 CP).
  • Skill Focus/Use Magic Device +1 with the Stunt modifier (8 CP).
  • Create Artifact, specialized for one-half cost/only for use with Action Hero (3 CP).

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

Liberotempus

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

The wearer of Liberotempus gains the following abilities:

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

Fruits of Lesser Experiments (23 CP)

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only versus magical effects (4 CP).
  • Empowerment, specialized for increased effect/wands only, no use-per-day limit (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (11,800 gp; 13 CP)
    • Shield (2,000 gp)
    • Mage armor (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Dex (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Con (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Int (1,400 gp)
    • +3 competence bonus to Intelligence-based skills (1,400 gp)
    • Immortal vigor I (1,400 gp)
    • Shield of faith (1,400 gp)

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

Potential for Greatness (6 CP)

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

Nascent King (3 CP)

  • Privilege/king (3 CP).

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

The Painful Price (3 CP)

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

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

The Lure of Corruption (14 CP)

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

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

Use the Old Magic (6 CP)

  • Occult Ritual (6 CP).

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

One with the Nightmares (9 CP)

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

Emptiness

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

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

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

Rebellious Fragment of the Mind (28 CP)

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

Strength Borne of Fear (28 CP)

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

Just A Shadow (38 CP)

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

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

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

Gear

  • Circlet of wizardry (headband). This circlet grants the wearer a +2 competence bonus to Concentration checks while worn, and allows the wearer to use detect magic at will. It possesses 3 charges that are automatically replenished each day. When casting a spell, the wearer may expend a number of charges equal to the spell level to cause the spell to remain prepared after casting. A circlet of wizardry functions only for characters able to cast arcane spells. 4,880 gp.
  • Ring of mind shielding (ring). 8,000 gp.
  • Amulet of natural armor +2 (neck). 8,000 gp.
  • Cloak of resistance +3 (shoulders). 9,000 gp.
  • Handy haversack (slotless). 2,000 gp.
  • Stone salve, 1 ounce (slotless). 4,000 gp
  • Pearl of the sirins (slotless). 15,300 gp.
  • Wand of dispel magic (25 charges; 5,625 gp) wand of lightning bolt (30 charges; 6,750 gp), wand of fireballs (20 charges; 4,500 gp), wand of cure critical wounds (12 charges; 2,040 gp) (slotless).
  • 10 waterproof bags (5 gp), portable alchemist’s lab (75 gp), traveler’s outfit (1 gp), small tent (10 gp), wizard’s kit (21 gp), 2 antiplagues (100 gp), 2 alchemist’s fire (40 gp), 2 thunderstones (60 gp), 2 onyx gems (1,000 gp), violet garnet (200 gp), star rose quartz (50 gp), 343 gp.

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

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

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

The Horn of King Sombra (3-CP relic)

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

The entire relic is corrupted for two-thirds cost/blatantly utilizes dark magic, the wielder is vulnerable to spells and effects that affect evil-aligned creatures when using this relic. Further, the Essence pact causes this corruption effect to be applied to all magic the wielder uses, with no corresponding gain.

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

Severance (major artifact)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derived Stats

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

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

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

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

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

Umbral Glyph (Int)

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

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

Further Development

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

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

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

Pathfinder, Eclipse, and the Caster-Martial Disparity

October 4, 2015

I’ve spoken before of how I became burned out on the never-ending treadmill of supplements that Pathfinder (like 3.X before it) turns out. Despite that, I still tend to haunt the Paizo forums from time to time. While I’ve lost interest in the speculating that goes on over new products and the discussions over how to interpret various rules, the threads on more general topics still have some interest for me.

One such thread was a recent discussion about the “imbalance” between martial characters and (full-progression) spellcasters. While this particular issue has come up so many times that the regular forum-goers are sick to death of it – and given that this particular topic long predates the creation of Pathfinder, they’re assuredly not the only ones – this particular discussion struck me as being different. That was because, for all of the usual arguing and theatrics that go into these discussions, by the end of this thread there seemed to be a surprisingly large degree of consensus over what the problem actually was, to say nothing about what needed to be changed in terms of practical aspects of martial and spellcasting classes. People even seemed to admit that this wasn’t likely to ever be done in official Pathfinder materials.

Perhaps my single favorite part of the thread was a truly epic rant that one poster went on about one of the reasons why this problem became such an issue in the first place; namely, the idea that martial characters should be limited to abilities that are not magical/supernatural/mystical in nature, instead being confined to the realm of what real people could potentially do. To quote selected excerpts:

“For some people, Conan is the height of what a martial should be. He never does anything particularly outside of what might be accomplished in the real world outside of a few feats of strength and agility, and he’s probably the most badass “mundane” in trad fantasy. However, it’s stupid to try and have Conan as your epitome for a D&D/PF martial, because the most wicked and powerful spellcaster in his world lacks the ability to throw around the kind of power even a moderately potent wizard has in Pathfinder. Making a character like Conan or Gimli the definition of what a martial should be is positively stupid, because neither of those characters displayed any kind of prowess or ability beyond what a 6th level Fighter or Barbarian might have.

[…]

The kind of adventures that are had in the Lord of the Rings or that are had by Conan of Cimmeria are low level adventures, and most people who feel that martials are broken aren’t even talking about those levels. But high level spellcasters in PF are above and beyond, and you either have to go to really old school Celtic or Norse mythology to find examples of “martial” characters that match that kind of power, or you have to turn to anime (much of which is actually inspired in its own turn by western mythology and Dungeons and Dragons).

You can bring martials up to the level of Cu Chulainn or you can bring casters down to the level of characters like Thoth-Amon or Gandalf, but trying to maintain a world where Gimli and Naruto are best buddies who go from level 1 to level 20 together is a huge part of why martial/caster disparity exists in the first place. Gimli manifestly does not belong in the world of Naruto Shippuden, and Naruto obviously would have annihilated the enemy forces of the Lord of the Rings.”

All of this is entirely true, and is another way of saying that the d20 System has such a huge spread of power between level 1 and level 20 that going across it essentially (indeed, necessarily) spans genres. Hence why, if you want to have a campaign that covers the full range of levels, you should calibrate your expectations accordingly.

The Solution (At Least, To Me)

While the conversation reached its unexpected point of general agreement regarding what the root of the problem was and what should be done about it, the practical methods of making those changes were largely summarized by another poster:

“So the only realistic solutions are homebrew, 3pp and other games.”

That struck me as a fair statement, particularly in light of the fact that I’ve gotten past these particular problems by using Distant Horizons Games’ book Eclipse: The Codex Persona, a free sourcebook for d20 System games.

For those who don’t know (which likely won’t include longtime readers of this blog, since I’ve come to use this book for nearly all of the characters I post on here), Eclipse is a supplement that allows for characters to be built via point-buy, rather than with character classes.

I suspect that a lot of Pathfinder fans are put off by the words “point-buy,” largely due to the perception that being able to pick and choose what abilities your character has, at least for d20 games such as Pathfinder, is unbalanced. I can understand that way of thinking, but to me that tends to overlook a few fundamental factors:

1) Characters are NOT built in isolation, nor should they be. Tabletop role-playing is fundamentally a cooperative activity. You’re playing the game with other people, not only in the sense that there are multiple participants, but also in that the players are working together; their player-characters are all teammates.

This holds true for character-building just as much as any other part of the game. While a lot of people seem to think that making your character is something that should be done free from interference from other players, or the GM, I think that looking at this as “interference” in the first place is wrong. Considering the other players, the kinds of characters they’re making, and the GM and their campaign world are not undue burdens.

Taking into account that you’re trying to have fun with other people means finding a happy medium between doing what’s good for your fun (e.g. making a character that you want to play) while also taking into consideration what will abet (or at least, not conflict with) everyone else’s fun (e.g. making a character that won’t outshine everyone else’s characters most of the time, won’t be the only evil character in a good party, etc.).

In other words, just sitting down at the same table as everyone else means acknowledging that there’s a “gentleman’s agreement” in effect. Just because you think you can make a character that’s far stronger than everyone else’s doesn’t mean that you should. This nicely dovetails into the second point…

2) The rules are NOT limits to be pushed. “System mastery” is something that a lot of people seem to lionize when it comes to building a d20 character. This point of view is based off of the idea that players will try to create the most powerful characters they possibly can, and that limitations on the choices you can make when designing your character are there to impede this kind of optimization.

This view always struck me as being an excuse for the abdication of personal responsibility. “The rules exist to restrain my excesses, so with that safety net in place there’s no reason for me not to go hog-wild!” is the thought. The problem with this line of thinking is that it isn’t true.

Even if we accept the premise that the restrictions on building a traditional Pathfinder character are there to stop players from over-optimizing, it’s fairly obvious that this goal is not being achieved under the current game rules. That’s hardly surprising, since limiting “munchkin” outcomes requires restricting choices, whereas Pathfinder keeps gaining more and more choices with every new book that comes out. One does not need to look too far to find examples of Pathfinder characters that abuse the RAW (“rules as written”) to egregious degrees.

But the real problem isn’t with the (rather self-evident) fact that a huge and continuously-growing body of rules can be exploited. Rather, it’s about the line of thinking that this encourages. Seeing the rules as limits encourages pushing against those limits, which means that when these limits are dialed back in order to allow for greater freedom in building your character – such as when using Eclipse – the credo of “optimization in excess” will drive a player to actively try and be disruptive with the character they make.

Saying “I think point-buy is unbalanced” is another way of saying “I think that this much freedom invites abuse.” But when we’re talking about yourself and your game group, that actually means “I don’t trust these guys, or even myself, to not try and break the game.”

Having said all of that, there’s one further point to consider…

3) NOT everything is on the table. One thing that should be made clear right from the get-go when using Eclipse, or any point-buy system, is that not everything in the book is going to be available. Page 197 has a checklist of what options will be modified or disallowed in a particular campaign, and a wise GM will avail themselves of it. Likewise, page 163 discusses mechanisms for what a GM can do if a player-character insists on going out of control.

Overall, if the players are focused on building characters that they find fun and interesting, fit reasonably well with the other PCs and with the game world, and work within the rules instead of trying to break them, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

So with all of that said, let’s look at how at how to build a character in Eclipse that helps to bridge Pathfinder’s caster-martial disparity.

The Basics

Here’s a quick primer for how Eclipse functions. At each level, characters a d4 Hit Die and skill points equal to their Intelligence bonus for free. Everything else, from larger Hit Dice to Base Attack Bonus to spellcasting, costs Character Points. A character receives 24 Character Points per level, including for level 0 (so a 1st level character starts with 48 CP).

What makes Eclipse truly flexible is that anything bought with CP can have a weakness introduced to it in exchange for either a discount on its cost or an increase in its power. A modest weakness (“corruption”) is worth a one-third CP discount, or a x1.5 multiplier in power. A severe weakness (“specialization”) is worth a one-half CP discount, or a x2 multiplier in power.

What degree of compensation a weakness is worth – e.g. if it’s enough to count as corruption or as specialization – is something that should be worked out ahead of time between the player and the GM. In many cases, it will be fairly self-evident (or even mentioned outright in Eclipse), but in others there will need to be an agreement reached as to how much a particular weakness is worth.

It’s important to remember that in the course of reaching such an agreement, both the player and the GM will need to consider the impact on both the player, and the overall campaign. The player will naturally try to downplay their weakness as much as possible, but at the same time should expect that the GM will bring it into play. Likewise, the GM will try to make sure that that weakness does come up over the course of the game – it wouldn’t be worth the discount otherwise! – but will not do so to the point that the player feels unfairly punished.

To put it another way, both the player and the GM should make a good faith effort to keep the PC’s weaknesses interesting and relevant, without being punitive.

A Bigger, Better Martial

The following is a martial character, built using the Eclipse rules, designed around the following ideas that were kicked around on the Paizo message boards:

  1. The character should be flat-out better at martial combat than other character classes. They should be devastating on the battlefield.
  2. Resistance to magic. Martial characters should shrug off magical powers and attacks without undue difficulty.
  3. Leadership. Martial characters should be able to field more, and/or better, minions than a caster can achieve with summon or charm spells.
  4. Command in combat. Martial characters should be able to effectively direct others in a fight.
  5. Movement options. Martial characters should not be effectively left behind when casters gain the ability to fly, teleport, etc.
  6. Out of combat influence. Martial characters should not lose effectiveness outside of a fight. Instead, they should be able to rally the people, without needing magic to do it.
  7. They need to stand up to punishment. Martial characters should not be able to be taken out of a fight easily. Killing them in combat should be damned difficult.

With those guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at the Combatant.

The Combatant

What follows is a 20-level “class” build using the Eclipse rules. There’s no breakdown of what powers are gained at what level, since using a point-buy system means that you can purchase various abilities when you want them (though some do have prerequisites and guidelines as to when they can be used). Instead, this presents several suites of powers, bought with 20 levels’ worth of Character Points.

As this is a “class” rather than a fully-developed character, what follows doesn’t take into account any other sources of Character Points. The feat that a character gains every other level (which is worth 6 CP in Eclipse), for instances, is not taken into account here. Neither is character races, wealth-by-level, or any other “non-class” factors. Only character levels are taken into account…with two exceptions.

Available Character Points: 504 (level 20 base) + 20 (restriction) = 524 CP.

The first exception is that this class utilizes a restriction (p. 17). A restriction is exactly what it sounds like, a prohibition on taking/engaging in something. In return for this, the character gets 1 additional CP per level. The Combatant’s restriction is against taking any magic progressions (pg. 11-15).

This may seem slightly underhanded, since that’s something we were going to do anyway, but offering a reward for sticking to a particular character concept is part of the game. Hence why Pathfinder characters receive favored class bonuses.

Speaking of which, the second exception is that this character will take a package deal (p. 18). In this case, he’ll be taking the Pathfinder package deal that I’ve mentioned before. This doesn’t really change any aspect of building this particular “class,” but rather guarantees under the game rules that any character built this way will use the Pathfinder differences over the default 3.5 assumptions (e.g. their race will have a net +2 modifier to ability scores, will gain a favored class bonus each level, etc.). This also presumes that you’ll use the Pathfinder feat progression (e.g. +6 CP at every odd-numbered level, rather than every third level) and get an additional 6 CP at 1st level (for starting traits, which we’re also not factoring in here).

Basic Abilities (330 CP)

  • Light, medium, and heavy armor proficiency, plus proficiency with shields (18 CP), all with the smooth modifier, specialized for one-half cost/only to remove the armor check penalties (9 CP).
  • Proficient with all simple and martial weapons (9 CP).
  • Self-Development/+6 Con for calculating hit points only (36 CP).
  • +20 BAB (120 CP).
  • Fort +12, Ref +12, Will +12 (108 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for skills (6 CP).
  • Self-Development/+4 Int for calculating skill points only (24 CP).

For many, if not most characters, their basic abilities – proficiencies, Hit Dice, BAB, base saves, and skill points – will be where they spend the bulk of their Character Points. That’s true for the Combatant as well, but we’re utilizing some different methods of buying these things up more cheaply than normal as cost-saving measures.

Their weapon proficiencies, Base Attack Bonus, and base save bonuses are all purchased normally. Note that the Combatant has all good saves; the better to overcome magic with!

For their armor proficiencies, we’ve taken the Smooth modifier. This allows a character to ignore armor check penalties and arcane spell failure chances. However, since we don’t care about arcane spell failure (since this character won’t be casting spells), we’ve specialized that to cut the cost in half. This way, the Combatant’s skills won’t suffer for his wearing armor.

Insofar as his skills go, we’re giving him 4 skill points per level here, using two options. The first is to buy a sort of “virtual” +4 to his Intelligence score, but only for the purpose of gaining skill points each level. This +4 bonus is not counted for any other effect, such as when making skill checks on Int-based skills, calculating how much Int damage he can take before falling unconscious, etc. That’s 2 skill points per level right there.

The second method is via Fast Learner. This ability normally grants 1 additional CP per level when taken, but in this case we’ve specialized it to grant 2 CP…but only for skill points. Since 1 CP can directly buy 1 skill point, this essentially means that the Combatant gains 2 skill points for free each level, which with the +4 “virtual” Int bonus given above, the Combatant is gaining 4 skill points per level, as mentioned before.

It’s worth mentioning that no classes means no set list of class skills. Eclipse has some suggestions for this, with the one I go for being to allow twelve skills of the player’s choice as class skills (plus Craft and Profession, since everyone should have those), with Perform being one skill while each Knowledge skill is separate. For the Combatant, his class skills will be Acrobatics, Climb, Craft, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge (dungeoneering), Knowledge (local), Perception, Perform, Profession, Ride, Sense Motive, Survival, and Swim.

Finally, the Combatant’s Hit Dice aren’t being bought up, meaning that he’s only gaining a d4 Hit Die per level. However, much as we did for his Intelligence-based skill points, we’re adding a “virtual” +6 to his Constitution bonus, giving him a “free” +3 hit points per die. Or, in other words, the Combatant’s Hit Dice are 1d4+3+Con bonus per level.

This grants, on average, 5.5 hit points per level, exactly as if the Combatant had a d10 Hit Die. Moreover, this is before adding in his (real) Constitution bonus, any Con-boosting items, etc. We’re essentially trading in never getting any high rolls on a d10 for never getting any low rolls either. Since buying up Hit Dice at each and every level is expensive, this saves quite a few Character Points overall for the same general outcome.

Magic Breaker (59 CP)

  • Improved Spell Resistance, corrupted for increased effect/must not be helpless, does not need to take an action to allow friendly spells in (12 CP).
  • Finesse/use Strength bonus to calculate how many attacks of opportunity the character receives (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/Combat Reflexes variant (6 CP).
  • Block (arcane) with Multiple (12 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saves, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only against magical effects (4 CP).
  • Returning, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only to overcome petrification and polymorph after 2d4 rounds (4 CP).
  • 2d6 mana with Resilience (12 CP).
  • Rite of Chi, specialized for one-half cost/requires eight hours of sleep (3 CP).

This suite of powers, together with their base save bonuses, comprise the Combatant’s incredible resistance to magical attacks.

The first bullet point notes that the Combatant has Spell Resistance equal to his character level +10. However, it only functions when the Combatant isn’t helpless; in exchange for this, they do not need to take an action to lower their SR to allow spells that they want to affect them to bypass SR. The narrative function of this effect is that the Combatant is literally batting away, dodging, or otherwise physically defeating/avoiding spells he doesn’t want to affect him.

The second and third bullet points allow for the Combatant to use a number of AoO’s in a round equal to 1 + his Strength bonus. These are largely to set up the Block ability listed in the fourth bullet point. Twice per round, at the cost of an AoO each time, the Combatant may try to actively block a single-target spell directed at him with a DC 20 Reflex save. On a successful save, the spell deals 60 less points of damage than it otherwise would. If successfully blocking a spell that isn’t a damage-dealing effect, then he gets a +8 bonus on his saving throw against the spell’s effect instead.

Note that the DC of the Reflex save made to block an attack can be increased by the attacker. The spellcaster can decrease their BAB on the spell’s attack roll to add to the block DC on a 1:1 basis. If the spell doesn’t use an attack roll, then they can do this for the spell’s save DC instead (e.g. if casting a spell that would have a DC 24 save, then can lower that by 2 points to increase the block DC by 2 points).

The Luck power allows the Combatant to, up to five times per day, either preemptively treat a saving throw as if he’d rolled a 20, or re-roll a failed save. This can only be done against a magical effect.

Returning is normally an “overcome death” power. In this case, it’s been corrupted to only allow the Combatant to defeat petrification and polymorph, two effects that normally take characters completely out of a fight (and indeed, last perpetually unless something actively undoes them). In this case, they’ll bounce back fairly quickly, but determined enemies will still be able to kill them in the meantime if they really try.

Finally, the seventh and eighth bullet points grant the Combatant 2d6 mana points. These points can be spent to defeat ability damage/drain on a 1:1 basis, defeat negative levels on a 2:1 basis (e.g. 2 points of mana defeats 1 negative level), or may defeat mind-affecting effects at a cost of 2/3/4/6 points to overcome a level 0-3/4-6/7-8/9 effect. Mana normally recovers at a rate of 1 point per day, but Rite of Chi allows for an additional 1d6 to be recovered after eight hours’ rest (for 1d6+1 altogether).

Mobile Warrior (39 CP)

  • Reflex Training/may move up to their speed before making a full attack action (6 CP).
  • Celerity/flight plus 40 ft. of flight movement, all specialized for one-half cost/only for 1 minute per point of Con bonus (minimum 1 min.) per day (18 CP).
  • Inherent Spell with one instance of Advanced, both specialized for one-half cost/only as prerequisites (6 CP). One further instance of Advanced (teleport track) with +2 Bonus Uses (9 CP).

This package of abilities is designed to overcome the major limitations on the Combatant’s movement. Reflex Training allows for a specific action to be taken in conjunction with another specific action. In this case, when taking a full attack action, the Combatant may move up to their speed immediately beforehand. Note that this cannot be interspersed with attacks during a full attack action; it must be a move, which is then followed by a full attack.

Celerity allows the combatant to fly at a speed of 60 ft. with perfect maneuverability for a number of minutes per day equal to their total Constitution bonus. This is not inherently magical, but otherwise leaves the explanation for what this power is up to the player (personally, I prefer the idea that the Combatant is literally kicking the air to move themselves around).

Finally, three times per day the Combatant may use teleport track as a spell-like ability. This is a custom spell designed for this particular power, meaning that we don’t need to be concerned with the full specifics of the spell. Essentially, it’s a 5th-level effect (like the spell teleport) that can only be used to follow another teleportation effect used within 20 ft. of the combatant in the last 3 rounds. The Combatant can also bring along one additional willing creature per three levels. Unlike most of these powers, this one has an inherent limit on when it can be taken; the combatant must be at least 9th level to take this power.

Famous Hero (18 CP)

  • Major Privilege/hero of the realm (6 CP).
  • Improved Superior Reputation (12 CP).

These powers cover the Combatant’s social influence. Like most social-focused abilities, they’re necessarily imprecise in terms of what they connote. For the first one, having a major privilege (which, in this case, is that the Combatant is widely recognized as a hero of the land) essentially means that the character is regarded as being a cross between a rock star and a war hero. For the second, it means that the character’s fame and deeds are widely known; when it becomes relevant, they gain a (level x 2)/3 modifier to checks on social rolls (e.g. a bonus to Diplomacy checks for people who like him, and a bonus to Intimidate checks for those who dislike him, and vice versa).

Leader of Men (36 CP)

  • Leadership with Born Leader and Emperor’s Star (18 CP).
  • Mystic Artist/Perform (oratory) (6 CP) with Rapid (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/activating Mystic Artist abilities (6 CP).

These powers reflect the Combatant’s ability to take command in battle (though they can do the same in other situations).

Their Leadership power means that they have (level + Cha modifier)x3 levels’ worth of followers, none of which can be higher than the Combatant’s level -3. Moreover, each of these followers has a permanent +1 typeless bonus to their attacks, saves, and AC. They also gain a 6 CP ability (which must be the same for every follower). I’d recommend granting them the Legionary power (everyone with that gains a +1/+2/+3 bonus to attacks, AC, and Reflex saves when fighting with 1-2/3-4/5+ others who also have this power, specialized for double effect/must be adjacent to each other).

The second and third bullet points allow the Combatant to essentially usurp some of a bard’s role, and use Perform (oratory) to direct and guide those they fight with. Thanks to Reflex Training, this may be activated as a free action, and the effects happen immediately. The actual effects they might choose (it’s not a static set of abilities, meaning that there are too many possible choices to list here) are found on pg. 85-87. I recommend that they take their abilities primarily from the Inspiration powers; using Mass Greatness or Mass Excellence to empower your allies will quickly change the tide of battle to your favor (and if you can take Harmonize, from the Synergy list of powers, and use both at the same time, your party will be very nearly unstoppable!).

Unstoppable Juggernaut (42 CP)

  • Stoic with Ferocity (9 CP).
  • Grant of Aid with Mighty and Spark of Life (15 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for attack rolls (6 CP).
  • Enhanced Strike/crushing and whirlwind (12 CP).

Here we come to the Combatant’s ability to deal out and withstand staggering degrees of damage. Stoic makes the Combatant immune to death from massive damage as well as lets them be treated as “recovering with help” on a successful DC 15 Constitution check to stabilize. The Ferocity modifier means that the character may continue to act normally while at negative hit points, so long as their negative hit points do not exceed their Constitution score.

Having Grant of Aid with the Mighty modifier allows the combatant to heal themselves of damage (which does not require an action). Once per day per three levels (or part thereof), the Combatant may heal 1d8+5+Con bonus hit points OR 1d3+1 ability score damage OR 2 negative levels. Moreover, Spark of Life makes it so that the Combatant can cling to life for (Con score x 5) rounds when their hit points drop low enough to kill them (e.g. their negative hit points equal or exceed their Con score), during which time they can be healed normally. This doesn’t apply if they’re brought down to negative hit points that equal or exceed their positive hit points (or an instant death effect is used, such as a successful coup de grace).

Exactly what the healing from Grant of Aid represents is up to the player. It could be the blessing of a deity, hyper-regeneration, unparalleled physical fortitude, or something else altogether.

The Luck power, similar to its use in the Magic Breaker suite, allows the Combatant to either gain an automatic “natural” 20 on an attack roll (meaning a possibility for a critical hit, if confirmed) or may re-roll a failed attack roll, up to five times per day.

Their Enhanced Strike abilities grant them two combat powers. Crushing allows the Combatant, as a full-round action, to combine all of their attacks into a single attack roll. If successful, he inflicts all of the damage from his multiple attacks at once. Whirlwind allows the Combatant, as a full-round action, to make a single attack at his full BAB against every target within reach.

Both of these attacks may be used once per minute each. However, additional uses within that period may be undertaken, at the cost of 1 point of mana (q.v.) each time. Essentially, these are the “super attacks” that a Combatant has, allowing him to push beyond what an ordinary fighter would be able to do.

Taking Stock

Overall, the Combatant is a class that builds a solid base for a martial character, while paying special attention to various situational and out-of-combat circumstances. While he has several abilities that directly enhance his ability to fight (e.g. Luck for attack rolls, Enhanced Strike, Grant of Aid), he can also maintain his usefulness in unorthodox battles via his special movement abilities and (indirectly) his followers and ability to direct others.

His major suite of powers, however, all deal with his ability to shrug off magic. These are so many and so varied that it’s very hard to affect the Combatant with magic at all, as he can resist it, block it, save against it, heal it, or otherwise defeat it. This is a character that has very little to fear from spellcasters.

Finally, he has several abilities that boost his ability to play a role outside of a fight. His social abilities ensure that he essentially always is exceptionally popular among the populace (though this is not a magical effect, and the player and the GM should work together to determine why this is and how it manifests) and has a powerful reputation to help him with any face-to-face encounters.

And of course, this isn’t the whole of what the Combatant can do. As mentioned previously, he still has 60 Character Points’ worth of feats to spend, plus 6 CP on top of that from his starting traits. Throw in things like a human racial bonus feat or some Eclipse-specific things like taking a few disadvantages (pg. 18-20) or having some duties (p. 17) to fulfill, and there’s still a lot of room for customization (and that’s not even getting into what gear he has).

Of course, that’s overlooking the fact that, as a point-buy character, this entire build can be customized anyway. If you don’t care about spell resistance, for example, but want more of an AC bonus. You can just not buy Improved Spell Resistance and spend the 12 CP on Defender (p. 51), gaining a level-based bonus to your Armor Class.

Since using this book, I’ve found it much easier to build the character I’d like to have, instead of having to check myriad sourcebooks to kludge together a combination of classes, feats, archetypes, prestige classes, and other rules in hopes of approximating my original idea for a character…especially for a martial character that can be as effective, and as useful, as a spellcaster.

With Eclipse, the caster-martial disparity matters exactly as much as you want it to.

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…

Penning the Umbra Witch

November 3, 2014
Bayonetta

She could make watching paint dry seem suggestive.

I’ve spoken before about how, while I’m not the hard-core gamer I used to be, I still find the time to get some gaming in every so often. The last two weeks have been such instances, having purchased Bayonetta 2 for the Wii U. Never having played the first game, this was quite a good deal for me, as a port of the original was bundled in with the sequel.

Needless to say, I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with the game. Its combat system is shockingly deep, the storyline is the sort of insane action you’d expect from a game directed by Hideki Kamiya (of Devil May Cry fame), and the titular heroine is enjoyably easy on the eyes. Having beaten the first game, I enjoyed it so much that I even went and watched the Bayonetta anime movie (which, somewhat disappointingly, was just an adaptation of the game’s storyline).

Of course, every time I watched Bayonetta strut around on the screen, I had the same thought that any gamer geek would have: “what would she look like…if she had stats in a tabletop RPG?” Naturally, I couldn’t rest until I found the answer to this question, hence this blog post.

Below are Bayonetta’s stats for the Pathfinder RPG, using the class-less point-buy rules for character creation found in Eclipse: The Codex Persona. This represents Bayonetta at the end of the first game, before the sequel takes place. (As a warning, there are some spoilers for the events of the first game.)

Bayonetta, 16th-level Umbra Witch

Available Character Points: 408 (level 16 base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (“starting traits”) + 48 (levels 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 feats) = 478 CP.

Bayonetta’s disadvantages are History (her birth triggering a war between the Umbra Witches and their counterparts, the Lumen Sages), Hunted (angels continually hunt Bayonetta), and Valuable (her status as the Left Eye of World).

Ability Scores (25-point buy):

Ability Scores Initial Scores (point cost) Racial bonus Level Bonuses Enchantments Total
Strength 14 (5) +2 enhancement, +1 inherent 17 (+3)
Dexterity 15 (7) +1 (8th) +2 enhancement 18 (+4)
Constitution 12 (2) +2 enhancement 14 (+2)
Intelligence 10 (0) +2 +2 enhancement 14 (+2)
Wisdom 11 (1) +1 (4th) +2 enhancement, +1 inherent 15 (+2)
Charisma 16 (10) +2 (12th and 16th) +2 enhancement 20 (+5)

Human Traits

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

Given the circumstances of Bayonetta’s birth, I was going to initially tweak her racial traits. However, there simply wasn’t enough information about what it meant for her to be the Left Eye of the World (besides being a mcguffin for awakening the game’s final boss) to justify doing so.

Basic Abilities (171 CP)

  • Proficiency with all simple, martial, and exotic weapons (15 CP).
  • 1d20 Hit Die at 1st level, 15d4 Hit Dice thereafter (16 CP).
  • +16 BAB (96 CP normally; reduced via Fast Learner to 64 CP).
  • Fort +10, Ref +10, Will +5 (75 CP)
  • 1 skill point (1 CP).

Bayonetta’s basic abilities are a major hint towards how her character was constructed: namely that, despite how she’s referred to as a witch, she simply doesn’t live up to the Pathfinder (or D&D) use of that term. More specifically, she’s not a spellcaster – rather, she’s a fighter with a large number of magical powers that she uses to enhance and round out her combat abilities.

Killer Queen of Combat (76 CP)

  • Double Jump: Reflex Training/when making an Acrobatics check to jump, may make a second jump at any point during the first (6 CP).
  • 16 levels of wilder progression (converted to spell levels)/corrupted for two-thirds cost, no powers gained/specialized for one-half cost, does not replenish naturally (16 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +16 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/replenishes a number of spell levels equal to her Charisma bonus for every two consecutive attacks successfully made, or for every two consecutive attacks from enemies that fail to hit (15 CP).
  • Fast Learner/specialized for double effect, only to pay for BAB costs (6 CP).
  • Fortune/evasion and impervious (12 CP).
  • Defender (dodge bonus)/specialized for double effect, does not apply if armor is worn (6 CP).
  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses/specialized for one-half cost, only for attack rolls (9 CP).
  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses/specialized for one-half cost, only for saving throws (9 CP).
  • Augment Attack/+1 bonus to unarmed strikes (3 CP).

Bayonetta’s wilder progression grants her 123 spell levels. Her method of regaining her magic comes from either dodging her opponent’s blows or landing her own on them. As such, it’s usually easier to roll all of the dice for how much her Rite of Chi can restore in a day using this method (a massive 34d6 spell levels; averaging 119) and parse them out as per her specialization, above.

Harsh Mistress (42 CP)

  • Torture Attacks: Augment Attack +10d6/specialized for double effect, must spend 1 spell level for each die of damage inflicted (may choose to spend less than the full amount) (30 CP).
  • Taunt: Reflex Training (one additional attack after a successful Bluff to feint in combat) (6 CP).
  • Umbran Climax: Trick (when performing a successful coup de grace, the opponent’s body is dragged down to Hell) (6 CP).

I’ve slightly repurposed Bayonetta’s taunt here, since the Augment Attack used for her torture attacks functions as per the sneak attack rules – namely, that the opponent needs to be flanked or to be denied their Dexterity bonus for it to work.

Insofar as the nature of her torture attacks and umbran climax goes, these mechanics might seem insufficient, since these moves, respectively, temporarily create material devices out of nothing, and summon gigantic demons from Hell to finish off an enemy.

What’s more important, however, is to look at the effects of these abilities. One is simply an attack that deals more damage than normal. The other is a finishing move used on opponents that have already been defeated. In that sense, the mechanics of what these abilities do is surprisingly easy to replicate.

Wicked Weave (27 CP)

  • Improved Bonus Attack (may make an additional attack when making a melee full attack action against a single target)/specialized for one-half cost, must pay 2 spell levels to use (6 CP).
  • Enhanced Strike (Hammer)/corrupted for increased effect, must pay 2 spell levels each time used; used in conjunction with Improved Bonus Attack (6 CP).
  • Opportunist, may make a trip attempt when landing an Improved Bonus Attack (6 CP).
  • Opportunist, may make a knockback attempt when landing an Improved Bonus Attack (6 CP).
  • Evasive (trip) and Evasive (knockback), both specialized for one-half cost/only in conjunction with Opportunist (3 CP).

Wicked Weave is where, at the end of an offensive combination, Bayonetta opens a quick portal to Hell and a massive fist, or foot, comes through to strike an enemy. When using this, Bayonetta can use one form of Opportunist with that last blow, but not both. A Wicked Fist usually knocks an opponent back (a “knockback” attack is like a bull rush, but you do not move with the opponent), while a Wicked Kick usually knocks them prone.

The Enhanced Strike (Hammer) ability is used to represent the increased damage from a Wicked Weave strike. Normally, this can be used once per minute without a spell level cost, and is a full attack action by itself – here, we’re saying that it costs 2 spell levels regardless of how often it’s used, in exchange for being able to use it in conjunction with other attacks in a full attack action. That’s a fairly cheap price to pay for such a large benefit; only the fact that it’s specific method of use (via Improved Bonus Attack) still keeps it limited to once per round makes these even slightly acceptable, if still overpowered.

Witch Time (18 CP)

  • Channeling (3 + Cha bonus times per day), specialized for double effect/only as a prerequisite for Conversion; may be used as an immediate action/corrupted for two-thirds cost, may only be used when an enemy’s attack roll is a natural 1, or misses by 20 or more (or when Bayonetta rolls a natural 20 on a saving throw, or exceeds the save DC by 20 or more) (6 CP).
  • Conversion/level 6 spell (witch time – a L6 version of grand haste that lasts only for 1 round, affects only the caster, and requires the aid of an extraplanar patron). (12 CP).

The grand haste spell can be found in The Practical Enchanter; it essentially functions as per the 3.0 haste spell.

Witch Time is one of a few abilities that are technically unlimited-use in the context of the game, but which have a limit placed on them here.

Beautiful Mind, Incredible Body (45 CP)

  • Advanced Augmented Bonus, add Charisma bonus to skill points per level (18 CP).
  • Advanced Augmented Bonus, add Charisma bonus to hit points per level (18 CP).
  • Upgrade human Fast Learner to specialized in skills/2 skill points per level (3 CP).
  • Adept/Bluff, Martial Arts (witch-fu), Perception, and Perform (dance) (6 CP).

What Bayonetta lacks in formal training, she makes up for in sheer force of presence!

Such a Talented Girl (16 CP)

  • Occult Sense, can see Purgatory and the mortal world from either realm/corrupted for two-thirds cost, the other realm’s inhabitants look blurry and transparent, gaining partial concealment (4 CP).
  • Inherent Spell (purgatory shift L3; allows Bayonetta and up to one other willing individual to move between Purgatory and the mortal realm)/specialized for increased effect, costs 6 spell levels to use; may be used multiple times per day, so long as the spell level cost is paid (6 CP).
  • Advanced Inherent Spell (resilient sphere)/specialized for increased effect, costs 8 spell levels to use; may be used multiple times per day, so long as the spell level cost is paid (6 CP).

The cosmology of Bayonetta has only four planes of existence: the mortal world, Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory – the latter of which stands in the middle of the other three. Purgatory functions much like the Ethereal Plane, save for the fact that material objects in the mortal world can be equally affected in either realm, though beings with souls are invisible. Force effects function on both planes simultaneously. Oddly, ghost touch weapons used in the mortal world can affect beings in Purgatory, though the reverse doesn’t seem to be true.

Myriad Secrets of the Lesser Darkness (57 CP)

  • Innate Enchantment (24 CP – 23,000 GP; spell level 0 (1/2) or 1 x caster level 1 x 2,000 gp x 0.7 personal-only modifier (where appropriate))
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Str (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)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Cha (1,400 gp)
    • Wardrobe change (L0, alter the wearer’s clothing at will) (1,000 gp)
    • Void sheath (L0, hide weapons in a personal dimensional pocket) (700 gp)
    • Jump (1,400 gp)
    • Personal haste (2,000 gp)
    • Endure elements (1,400 gp)
    • Shield (2,000 gp)
    • Immortal vigor (1,400 gp)
    • Powerlift (L1, user is considered two size categories larger for calculating carrying capacity only) (1,400 gp)
    • The feather touch (L1, reduces the weight and mass of objects that the user touches, effectively multiplying his carrying capacity by five. However, since the effect persists for a few moments after the user releases an object it does not increase the amount of damage the user can inflict with weapons or by throwing things; it simply makes it more dramatic) (1,400 gp)
    • Ignore leverage (L1, allows the user to ignore minor mechanical principles, allowing him or her to lift unbalanced objects without toppling over or breaking them, as well as to catch people who are falling without injuring them and similar stunts) (1,400 gp)
  • Immunity to encumbrance restrictions (uncommon/minor/major) (6 CP).
  • Immunity to aging (uncommon/minor/major) (6 CP). Umbra Witches can expect to live for well over a millenium.
  • Immunity to stacking limits when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial); covers effects of up to level 1 (2 CP).
  • Immunity to dispelling and antimagic (common/major/legendary)/specialized for one half cost, only for innate enchantments (18 CP).
  • Immunity to the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).

Obviously, taking this many Innate Enchantments, and Immunities, is seriously pushing the bounds of what would fly in most games. On the other hand, this is a game where you end up punching God in the face by the end of it, so it’s not totally inappropriate.

The spells powerlift, the feather touch, and ignore leverage are taken from The Strongman template. Bayonetta’s immunity to encumbrance restrictions allows her to be treated as three size categories larger for the purposes of lifting and carrying; this stacks with powerlift allowing her to be treated as two size categories larger for the same effect. Being a medium creature, this would treat her as one size category larger than the standard d20 System goes; however, we can easily extend the pattern for how much this would increase her carrying capacity by – that being a x32 multipler. This, in turn, stacks with the x5 multiplier from the feather touch, granting her an astonishing x160 multiplier!

The end result of this is that, with a Strength of 17, Bayonetta can carry just over twenty tons of weight! Given that we see her tossing around tanker trucks and huge sections of buildings over the course of the game, this seems about right.

Secrets of the Deeper Darkness (18 CP)

  • Siddhisyoga with the Efficient modifier (12 CP; 251,655 gp value)
    • Full plate +5 (39,975 gp)
    • Witchwalk (9,555 gp)
    • Ring of protection +5 (75,000 gp)
    • Amulet of natural armor +5 (75,000 gp)
    • Cloak of resistance +5 (37,500 gp)
    • Bottle of air (10,875)
    • Ring of sustenance (3,750 gp)
  • Immunity to being unable to use weapons with the martial arts skill (very common/minor/major)/specialized for one-half cost, only with weapons of infernal origin (6 CP).

The witchwalk “magic item” generated here functions as so: an unlimited-use use-activated reverse gravity spell, this essentially allows the user to reorient which way is “down” once per round as an immediate action. The cost is spell level (7) x caster level (13) x 2,000 gp x 0.7 (personal-only modifier) = 127,400 gp. However, witchwalking can only be done under the light of the full moon. Since this only happens for three consecutive days a month, only at night, when outside, with a clear view of the sky, that’s such a huge restriction that it calls for a 0.05 cost multiplier, reducing it to a mere 6,370 gp. The total above reflects the 1.5 cost multiplier for taking it with Efficient Siddhisyoga.

As a 16th-level character, Bayonetta has PC-level gear worth 315,000 gp. Most of that has been spent on the above abilities. She’s also spent a total of 55,000 gp on a manual of gainful exercise +1 and a tome of clear thought +1, granting her a +1 inherent bonus to her Strength and Intelligence scores. That leaves her with just under 10,000 gp for miscellaneous expenses.

Underworld Connections (8 CP)

  • Major Privilege (wealthy)/specialized for double effect, only for magic weapons (6 CP).
  • Contacts/Rodin the demon-smith and Enzo the information-broker (2 CP).

Bayonetta’s major privilege explains how Rodin is willing to make her so many powerful, expensive weapons without charging for them. Taking him as a contact, by contrast, represents that she can purchase other materials from him for the normal fee.

Give Mummy Some Sugar (6 CP)

  • Create Artifact/specialized and corrupted for triple effect, may only be used to create single-use, use-activated items (e.g. potions) of up to 9th level (6 CP).

This is how, in the game, Bayonetta can concoct her own minor magic items, albeit usually in the form of lollipops. She knows a number of specific recipes, which she presumably gained from Rodin (as he sells the same materials) for unspecified “favors.” Of course, finding materials such as unicorn horns or mandragora roots with which to make these magical candies is something else again.

Do It Like Animals (12 CP)

  • Shapeshift with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).

This allows for nine uses per day. Typically, Bayonetta will turn into a cheetah or a large raven.

A Girl’s Gotta Have a Few Secrets (6 CP)

  • Action Hero/Stunts (6 CP).

This is a catch-all for any other special power Bayonetta may need to suddenly use. While Bayonetta has certainly used quite a few action points, she undoubtedly has many more left in reserve. I’d recommend somewhere around two dozen remaining (at her current level, her maximum action point pool is forty-two).

Catch a Glimpse (0 CP)

  • Eldritch/Bayonetta’s hair is both for her clothing, and as a conduit for her magic. When using her Wicked Weave ability, her clothing becomes skimpy and revealing; when using an Umbran Climax, she’s left completely naked. These effects happen regardless of her wardrobe change Innate Enchantment (0 CP).

Of course, this ability had to be here.

Deals with the Devil (-24 CP)

  • Pacts/Exclusion (-6 CP).
  • Pacts/Guardianship (-6 CP).
  • Pact/Souls (-6 CP).
  • Pact/Spirit (-6 CP).

Pacts are usually used to pay for Witchcraft abilities; this is a variant where they’re instead used to grant an additional 6 CP each. As noted in the game, all Umbra Witches go to Hell when they die; the price for their infernal powers (the Spirit Pact). Similarly, Bayonetta makes numerous references to her demonic “partners” wanting to devour angels; hence the Souls Pact. The Exclusion Pact is easily justified, as Bayonetta never tries to use powers or materials from any other source than Hell. Likewise, the Guardianship Pact is in reference to the Left Eye of the World – herself. As such, it’s fairly easily fulfilled.

Combat Gear

Bayonetta has the following magic weapons crafted for her by Rodin the demon-smith:

  • Scarborough Fair: a set of 4 +2 ghost touch impact Mac Ingram M10 (.45 machine pistols) of greater endless ammunition (as per endless ammunition, but works on firearms).
  • Onyx Roses: a set of 4 +3 ghost touch outsider (good) bane Beretta M3P (12-gauge shotguns) of greater endless ammunition.
  • Shuraba: a +1 keen ghost touch soul-drinking katana (soul-drinking functions as per vorpal, but only works on living creatures, regardless of whether they have a head or not).
  • Kulshedra: +5 deadly ghost touch whip.
  • Durga: 2 +3 flaming shocking ghost touch tekko-kagi of impact.

If using the Modern d20 rules for how guns work, Bayonetta should be considered to have all of the requisite feats to use her guns’ alternate firing methods (e.g. burst fire, double-tap, etc.), as she’s taken proficiency with all simple, martial, and exotic weapons.

Bayonetta is able to load and fire a pair of guns – either Scarborough Fair or Onyx Roses – on her feet, and can fire them as easily as guns held in her hands. As she doesn’t have Two-Weapon Fighting, these are simply instances of her using these as part of her standard attacks, since she can mix and match what weapons she uses during a full attack action.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 20 (1d20, 1st level) + 12 (2d6 immortal vigor, 1st level) + 37 (15d4) + 36 (Con. bonus) + 90 (Cha. bonus) = 195 hp.
  • Speed: 30 ft. (normal) + 30 ft. (personal haste) = 60 ft.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +10 (base) + 2 (Con. bonus) + 5 (cloak of resistance) = +17.
    • Reflex: +10 (base) + 4 (Dex. bonus) + 5 (cloak of resistance) = +19.
    • Will: +5 (base) + 2 (Wis. bonus) + 5 (cloak of resistance) = +12.
  • AC: 10 (base) + 14 (+5 full plate) + 4 (shield) + 4 (Dex bonus) + 6 (Defender; dodge bonus) + 5 (amulet of natural armor) + 5 (deflection; ring of protection) + 1 (martial arts) = 49, touch 26, flat-footed 39.
  • Attacks: +16 (BAB) + 3 or 4 (Str. or Dex. bonus) +1 (martial art) + 1 (unarmed strike only) + X (weapon enhancement bonus).
    • Unarmed Strike: +21/+21/+16/+11/+6 (1d4+5)
    • Scarborough Fair: +23/+23/+18/+13/+8 (2d10+2)
    • Onyx Roses: +24/+24/+19/+14/+9 (2d10+3)
    • Onyx Roses (vs good outsiders): +26/+26/+21/+16/+11 (2d10+5 plus 2d6)
    • Shuraba: +21/+21/+16/+11/+6 (1d12+4/15-20)
    • Kulshedra: +25/+25/+20/+15/+10 (1d6+8)
    • Durga: +23/+23/+18/+13/+8 (1d8+6 plus 1d6 fire plus 1d6 electricity)
  • Skills: 32 (human bonus; Fast Learner) + 32 (Int. bonus) + 80 (Cha. bonus) + 1 (1 CP) = 145 skill points.
Skills Ranks Ability Bonus Class Bonus Misc. Bonus Total
Acrobatics 16 +4 Dex +3 +10 jump +23 (+33 to jump)
Bluff 16 (8 skill points) +5 Cha +3 +24
Climb 6 +3 Str +9
Diplomacy 6 +5 Cha +11
Escape Artist 5 +4 Dex +9
Fly 5 +4 Dex +9
Intimidate 6 +5 Cha +3 +14
Knowledge (arcana) 6 +2 Int +3 +11
Knowledge (geography) 6 +2 Int +3 +11
Knowledge (history) 6 +2 Int +3 +11
Knowledge (local) 6 +2 Int +3 +11
Knowledge (planes) 6 +2 Int +3 +11
Knowledge (religion) 6 +2 Int +3 +11
Martial Arts (witch-fu) 16 (8 skill points) +4 Dex +3 +23
Linguistics 4 +2 +6
Perception 16 (8 skill points) +2 Wis +3 +21
Perform (dance) 16 (8 skill points) +5 Cha +3 +2 synergy +26
Sense Motive 6 +2 Wis +8
Spellcraft 6 +2 Int +8
Stealth 6 +4 Dex +10
Survival 5 +2 Wis +7
Swim 6 +3 Str +9

Bayonetta’s class skills are the twelve class skills on the above chart that have the +3 class bonus, as well as Craft and Profession (which she’s taken no ranks in).

Bayonetta is able to speak seven languages, having one for free, two for her Intelligence bonus, and four from her ranks in Linguistics. These are English and Japanese (an in-joke referring to the game’s two language settings), Spanish and Italian (as Bayonetta comes from the European city of Vigrid in the late 15th century; the city’s actual location is never specified, but given its coastal nature and Mediterranean-inspired style, both of these languages seemed appropriate for what language she likely grew up speaking – particularly since multilingualism isn’t particularly uncommon in Europe), and Abyssal, Celestial, and Infernal (these cover the bases for her being able to converse with angels and demons, who are quite clearly speaking their own language, so easily).

Witch-fu (Str)

The actual name of this martial art is Moonlight Weave, but with the destruction of its primary practitioners, the Umbra Witches, its proper name has been lost; those few who know of this fighting style simply refer to it as “witch-fu.” This well-rounded martial art focuses on lithe, sensuous movements that allow the user to slide around incoming attacks and strike from unexpected angles for precise, powerful blows.

  • Requires: Weapon Focus (unarmed strike) or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defenses 3, Power 2, Strike, Synergy (Perform (dance))
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Mind Like Moon, Quick Draw, Whirlwind Attack
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Light Foot, Resist Pain, Vanishing
  • Known: Attack 1, Defenses 1, Power 2, Strike, Synergy (Perform (dance)), Combat Reflexes, Mind Like Moon, Whirlwind Attack, Inner Strength, Light Foot, Vanishing

As mentioned previously, Bayonetta is essentially a fighter with a large bag of tricks at her disposal. While her attack bonus isn’t quite as high as you’d expect for a dedicated fighter of her level, she is still capable of delivering a rapid series of punishing hits (all the moreso with her wicked weaves, torture attacks, and judicious use of witch time). Likewise, her high speed and use of her animal forms give her a high degree of mobility, and she’ll certainly have some magic lollipops (and an action point or two) tucked away for when things become difficult.

Of course, thanks to the relentless hordes of angels after her,  Bayonetta rarely lacks for an opportunity to put her skills to good use against opponents both mundane and celestial. But as mentioned, this is Bayonetta at the end of the first game; as she’s about to find out, it isn’t just the celestial powers that have a bone to pick with 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!

Race-ing Ponies

May 31, 2014

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

Earth Ponies (20 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Dexterity (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier. Corrupted for two-thirds cost/only provides two-thirds usual gp value (4 CP; 3,400 gp).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Strength (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Constitution (1,400 gp)
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Workhorse, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (4 CP).
  • Skill Focus (6 CP).
  • Blocked. Earth ponies are not able to take any spellcasting progressions (-3 CP).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pegasus Ponies (26 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • Attribute Shift, +2 Charisma/-2 Constitution (6 CP).
  • Celerity with the Additional modifier, all set to flight, corrupted for two-thirds cost/subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (12 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, caster level 1 x spell level 1 x 2,000 gp x .7 personal-only modifier. Specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only provides one-third usual gp value (2 CP; 1,700 gp).
    • Cloud walk (1,400 gp).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Skill Focus (6 CP).
  • Blocked. Pegasus ponies are not able to take any spellcasting progressions (-3 CP).

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

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

CLOUD WALK

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

Components V, S, DF

Range touch

Targets one touched creature/level

Duration 1 hour/level (D)

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

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

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

Unicorn Ponies (30 CP/+0 ECL race)

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

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

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

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

A Few Rules of Hoof

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pathfinder Ponies

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

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

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

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

Harmonizing the Elements

May 25, 2014

So about two months ago, I became a brony.

If you’re still reading after the above sentence, let me expound a little bit further. Back at the beginning of April, I was very sick, and had to spend a week in bed. Unable to do much besides rest, I spent most of the time just watching Netflix, and eventually stumbled across My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

I’d already heard about the show’s unexpected popularity among adult males, and had even seen the first episode a few years back when a friend’s younger siblings sat me down to watch it (I remember finding it mildly interesting even then). Wanting something light and positive to take my mind off of how miserable I felt, I decided to give the show a chance, and to my surprise I didn’t dislike it. (The fact that I’d just heard that the Ponyfinder Campaign Setting had just come out also helped to pique my interest.)

I eventually ended up watching the first three seasons and the movie, as well as the documentary on bronies. I even went online and hunted down the fourth season episodes after I’d exhausted what Netflix had to offer. While I feel no particular compulsion to attend any of the MLP conventions, buy any of the merchandise, or frequent any of the fansites (though the wikis do help with some information), I do consider myself a fan of the show.

Of course, since I’m posting about this on my Pathfinder/D&D blog, you should be able to see where this is heading.

A Pony of a Different Color

I’ve already written a review of Ponyfinder, which you can find on its storefront via the link above, so I won’t go over it again here, save for saying this: I think it’s a very good product in terms of bringing aspects of MLP:FiM into a Pathfinder world, but not vice versa.

Ponyfinder recognizes that (at least for the d20 System) the rules are the physics of the game world. That means that trying to make a d20 game that recreates the world as seen in Friendship is Magic would require a radical retooling of the rules. Instead, it moves the compromise in the other direction, keeping the rules – and by extension, what they suggest about any world that operates under such rules – and porting in concepts from the show, such as the various pony races. The end result is a game world that has recognizable similarities to Friendship is Magic, but still feels different.

Of course, my favorite d20 supplement – Eclipse: the Codex Persona – is a little more flexible than the standard d20 rules. As such, it’s somewhat easier to come up with Pathfinder-compatible rules for various aspects of Friendship is Magic. Given that, I’ve decided to start off with an item, since new magical gear can be brought into a game far easier than new races or NPCs.

And since it’s really the only significant magical artifact in the entire series, we’ll take a look at the Elements of Harmony.

The Sixth Element

The Elements of Harmony

Obeying the rule that major magical relics must also double as bling.

The six Elements of Harmony – magical gemstones that represent Kindness, Generosity, Laughter, Loyalty, Honesty, and Magic – are a combination of mcguffin and deus ex machina for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, at least for the first few seasons. As with most fiction, the “how” and “why” of the way magic works in FiM is ignored in favor of narrative convenience; as major magical artifacts, the Elements of Harmony do whatever it is the story needs them to do.

Now, that makes for easy (if somewhat lazy) writing, but it doesn’t help much when trying to define something using the objective terms of role-playing game mechanics. As such, we’re going to need to take a closer look at what it is the Elements of Harmony actually do over the course of the show, as well as how they’re used.

The two major times we see the Elements in use are at the beginning of the first and second seasons by Twilight Sparkle and her friends. Respectively, they’re used to change the malevolent Nightmare Moon back into her gentler alter ego of Princess Luna, which strikes me as being an instance of break enchantment (Luna later mentions that this “stripped her of her dark powers”), and to turn the anarchy-loving Discord into stone (a straightforward flesh to stone spell). We also see this latter spell reversed in the third season.

That’s…surprisingly consistent in terms of power. Break enchantment is a fifth-level spell, and flesh to stone/stone to flesh are sixth-level.

There’s one other effect that we know the Elements were used for. We’re told in the pilot episode that Princess Celestia used the Elements to banish Nightmare Moon within the moon (for a thousand years!), and we actually get to see it happen in the fourth season premiere. That’s the equivalent of an imprisonment spell, which is much higher at ninth-level.

This is notable, because we’re told directly that Celestia can’t reach anywhere near that same level of power without the Elements. When Discord is released in the beginning of the second season, Celestia flat-out states that she and Luna can’t defeat him, since they’re no longer connected to the Elements. Since defeating Discord means using flesh to stone on him, the message is clear – without the Elements, Celestia can’t use magic anywhere near as strong as she could with them.

Throw in the fact that we never see Twilight using notably powerful magic on her own, and it suddenly becomes clear exactly what the Elements of Harmony actually do: they allow their bearer(s) to cast spells of a level far higher than they’d normally be able to.

Now that we’ve established that, we can look at some of the other characteristics of the Elements:

The Elements can only be used as a set. This is the major plot point that drives the Equestria Girls movie. With one Element taken to another dimension, the remaining five are stated to be useless.

Celestia Uses the Elements

Early concept art for the second Death Star.

The Elements can only be used by those they bond to. The reason that Celestia and Luna can’t use the Elements to defeat Discord at the beginning of the second season is, as mentioned above, that they’re no longer connected to them. That makes it pretty clear that the Elements bond to specific individual(s), and said individuals are the only ones able to utilize them. Interestingly, this doesn’t need to be spread out on 1:1 basis for the six Elements; we see Celestia and Luna use all six collectively when they originally defeated Discord, and even see Celestia use all six by herself when she defeated Nightmare Moon.

Only virtuous characters can use the Elements: While they act as mcguffins in the show, it’s notable that no villains have any particular desire to possess the Elements of Harmony for themselves. Indeed, Nightmare Moon reaches the Elements long before the Mane Six do in the series premiere, but she never tries to use them, instead electing to destroy them before the heroines can put them to use (though this ultimately fails; see below).

Destroyed Elements can be reconstructed by their wielders: When Nightmare Moon was freed, she wisely destroyed the Elements before they could be used against her again. This didn’t help her in the end however, as Twilight and her friends – who at that point were confirmed to each represent a particular Element – were able to reconstitute them almost immediately.

It’s worth mentioning that the first three points listed above are flagrantly violated in the Equestria Girls movie.

After stealing the Element that corresponds to Magic, Sunset Shimmer flees with it to another dimension, leaving the remaining five behind. She then uses it to assume a powerful (and demonic-looking) new form, hypnotize the entire student body of a local high school, and attack Twilight. How is that possible?

While Sunset hints that it’s due to the Element being in another dimension, this is a weak explanation, largely by virtue of the fact that there’s no way she could possibly have known that (she’s been in another dimension for over two years, while the entire show up to that point – including the rediscovery of the Elements – has all taken place within one year).

Rather ironically, in translating the Elements to d20 terms, we have a much simpler explanation for how someone’s able to use a magic item they shouldn’t be able to – the Use Magic Device skill.

Statistical Harmony

So what does all of that boil down to, in terms of game mechanics? Let’s go over each point and use Eclipse to define what the Elements of Harmony actually do.

  • Mana, using the generic spell levels option (we’ll take the average and say 5 spell levels), with Spell Enhancement (6 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, specialized for one-half cost/may only be used for new spells (3 CP; since this counts as buying spells for spontaneous casting, this only allows for one spell at a time, changeable every three days).
  • Immunity to minimum caster level and ability score requirements for casting spells, as well as the limit on spell enhacement with mana (very common/major/epic), specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for spells cast from the Elements (15 CP).
  • Luck, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for caster level checks, only when using a spell granted by the Elements (2 CP).
  • Ability Focus, specific to the spells granted by the Elements (3 CP).
  • Returning. So long as they’re bonded to someone, their user(s) can restore the Elements as a full-round action (6 CP).

Given that the Elements are an item that presumably anyone can use, we’ll call them a relic. 35 CP worth of powers is fairly expensive, but the entire thing is specialized and corrupted down to 11 CP (rounding the fraction down), making them a 2 CP relic, due to the following:

  • A character must invest 2 CP of their own to be able to use it. Once this is done, only they can use the Elements unless they die, voluntarily give them away, or another possessor makes a DC 20 Use Magic Device check.
  • A potential user must also have a Charisma modifier equal or higher to the total number of Elements they want to use (e.g. +6 or more to use all of them yourself). Less than this, and someone else must bond with the remaining Elements. If multiple character bond with the Elements, each of them has to pay the full relic cost to do so. (This explains why Twilight and her friends – whom I see as having Charisma scores of 12 or 13 – have to work together to use the Elements, whereas Celestia certainly had a high enough Charisma to use them on her own).
  • All six Elements must be wielded together at the same time to use their powers. If held by multiple bearers, each of them must spend a full-round action empowering the casting character. This limitation can also be overcome with a Use Magic Device check, DC 25.
  • Only good-aligned characters can use the Elements, though this can be bypassed with Use Magic Device as well (DC 30).

This not only models what we see in the show extremely well, but is surprisingly balanced. Roughly once per day, a character – or, more likely at the lower levels, a group of characters – can bust out a single high-level spell of their choice (though once made, that choice can’t be altered for three days) that will, thanks to the +2 DC from Ability Focus and using Luck on a caster level check, almost certainly succeed. It’s the very model of a deus ex machina, without being totally game-breaking.

Now that’s what I call harmony.