Posts Tagged ‘Pathfinder’

More Blood of the Coven: Moon Hags and Lunar Changelings

September 14, 2020

As a tweaked version of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, the first edition of the Pathfinder RPG built on its predecessor’s strengths. However, it also shored up many of its predecessor’s weaknesses. One of the ways it did this was by continuing to provide supporting material for new PC races and classes after they were introduced, ensuring that they wouldn’t miss out on new developments over the life of the game.

However, over the course of a decade it was inevitable that some things would fall through the cracks.

One instance of this was seen in Blood of the Coven, a supplement for the Pathfinder Player Companion line that was released in late 2017. The book focused heavily (though not exclusively) on changelings, the daughters of hags that had initially debuted – as both a monster and a PC race – in Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: The Haunting of Harrowstone in early 2011.

One of the expanded options presented in Blood of the Coven was that there were subraces of changelings based around what type of hag their mother was, with each having a slight twist on a few of their racial traits. Given that there were ten different types of hags across the myriad Pathfinder products, all of which were referenced there, it allowed for quite a few different options to be presented in an impressive display of comprehensiveness.

Except that it didn’t stay comprehensive, at least not completely. While Blood of the Coven made sure to reference esoteric hags from far-flung products, such as dreamthief hags from the Occult Bestiary, or ash hags from the Cheliax, The Infernal Empire sourcebook, it couldn’t reference products that hadn’t come out yet. That meant that when the moon hag debuted in Planar Adventures just over eight months later, changelings born of such creatures didn’t have the same set of options as others of their kind.

Now, to be fair, the moon hag entry does provide basic information on changelings specific to them. They just don’t get the half-page of expanded information that other kinds of changelings received in Blood of the Coven. So the oversight was an altogether minor one.

Still, it’s a shame that changelings of moon hag parentage won’t get that same expanded write-up, as Pathfinder has since moved on to a second edition. But tabletop RPGs have always had a do-it-yourself element to them, particularly where house rules and homebrewed content are concerned. So in that spirit, here’s my take on an expanded presentation of moon hag changelings, following the format in Blood of the Coven:

MOON-BORN CHANGELING (LUNAR MAY)

Willowy and pale-skinned, lunar mays are among the least outgoing of their kind. Suspicious and slow to trust, they’re unforgiving toward anything they regard as threats to themselves, often lashing out at perceived danger preemptively.

Moon-Born Changeling

Ancestry Moon hag (Planar Adventures 242)

Typical Alignment CN

Ability Modifiers +2 Wis, +2 Cha, -2 Con

Hag Racial Trait Moon-born changelings gain a +1 insight bonus to their AC but take a -2 penalty on Will saves. If a moon is visible, the bonus and penalty each increase by 1.

Cautious to the point of paranoia, anxiety is the hallmark of lunar mays. Considerations of potential hazards and worst-case scenarios come easily to them, and they’re frequently unable to ignore these persistent worries, to the point of dreaming up elaborate (and usually impractical) responses to imagined situations. Oftentimes, they’re driven to proactively neutralize that which frightens them, which can range from clandestine attempts at manipulation to outright murder.

While lunar mays are as likely as other changelings to be heterochromatic (i.e. each eye having a different color), many also suffer from subconjunctival hemorrhages, where blood fills their sclera, turning the white part of their eyes red. While harmless, this often happens during moments of peak fear, anger, or other emotional extremes, in some cases being so intense that the ocular bleeding overflows, causing them to cry tears of blood. Rarely, the hemorrhaging becomes permanent, leaving the lunar may with sclera that are perpetually reddened.

Between their persistent anxiety and the reactions that their ocular peculiarities provoke, most lunar mays grow up to be socially maladjusted. Many develop persecution complexes, and comfort themselves with fantasies about being exiled fey princesses, wayward daughters of deities, or reincarnations of ancient personages of power. For many, finding out the truth about their parentage is a source of more stress than their already-strained psyches can bear, leading to madness that serves to catalyze their transformation into moon hags.

AWAKENED HAG HERITAGE

You have a 10% chance of negating a critical hit or precision-based damage (such as a rogue’s sneak attack), taking normal damage instead. This stacks with similar abilities, such as armor with the fortification property.

Moon Hag Coven Powers

One additional bit of information that wasn’t present in the moon hag monster entry was what spells (or rather, spell-like abilities) they contributed when they joined a coven. This was something that had been present in previous entries for new hags, such as storm hags and winter hags, making its omission there slightly more egregious. As such, let’s go ahead and make an entry for them also, as per the list on page 13 of Blood of the Coven:

Moon Hag: confusionphantasmal revengeprimal regressionphobia.

Eclipse and Alternate Class Abilities for Pathfinder

July 7, 2020

The Pathfinder RPG is one that needs no introduction among fans of tabletop gaming.

Premiering in August of 2009, the first edition of the game ran for ten years before the second edition of was released. But while most everyone is familiar with both editions, it’s easy to forget that Pathfinder actually existed before either of those. Specifically, that for the first two years of its life, from 2007 to 2009, Pathfinder was a D&D 3.5 setting.

This is no mere technicality, either. For the first twenty-four months of its life, Pathfinder had a robust product catalogue of 3.5 materials. Four full Adventure Paths were released, as were quite few a player-themed supplements and campaign-focused books. Among the latter, there were actually two introductions to the world of Golarion, Pathfinder’s default campaign setting, those being the Pathfinder Chronicles Gazetteer and the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, both released in 2008.

Both books focused on providing a basic overview of the world in question. But while they put flavor text first and foremost, neither were devoid of game rules. Among these were alternate class abilities for each of the eleven core D&D classes, introducing a new option at the expense of an existing one. It’s those that we’re going to take a look at here.

Specifically, we’re going to analyze what’s gained and lost for each class in the context of Eclipse: The Codex Persona. Since d20 abilities are broken down into a point-buy context (as Character Points, or just CP) in the book, this makes it easy for us to determine the overall degree to which these alternate abilities are stronger or weaker than what they’re replacing. It helps that the book’s co-author has already broken down the eleven core classes into easy-to-follow progressions for us: barbarian, bard, and cleric; druid, fighter, and sorcerer; paladin and ranger; rogue and wizard; and monk.

So without further ado, let’s see what we’re looking at.

Barbarian

Cold Resistance (Ex): At 3rd level, a barbarian gains cold resistance 2. This resistance increases by 2 for every 3 additional levels the barbarian attains, for a total of cold resistance 12 at 18th level. […] which replaces the trap sense ability.

What They Give Up: +6 Danger Sense (an improvement to the Awareness ability) (-6 CP).

What They Gain: Damage Reduction 4, specialized and corrupted for triple effect/only versus cold damage (9 CP).

The barbarian gains a little more than they’re giving up, here. That’s not too surprising; cold is one of the more common energy types that gets thrown around, and traps are quite often a secondary consideration compared to monsters and other active threats. I suspect most players would be happy to pick this up and leave traps to the rogues.

Bard

Specialized Training (Ex): At 1st level, a bard must choose a single category of the Perform skill. Whenever the bard performs bardic music using the chosen category of the Perform skill, he is treated as being 2 levels higher when determining the effect and save DC. In addition, a bard with specialized training can make use of his bardic music one additional time per day, assuming that the additional usage uses his chosen category of the Perform skill. […] which replaces bardic knowledge.

What They Give Up: Lore/rumors and secrets (-6 CP).

What They Gain: Skill Emphasis, specialized for increased effect/only for calculating the DC of the relevant Mystic Artist effects (3 CP); 2d0 Hit Dice, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only to count as two levels higher for Mystic Artist abilities (3 CP).

Swapping out the classical “bardic lore” for increased ability with their bardic music, this ability eschews breadth for depth. That’s not unusual, as the d20 System tends to reward specialization, but the mechanics for bardic music have always been a bit of a mishmash, splitting their functionality between level and relevant skill rank.

Note that while the original text for this alternate ability says that the bard is treated as 2 levels higher for “determining the effect and save DC” of the relevant Perform skill’s uses of bardic music, as well as being able to use it +1 times per day, the Eclipse abilities we’ve purchased here are slightly better than that. Namely, since Mystic Artist can be used once per day per level, buying those 2d0 Hit Dice (no, that isn’t a typo; these are two zero-sized Hit Dice) and having them count as additional levels for purposes of Mystic Artist actually grants two additional uses per day, rather than one.

Cleric (Gazetteer)

Spontaneous Domain Casting (Su): A cleric who takes this ability only chooses one domain when selecting his first level of cleric. The cleric can swap prepared spells into domain spells from his chosen domain in addition to the normal spontaneous casting. The cleric can lose any spell that is not a prepared domain spell to cast any spell on his domain list of an equal or lower level. […] Taking this ability requires the cleric to choose only a single domain, instead of the normal two.

What They Give Up: Clerical “package deal” spellcasting (-200 CP).

What They Gain: Clerical “no package” spellcasting (160 CP), Domain (6 CP), one domain-relevant ability (typically 6 CP), Spell Conversion/healing or harming (6 CP), Specialist with the Improved and Superior modifiers/divine spellcasting (6 CP), Spell Conversion/domain spells (6 CP).

The cleric actually walks away from this deal with 10 CP unspent, compared to what they give up. A little bit of that is because we’re looking over the course of a full twenty-level progression; while the “package deal” clerical progression grants a lot of powers up front, buying them separately actually saves you Character Points over the long run, even if it’s only 4 CP by the time you hit 20th level.

The other 6 CP of savings comes from dropping a domain (i.e. its spells and ability) in favor of being able to spontaneously convert to your remaining domain’s spells. That strikes me as a bit redundant. You already have one spell slot per level set aside for domain spells (and now only one domain to fill them with), so how much will you really need to convert your other spells to those as well? Probably not often, which is why this trade-off leave CPs on the proverbial table.

While the Gazetteer and the Campaign Setting have the same alternate abilities listed for each class, the cleric is an exception. For whatever reason, it got a different alternate ability when the Campaign Setting was printed. Perhaps Paizo realized how redundant the above ability was?

Cleric (Campaign Setting)

Holy Warrior (Ex): A cleric with this ability is proficient with her deity’s favored weapon. In addition, her base attack bonus as a cleric equals her cleric level, and her cleric Hit Die becomes a d10. […] Taking the above ability requires a cleric to give up both of her domains, including her domain powers.

What They Give Up: Clerical “package deal” spellcasting (-200 CP).

What They Gain: Clerical “no package” spellcasting (160 CP), Spell Conversion/healing or harming (6 CP), +5 BAB (30 CP), d10 Hit Dice (Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for Hit Dice; 6 CP), proficiency with their deity’s favored weapon (one martial (3 CP) or exotic (6 CP) weapon proficiency).

As if to make up for how underwhelming the previous option was, this one makes the cleric into quite the powerhouse! While not egregiously overspending, it sacrifices both domains in exchange for larger Hit Dice, a 1:1 BAB progression, and an extra weapon proficiency. That last one isn’t strictly necessary; clerics are already proficient with all simple weapons, and plenty of gods have one of those as their favored weapon (for example, in Pathfinder Nethys’ favored weapon is the quarterstaff). But I suspect that players who want this particular option will invest in a deity with a better favored weapon anyway.

Druid

Mountain Stride (Ex): A druid with this ability can move through rocky terrain at her normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. Magically manipulated terrain, such as spike stones, affects her normally. […] This ability replaces woodland stride.

What They Give Up: Travel/forest (-3 CP).

What They Gain: Travel/mountains (3 CP).

This is one of the simplest exchanges among the varied class options, trading moving through non-magical undergrowth without penalty for moving through non-magical rocky terrain without penalty. It’s quite prosaic, serving to do little but detach druids from forests, and even then not all that much. Insofar as Eclipse goes, decisions like this are simply a normal part of choosing an ability like Travel.

Fighter

Class Skills: A fighter trained at a famous war college or fighting school gains the following class skills (in addition to the normal fighter class skills): Diplomacy (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Knowledge (architecture and engineering) (Int), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Knowledge (nobility and royalty) (Int), Sense Motive (Wis).

Skill Points at 1st Level: (4 + Int modifier) x 4.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int modifier.

[…] Taking this option replaces the bonus feat gained upon taking the first level of fighter.

What They Give Up: 1st level fighter bonus feat (-6 CP).

What They Gain: Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for skills (6 CP).

This is a fairly straightforward exchange, giving up a little martial ability in order to double their skill allotment. It technically came with several skills becoming class skills, but that’s free here. Eclipse doesn’t presume which skill list will be used, and has characters pick the skills that are relevant to their character’s theme (subject to GM approval, of course).

Monk

Bonus Feat: At 1st level, a monk may select either Improved Grapple or Point Blank Shot as a bonus feat. At 2nd level, she may select either Stunning Fist or Deflect Arrows as a bonus feat. At 6th level, she may select either Improved Trip or Rapid Fire as a bonus feat. A monk need not have any of the prerequisites normally required for these feats to select them. […] These monks choose from an alternative selection when selecting bonus feats.

What They Give Up: N/A.

What They Gain: N/A.

Of all the core classes, this is the only one for whom the alternate ability isn’t really an alternate at all. Rather, they simply pick from a different list of bonus feats at 1st, 2nd, and 6th level. Since Eclipse doesn’t mandate any such restrictions to begin with, there’s really nothing to be done here.

Paladin

Light of Purity (Su): Starting at 6th level, a paladin with this ability can emit a burst of blinding light once per week. This light acts like a daylight spell, save that it only lasts for 1 round per level of the paladin. In addition, any undead within 30 feet of the paladin emitting this light takes 1d6 points of damage per round for every two levels the paladin has attained. A Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 the paladin’s level + the paladin’s Cha modifier) halves this damage. A paladin may use the light of purity one additional time per week for every three additional levels he has attained, to a maximum of five times at 18th level. […] which replaces the remove disease ability gained at 6th level and all increases in that ability.

What They Give Up: Improved/remove disease modifier to the Healing Touch ability, specialized for one-half cost/must remain good-aligned and adhere to the paladin’s code (-3 CP).

What They Gain: Inherent Spell, variant/5 times per week rather than once per day, specialized for one-half cost/must remain good-aligned and adhere to the paladin’s code (3 CP).

The inherent spell in question functions as per daylight, except that it must be centered on the paladin, lasts for 1 round/level, and inflicts 1d6 points of damage per 2 levels to all undead in the area of effect each round (Fort save for half; DC 10 + 1/2 level + Cha. modifier).

While the numbers here match up in terms of cost, this is an area where the context is important. Disease tends to be little more than a mild debuff in most games, whereas undead are a popular creature type. While this ability doesn’t look like it deals too much damage, it can add up over time thanks to its duration (especially if the paladin is willing to use it multiple times in succession), to the point of vaporizing hordes of weaker undead. My recommendation would be to expressly call this positive energy damage, and subtract turn resistance from the damage dealt each round (and of course, defenses such as life ward, from the Spell Compendium, should protect against it as well).

Ranger

Enhanced Companion (Ex): Upon gaining an animal companion at 4th level, the ranger must choose a single type of animal. The ranger cannot call a different animal companion. The ranger’s effective druid level is equal to the ranger’s level –2 (instead of the normal 1/2) for that type of animal. This animal must be on the basic list of companions that can be chosen at 4th level and cannot be changed. […] This ability replaces the wild empathy ability.

What They Give Up: Lore/animals, specialized for one-half cost/only to understand how to get along with them (-3 CP).

What They Gain: Change the specialization on Companion from “companion bonuses progress as if the user was only half his or her level” to “may only select a single type of animal” (no cost), and add the following: “corrupted for two-thirds cost/companion bonuses progress at the user’s level -2) (-1 CP).

The ranger is another instance of a class for whom the new options are actually cheaper than the standard ones, albeit only barely so here. This might seem strange, as having a half-strength companion is a far greater restriction than one who functions at almost full power for your level. The issue is that not being able to procure a different type of companion should your existing one die or be dismissed can be extremely limiting. An extended underwater sojourn can have you leaving your companion behind for several sessions, for instance, and if you later want to upgrade to something like a dire animal or a dinosaur, you won’t be able to (though in Eclipse, you can always buy off this restriction if it becomes too onerous).

Rogue

Poison Master (Ex): At 3rd level, the rogue can use poison without any chance of poisoning himself. For every three levels of rogue beyond 3rd, the DC for any poison coated on the rogue’s weapons increases by +1 if the target is poisoned as part of a sneak attack. […] This ability replaces the trap sense ability.

What They Give Up: +6 Danger Sense (an improvement to the Awareness ability) (-6 CP).

What They Gain: Poison Use, specialized for one-half cost/does not include the ability to craft poison (3 CP); Ability Focus/all types of poison, specialized and corrupted for triple effect/only when delivered via weapon damage as part of a sneak attack (6 CP).

This alternate ability trades a passive defense against traps into an incentive to use poisons. Given how many creatures are immune to them outright, it’s questionable whether or not this succeeds. Still, pumping up the typically-low DCs that they have definitely helps, as does removing that small-but-irritating chance of poisoning yourself.

Note that the specialization on Poison Use means that the rogue has no particular ability to create their own poisons. Normally this ability would allow for them to be made via Alchemy (which was a 3.0 skill; the 3.5 version would be Craft (alchemy)). Without it, the rogue can only make their own poisons with Craft (poisonmaking) according to Complete Adventurer. Similarly, the original write-up for this ability tops out at adding +5 to the DC of poison delivered via a sneak attack; here the total bonus is +6.

Sorcerer

Hidden Reserve (Su): Starting at 1st level, a sorcerer with this ability can call upon a hidden reserve of magical energy to cast additional spells. This reserve can be used to cast any spell the sorcerer could normally cast, but the sorcerer is fatigued after the spell is completed. If this spell is of the highest level that the sorcerer could normally cast, the sorcerer is exhausted instead. This ability cannot be used while fatigued or exhausted. It can be used a number of times per day equal to the sorcerer’s Charisma bonus. […] This ability replaces the summon familiar ability.

What They Give Up: The familiar gained from Companion (-6 CP).

What They Gain: 16 levels of wilder progression with no caster levels, variant/taken as generic spell levels instead, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no powers gained, specialized for one-half cost/causes fatigue after each use (exhaustion if used for your highest-level spells), cannot be used when fatigued or exhausted, may only be used a number of times per day equal to your Charisma modifier (16 CP).

Of all the alternate powers listed for these classes, this one is by far the most egregious. For one thing, its scope is wildly variable; allowing a sorcerer to cast any spell that they normally could a number of times per day equal to their Charisma bonus could mean three extra spell levels (e.g. three 1st-level spells for a 1st-level sorcerer with a 17 Charisma) or it could mean one hundred seventeen extra spell levels (e.g. thirteen 9th-level spells for a 20th-level sorcerer with a 36 Charisma). The variability is staggering for what it offers!

Trying to soft-lock this with fatigue and exhaustion effects is a meaningless restriction. A wand of lesser restoration costs a mere 4,500 gp, and if you find one crafted by paladins (who can cast lesser restoration as a 1st-level spell), then that price drops to only 750 gp. That might be annoying to use in the middle of a fight, but for outside of combat this is a major power-boost.

Having said all of that, making this is Eclipse is fairly easily done, as shown above. Sixteen levels of the wilder progression grants 221 power points, and dividing that by 1.8 (as outlined on page 12 of Eclipse) gives us 122 generic spell levels, slightly more than the 117 we outlined for a sorcerer who has pumped their Charisma into the mid-30s.

Wizard

Arcane Duelist (Su): Wizards with this ability are specially trained to push their spells when needed to gain the up-per hand. When pushing a spell, the wizard can choose one of the three following effects: increase a spell’s DC by +1, add +2 to the level check to overcome spell resistance, or add a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls made with the spell. A wizard can use this ability a number of times per day equal to his Intelligence bonus. Using this ability is a swift action. […] which replaces the Scribe Scroll feat gained at 1st level.

What They Give Up: Spell Storing (-6 CP).

What They Gain: Hysteria/magic, specialized and corrupted for increased effect/may be utilized for free a number of times per day equal to the user’s Intelligence bonus, may only grant a +1 to a spell’s DC, a +2 bonus to a spell’s attack roll, or a +2 bonus to overcome spell resistance (6 CP).

Far more restrained than their sorcerous counterpart, the wizard’s alternate ability is actually more modest than it appears. While they’ll likely get quite a few uses out of it once they begin heightening their Intelligence scores, this is limited purely to spells that directly affect enemies. It can’t be used to increase durations, improve buffs, augment defenses, etc. Given how many wizard builds focus on out-of-combat utility spells, this is nicely balanced for what it offers.

Ponyfinder: Everglow Ephemera

October 26, 2019

2019 has been, so far, a year of endings.

In August, the Pathfinder RPG was replaced with a new edition. While Pathfinder 2E is still based on the d20 System, its particulars are different enough that it’s not compatible with its predecessor. You can’t bring elements of D&D 3.0, 3.5, or Pathfinder 1E into a Pathfinder 2E game with just a little on-the-fly conversion the way you could in those games. Indeed, those three systems were essentially the same game, with only some minor differences. As there doesn’t seem to be anyone stepping up to continue the tradition, it looks like the baseline d20 System of RPGs, which were released back in 2000, has finally come to an end.

The other notable ending we’ve seen this year has been that of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Having premiered on October 10, 2010, the series finale aired on October 12th of this year. Even its spin-off series, Equestria Girls, which premiered after the third season of the main show, is airing its final production on November 2nd. While I only joined the show’s fandom near the end of its fourth season, it’s still sad to see a series that I enjoyed so much concluding.

To that end, this post is an homage to both Pathfinder 1E and Friendship is Magic. Since I prefer to post things that an be put to practical use, I’ve decided that the best way to do that is for the closest point of intersection between the two: the Ponyfinder campaign setting.

As such, enjoy these three write-ups that add new Ponyfinder options to the Pathfinder 1E game.

EVERGLOW HALF-DRAGONS

From the Everglow Bestiary, rift dragons (not to be confused with the creatures of the same name from Pathfinder Bestiary 6), while creatures drawn to ruptures between the Elemental Planes, are also described as not-unapproachable in disposition. As such, it makes sense that even they might sire offspring among Everglow’s myriad races. But the Bestiary has no entry for half-rift dragons, something the rules below correct.

Half-rift dragons use the half-dragon template with the following modifications:

Special Defenses: Half-rift dragons do not gain an energy immunity. Instead, they have the following energy resistances: acid 5, cold 5, electricity 5, fire 5.

Special Abilities: Half-rift dragons gain a breath weapon. This breath weapon is usable once per day, but only if the half-rift dragon has spent at least 1 minute (i.e. 10 consecutive rounds) inside an area charged with elemental energy in the last 24 hours. The breath weapon deals energy damage of the same type as the area of elemental energy that the half-dragon was in, inflicting 1d6 hit points of damage per racial Hit Die possessed by the half-rift dragon. The breath weapon takes the form of a 30-foot cone. It otherwise functions as the standard breath weapon in the half-dragon template.

An area charged with elemental energy is considered to be any area that deals lethal damage with an energy type as part of its natural environment (note that the half-rift dragon does not need to take damage to charge its breath weapon). These includes places of extreme cold (below –20° F) or extreme heat (air temperature over 140° F), planes with elemental traits (while planes with the fire-dominant trait are obvious for what energy type they allow to be used, treat those with the air-dominant trait as being electricity, those with the earth-dominant trait as being acid, and those with the water-dominant trait as being cold), and rifts with elemental qualities (as described in The Care and Handling of Rifts). Note that a half-rift dragon does not need to take damage from such an area in order to charge its breath weapon. If the half-rift dragon spends 1 minute or more in more than one such area in a 24-hour period, its breath weapon uses the energy type of the most recent one that they were in. If the area contained two or more elemental energies, the half-rift dragon may choose which energy type to use for their breath weapon.

In contrast to rift dragons, luminous dragons (from Princess Luminace’s Guide to the Pony Pantheon) lack the genetic primacy of other types of dragons (as indicated by their Subdued Ancestry racial trait). Children of luminous dragons do not use the half-dragon template. Instead, scions of luminous dragons use the Luminous Bodied and/or Luminous Blooded qualities from Hybrid Blood.

PANTHEISTIC/POLYTHEISTIC BLESSING

While each of the gods of Everglow have worshipers who revere them alone, strong traditions of collective worship pervade many of that world’s societies. More than a few clerics operate as pantheists, while others worship triadic groupings of gods. Even among those who don’t become divine spellcasters, this often holds true.

For those who formalize this by taking the Pantheistic Blessing or Polytheistic Blessing feats, the following present specific benefits for the pantheons of Everglow. As outlined in those feats’ descriptions, an asterisk (*) after a deity’s name indicates the head of the pantheon.

PONY PANTHEON (RACIAL)
Deities The Author, Blaze, Gentle Ripple, Kara/The Hive Queen, Lashtada, Moon Princess, Princess Luminace, Soft Whisper, Sun Queen*, Night Mare, The Unspoken
Common Believers ponies
Granted Spell-Like Ability sticky hoof (Ponyfinder Campaign Setting)

GRIFFON PANTHEON (RACIAL)
Deities Huntress, The Sun King*, White Talon
Common Believers griffons, purrsians, sun cats
Granted Spell-Like Ability heightened awareness (ACG)

ELVEN PANTHEON (RACIAL)
Deities Bristala, Gladoneral*
Common Believers elves
Granted Spell-Like Ability command

APOCRYPHAL SUBDOMAINS

For those who worship an individual god, the manner in which their deity is honored can often drift from their religion’s standard practices. In some cases this can lead to a divergence significant enough to warrant becoming a separatist cleric. But in other cases the doctrinal differences aren’t so great, focusing only on particular details without rejecting larger tenets. For such characters, the Acolyte of the Apocrypha trait allows for an atypical subdomain to be taken for their deity.

The following lists the apocryphal subdomains for the gods of Everglow (these also fit with the altered domains offered by the Moon Princess, Sun Queen, and Unspoken in the Ashen Age, as described in From the Ashes). As per that trait, an asterisk (*) indicates a domain which that deity normally doesn’t offer; such domains may be taken only as modified by the listed subdomain.

Blood (War domain)
Blaze, Huntress

Chivalry (Glory domain)
Lashtada, Gladoneral

Corruption (Evil domain)
Kara/The Hive Queen

Divine (Magic domain)
Princess Luminace

Flotsam (Water domain)
Gentle Ripple

Industry (Artifice domain)
The Maze

Judgment (Law domain)
Moon Princess, Night Mare

Loss (Darkness domain)
Soft Whisper

Martyr (Nobility domain)
Sun King, Sun Queen

Revelry (Chaos domain)
Bristala, The Unspoken

Riot (Chaos domain)
Apep, Blaze

Self-Realization (Strength domain)
Night Mare, White Talon

Solitude (Protection domain)
Emerald, Moon Princess

Truth (Madness domain)
The Author*, The Unspoken

 

The Coin King

July 13, 2019

When he was recruited, Kin Kanemaru was no different than any other orphan taken in by the Kurorenge, the local assassin’s guild. He initially seemed like a poor fit, having only a slight aptitude for magic, and no real skill at social manipulation. But he was able to distinguish himself with his quick reflexes and extraordinarily fine motor control, proving to be skilled at juggling, mundane prestidigitation, and most important of all, thrown weapons.

Placed under the tutelage of several senior assassins who skilled at killing from a distance, Kin was indoctrinated into their ranks. Their profession, he was told, was a noble one, for they purged society of the wicked and corrupt. But after accompanying his mentors on several missions, Kin began to see the truth. While evil men were often their targets, they weren’t the only ones that the Kurorenge killed. Guards who were merely doing their duty in protecting targeted individuals were also ruthlessly dispatched, as were innocent bystanders who had the misfortune to witness an assassination.

Worst of all, however, was that the Kurorenge never targeted anyone without being paid for it. When he found out that not only were corrupt individuals allowed to go free due to nobody paying for their deaths, but that some of the worst actually kept the Kurorenge on retainer to make rivals and troublemakers disappear, Kin at last realized the truth. The Kurorenge themselves were complicit in society’s corruption, being more interested in money than justice.

Offended by the Kurorenge’s hypocrisy, Kin has now broken from the guild. Although he knows that they’ll send his old mentors after him, his commitment to justice is greater than his fear of them. Putting his small skill with magic to use, he plans on using the money that his old masters loved so much as an instrument of righteousness, performed under the guise of his new name: Kin Koukao, the King of Coins!

Kin Kanemaru aka Kin Koukao the Coin King, level 1 coin sniper

Available Character Points: 48 (level 1 base) + 6 (level 1 feat) +6 (“starting traits”) + 6 (human bonus feat) +10 (disadvantages) +1 (restriction) = 77 CP.

Disadvantages are Hunted (the Kurorenge’s assassins), Poor Reputation (politicians, nobles, merchants, and others with ties to the Kurorenge all know that Kin has been marked for death, and will not risk being seen as aiding him) and Recorder (the player running Kin has to make sure to keep a VERY accurate accounting of his coinage). His restriction is against using weapons other than thrown coins.

Ability Scores (20-point buy): Str 10, Dex 16 (+2 racial, +2 enhancement = 20), Con 12, Int 14, Wis 11, Cha 12.

As this point-buy allotment makes clear, Kin uses the Pathfinder Package Deal.

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).

Kin’s favored class bonus for 1st level went into buying an extra skill point. As noted above, he elected to put his racial bonus into Dexterity.

Basic Abilities (21 CP)

  • Light armor proficiency and proficiency with all simple weapons (6 CP).
  • 1d10 Hit Dice (6 CP).
  • +1 BAB, specialized for one-half cost/only for ranged attacks (3 CP).
  • Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +0 (6 CP).
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

Kin has slightly overbought on his weapon proficiencies, a legacy of his assassin training emphasizing adaptability in the face of unexpected circumstances. His Hit Dice are commensurate for a dedicated ranged attacker, however, as is his BAB. His saves are based on the Rogue progression, and he’s eschewed directly purchasing skill points in favor of more efficient methods (see below).

Coin Combatant (17 CP)

  • Innate Enchantment (all caster level 1; x2,000 gp unlimited use/use-activated unless otherwise noted) (6 CP).
    • Coin shot (2,000 gp)
    • True strike 3/day (1,200 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Dexterity (x0.7 personal-only; 1,400 gp)
  • Block/missile with the Master and Multiple upgrades, specialized for one-half cost/only with thrown coins (9 CP).
  • Equipage, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for copper coins (2 CP).

Kin’s ability to use coin shot at will is the core of his character. Thanks to his Equipage ability, he’ll be able to acquire two hundred copper coins per character level per week, enough to ensure that even at 1st level he’ll probably never run out of ammunition. Additionally, he can (potentially) shoot down incoming ranged attacks, and thrice per day can make virtually whatever shot he needs to.

Superior Coin Combatant (17 CP)

  • Skill Focus +1/Martial Arts (zenigata ryu) (2 CP).
  • 1d6 Mana (4 total), Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, all specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/no natural magic, only to pay for skill stunts (6 CP).
  • Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for skills, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not be used to re-roll a failed check (3 CP).

Kin is able to Take 20 up to three times per day on any skill check, something he makes liberal use of in conjunction with his ability to perform skill stunts with his Zenigata Ryu martial art, since his bonus is high enough to automatically achieve a result of 30. While he can make a skill stunt without using Luck, he typically only does so for lower-level stunts (DCs 10 and 15). Likewise, he can use Luck on skills other than this, and isn’t adverse to doing so if the situation calls for it (e.g. an important Stealth check).

Ranged Combat Expert (8 CP)

  • Far Shot, specialized for one-half cost/only for thrown coins (3 CP).
  • Immunity to penalties for firing into melee (common/minor/minor), specialized for one-half cost/only with thrown coins (2 CP).
  • Evasive/throwing weapons, specialized for one-half cost/only with thrown coins (3 CP).

Kin’s Far Shot means that his coin attacks are treated at touch attacks against enemies up to 40 feet away. Similarly, he has no trouble firing into melee, or even getting into it himself (something he’s not afraid of doing at this level, thanks to his high AC and his ability to make sneak attacks via his martial art skill).

Autodidactic (14 CP)

  • Change human Fast Learner from half-cost to double effect/specialized in skills, corrupted for two-thirds total cost/only for Adept skills (1 CP).
  • Adept/Martial Arts (zenigata ryu), Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth (6 CP).
  • Immunity to needing a mentor to learn a martial art skill (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws (6 CP).

Despite being self-taught, Kin is able to use his Dexterity bonus to its fullest with his martial art. His use of Luck, here, helps to deal with Fortitude and Will saves that his low bonuses would otherwise leave him dangerously vulnerable to.

Gear

  • Leather armor.
  • Thieves’ tools.
  • 5 pp, 15 gp, 30 sp, and 200 cp.

The above gear has a total value of 110 gp. On average, that’s less than what a fighter or rogue would get, but not so much that it presents any sort of significant difficulties. More importantly, he’s starting out with a rather decent selection of ammunition.

Derived Stats

  • Hit Dice: 10 (1st level) + 1 (Con bonus) = 11 hp.
  • Speed: 30 feet.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +0 (base) +1 (Con bonus) = +1.
    • Reflex: +2 (base) +5 (Dex bonus) = +7.
    • Will: +0 (base) +0 (Wis bonus) = +0.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +2 (leather armor) +5 (Dex bonus) +1 (zenigata ryu) = AC 18, touch 11, flat-footed 13.
  • Attacks: +1 (BAB) +5 (Dex Bonus) +1 (zenigata ryu) = +7 thrown coins.
  • Skills: 2 (Fast Learner; applied to four Adept skills) +2 (Int bonus) +1 (“favored class” bonus) = 5 skill points.
Skill Ranks Class Bonus Ability Modifier Miscellaneous Total
Disable Device 1 +3 +5 Dex +9
Knowledge (local) 1 +3 +2 Int +6
Martial Arts (zenigata ryu) 1 +3 +5 Dex +1 Skill Focus +10
Perception 1 +3 +0 Wis +4
Perform (juggling) 1 +3 +1 Cha +5
Sleight of Hand 1 +3 +5 Dex +9
Stealth 1 +3 +5 Dex +9

Kin’s Perform skill allows him to, when in a prosperous city, Take 10 and earn 1d10 silver pieces, supplementing his Equipage’s supply of copper pieces nicely. He also typically uses Sleight of Hand to keep several coins secreted on his person (which are so small that he gains a +4 bonus on his check to do so) instead of in his money-pouch, just as a precaution.

In addition to what’s listed above, Kin should have another half-dozen or so class skills. He also knows two additional languages besides Common thanks to his Intelligence.

Zenigata Ryu (Dex)

This esoteric martial art focuses on throwing coins with deadly precision. Patterned off of various “gun fu” styles of fighting, its practitioners tend to be self-taught more often than not. The result is that this school has been independently developed numerous times over the ages, typically with minor variations each time.

  • Requires: ability to use coin shot or similar power.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defenses 2, Strike, Synergy (Sleight of Hand).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Blinding Strike, Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack 2.
  • Occult Techniques: Focused Blow, Inner Strength, Overburden, Touch Strike.
  • Known: Attack 1, Defenses 1, Strike, Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack 1.

Thanks to his ranks in Zenigata Ryu, Kin’s coin attacks may deal lethal or nonlethal damage at will, can be used to make a grand total of up to six attacks of opportunity a round (even if only two of them can be used to block ranged attacks), and adds +1d6 damage as appropriate for sneak attacks.

Further Development

Currently, Kin is a fairly good ranged attacker, particularly at short ranges where he can hit for touch attacks and bring his sneak attack damage to bear. Between his Armor Class, ability to potentially block up to two ranged attacks against him each round, and Luck on his saving throws, Kin has fairly potent defenses as well. Even his hit points are decent for this level.

As he gains more experience, Kin will need to expand on what his coin attacks can bring to bear. Taking Empowerment, specialized in his Innate Enchantments, will be vital so that the coin shot spell will keep its damage output up. Likewise, he’ll want to take Imbuement so that his coin attacks can overcome damage reduction as per magic weapons, and add some magic properties to them. He should probably find a way to bump up his hit points, AC, and Fort and Will save values too, just to be safe.

Beyond that, some additional magic would be useful, probably along the lines of something relatively cheap that offers decent versatility. Witchcraft or Mystic Artist (for his Perform skill) would be good avenues to explore. At some point he’ll definitely want to bump up equipage so that he can start receiving more valuable coins as well.

Of course, he’ll still want to keep some copper coins around, placing them over his dead enemies’ eyes so that they can pay for their journey to the underworld.

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) +2 enhancement 17 (+3)
Charisma 7 (-4) 7 (-2)

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

Basic Abilities (70 CP)

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

Flawed Arcanism (93 CP)

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

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

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

Manipulate the Imperfect Power (42 CP)

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

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

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

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

Intuitive Aptitude for Magic (26 CP)

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

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

Liberotempus

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

The wearer of Liberotempus gains the following abilities:

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

Fruits of Lesser Experiments (23 CP)

  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only versus magical effects (4 CP).
  • Empowerment, specialized for increased effect/wands only, no use-per-day limit (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (13,200 gp; 14 CP)
    • Shield (2,000 gp)
    • Mage armor (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Dex (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Con (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Int (1,400 gp)
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Wis (1,400 gp)
    • +3 competence bonus to Intelligence-based skills (1,400 gp)
    • Immortal vigor I (1,400 gp)
    • Shield of faith (1,400 gp)

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

Potential for Greatness (6 CP)

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

Nascent King (3 CP)

  • Privilege/king (3 CP).

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

The Painful Price (2 CP)

  • Body Fuel, specialized for one-half cost/only for physical ability scores, corrupted for one-third cost/ability damage cannot be translated into XP loss via limited wish or stronger magic (2 CP).

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

The Lure of Corruption (14 CP)

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

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

Use the Old Magic (6 CP)

  • Occult Ritual (6 CP).

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

One with the Nightmares (9 CP)

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

Emptiness

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

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

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

Rebellious Fragment of the Mind (28 CP)

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

Strength Borne of Fear (28 CP)

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

Just A Shadow (38 CP)

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

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

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

Gear

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

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

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

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

The Horn of King Sombra (3-CP relic)

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

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

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

Severance (major artifact)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 10 (d10; 1st level) + 12 (immortal vigor; 1st level) + 20 (8d4) + 33 (Con bonus) = 75 hp.
  • Speed: 40 ft.
  • Alignment: Lawful Neutral.
  • Power: 12 (basic witchcraft) +17 (wilder levels) +11 (wilder levels (relic)) = 40 PSPs.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +3 (base) +3 (Con bonus) +3 resistance (cloak) +3 profane (aura of darkness) = +12.
    • Ref: +6 (base) +1 (Dex bonus) +3 resistance (cloak) +3 profane (aura of darkness) = +13.
    • Will: +6 (base) +3 (Wis bonus) +3 resistance (cloak) +3 profane (aura of darkness) = +15.
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +1 (Dex bonus) +4 armor (mage armor) +4 shield (shield) +2 natural (amulet) +3 deflection (shield of faith) +3 profane (ward of darkness) +4 martial art = 31, touch 23, flat-footed 30.
  • Damage Reduction: 1/– DR (martial art).
  • Attacks: +9 (BAB) +6 (weapon bonus) +0 (Str bonus) = +15/+15 Severance (2d6+6 plus 2d6 nonlethal/19-20/x4).
  • Ranged attacks: +4 (BAB) +1 (Dex bonus) = +5 ranged.
  • Combat Maneuver Bonus: +4 (BAB) +0 (Str) = +4 CMB (+12 to trip with Severance).
  • Combat Maneuver Defense: 10 (base) +9 (Hit Dice; Defensive Combat Training) +0 (Str) +1 (Dex) +2 (amulet) +3 (shield of faith) +3 (ward of darkness) +4 (martial art) = 32 CMD (38 vs. trip with Severance).
  • Skills: 54 skill points (Int bonus), plus 9 skill points (“favored class” bonus), plus 18 skill points (Fast Learner; only for Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (planes), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device at half cost each).
Skills Ranks Ability Modifier Class Bonus Misc. Modifier Total
Acrobatics 3 +1 Dex +4
Bluff 0 -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -5
Craft (alchemy) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Craft (precepts) 6 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +18
Diplomacy 0 -2 Cha -3 disadvantage -5
Foresight 5 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +17
Governance 5 +6 Int +3 +3 competence, +3 Skill Focus +20
Intimidate 8 -2 Cha +3 +9
Knowledge (arcana) 9 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +21
Knowledge (geography) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Knowledge (history) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Knowledge (local) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Knowledge (nobility) 3 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +15
Knowledge (planes) 9 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +21
Linguistics 4 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +16
Martial Arts (umbral glyph) 6 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +18 (corrupted for +27)
Perception 4 +3 Wis +7
Profession (jeweler) 3 +3 Wis +3 +9
Sense Motive 0 +3 Wis -3 disadvantage +0
Spellcraft 9 +6 Int +3 +3 competence +21
Swim 4 +0 Str +4
Use Magic Device 9 +6 Int +3 +3 competence, +1 Skill Focus +22

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

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

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

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

Umbral Glyph (Int)

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

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

Further Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Abilities (153 CP)

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

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

Spellcasting (328 CP)

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

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

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

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

Special Abilities (50 CP)

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

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

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

Iliana Unleashed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corona of Life (40 CP)

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

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

Enchantress Nonpareil (14 CP)

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

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

Veteran Campaigner (9 CP)

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

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

Founder of the Empire (27 CP)

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

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

Iliana’s Sanctum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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