Posts Tagged ‘Pathfinder’

(3.5/PF1) Rings, Bling, and Other Things

February 4, 2023

Insofar as the d20 System goes, magic rings are perhaps one of the most obtrusive aspects of the game’s restrictions on how many magic items a PC can use.

That’s because it’s an area where the “body slot” system stops being intuitive. We don’t question the idea that a character can only wear one pair of boots, for example, nor that they can only have on one hat at a time. But rings? Most PCs have ten fingers, not to mention ten toes, two ears, a nose, etc. So why just two rings, beyond the idea of one for each hand (or less than that, if you’re playing a four-armed race)?

Part of it is a legacy restriction. In both 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D, PCs could only use two magic rings, and they had to not only be worn on the hands, but on opposite hands. Another part is that the restriction dovetails with the formalized limits that the body slot system imposes in exchange for the game rules making magic items easier for PCs to buy or make for themselves. And of course, being limited to only two rings makes it easier to record them on your character sheet.

Even so, it’s worth reviewing what the d20 System game rules actually say in this regard, to make sure that we’re assuming is in fact the case. So let’s perform a quick overview.

In the Magic Items On the Body section of the 3.5 SRD specifically says:

One ring on each hand (or two rings on one hand)

That parenthetical note is already more permissive than what the AD&D rules allowed for! Likewise, the section on Magic Rings specifically calls out what happens if you try to put on more than this:

A character can only effectively wear two magic rings. A third magic ring doesn’t work if the wearer is already wearing two magic rings.

Interestingly, while the Pathfinder 1E SRD maintains the word-for-word restriction about a third ring not working, its section on Magic Items on the Body is much more permissive than in 3.5:

Ring (up to two): rings.

This seems to indicate that you don’t need to wear magic rings on your fingers in Pathfinder 1E. However, contrast this with the first sentence under the Using Items section of the PF1 SRD:

To use a magic item, it must be activated, although sometimes activation simply means putting a ring on your finger.

Given that this seems like an example (“although sometimes”), you could argue that it’s not making a declarative statement that magic rings need to be worn on your fingers in Pathfinder. Clearly, that particular caveat being lifted from 3.5 and earlier versions of the game will need a GM ruling at each table, but it’s interesting to consider that Pathfinder is less restrictive in that regard.

Still, it keeps the single largest limitation, which has been there since the beginning: that a character use no more than two magic rings at a time.

Of course, as is typical of the d20 System, there are ways around even the most ironclad of restrictions.

For 3.5, the Extra Rings feat in the Eberron Campaign Setting allowed you to wear up to four magic rings at a time (specifying two on each hand). The hand of glory essentially lets you use your neck slot to wear another ring, along with using two minor spells once per day each, and a ten-ring sword is much the same. The meridian belt lets you wear four rings at once, but still only lets you benefit from two at a time, switching between which two are active as a swift action each round (notice that this Pathfinder item also includes the presumption that rings can normally only be worn on your hands). If you’re an epic-level 3.5 character, the Additional Magic Item Space feat will let you wear another ring, and can be taken multiple times.

Of course, there are other ways to gain the effect of multiple rings at once. For instance, you can take advantage of the rules for Adding New Abilities to an existing item to imbue a single ring with the power of multiple rings (the SRD even uses two magic rings as examples). Since rings normally take up a body slot, this means that all of the powers such a ring has (except the single most expensive) have a x1.5 multiplier to their base cost, so this can get expensive in a hurry (though the Magic Item Compendium has a list of “common item effects” which don’t have their costs increased when added to a body slot-using item in this way; Pathfinder technically doesn’t use this rule, though it’s worth considering as a house rule).

But if you’d prefer to actually wear multiple rings, instead of creating a single ring with multiple abilities, there’s one other alternative:

Double the ring’s price to remove its body slot limitation.

In both 3.5 and Pathfinder, the table for Estimating Magic Item Gold Piece Values notes that an item which normally takes up a body slot costs double the GP value if that limitation is removed. Presuming that you can treat this as an improvement that can be made after the item has been created (which seems entirely reasonable), this means that you can upgrade any magic ring to remove its body slot dependency…and so can wear as many as you want (and, for that matter, such a ring can be worn anywhere on your body).

This opens up a lot of possibilities, especially for magic rings whose base price is relatively cheap. An “unslotted” ring of feather falling, for instance, costs only 4,400 gp. In some cases, this is price is comparable to simply imbuing a “slotted” ring with another ring’s powers.

For example, the wizard Morios currently has three magic rings in his possession: a ring of invisibility (20,000 gp), a ring of mind shielding (8,000 gp), and a ring of feather falling (2,200 gp). He can’t use three rings at once, so he decides to sell the ring of feather falling, netting 1,100 gp for it as per the rule that magic items sell for one-half their market price. Not wanting to lose the effect even though the ring is gone, he then decides to add the functionality of a ring of feather falling to his ring of mind shielding.

Since the ring of feather falling is the less-expensive item, adding its power to his ring of mind shielding entails a x1.5 cost multiplier to the former’s price; since Morios doesn’t have the Forge Ring feat, he has to get someone else to do it, and so needs to pay 3,300 gp. Since he earned 1,100 gp from selling the ring of feather falling, adding that power to his ring of mind shielding has a net out-of-pocket cost of 2,200 gp…exactly what he would have paid if he’d wanted to make his ring of feather falling slotless by doubling its base price.

Presuming you have the money to spend, there’s no reason you can’t pay to “unslot” enough magic rings to the point where you can wear ten at once!

An interesting tangent from this is that magic items whose standard presentation presumes that they have no body slot – notwithstanding those that are held (e.g. magic weapons and shields, rod, staves, and wands) or are consumable (e.g. potions and scrolls) – can presumably have slotted versions created; these would have half the market price of the original (just don’t try this with magic armor; no GM would let you wear two suits of full plate!). Note that such an item needs to be made this way during its creation; the rules for improving magic items don’t let you introduce flaws or limitations that lower the cost of a completed item.

For instance, consider the following:


An ajna is an ioun stone which magically adheres to the user’s forehead rather than orbiting them. While worn, an ajna takes up a slot as per a headband. Attaching or removing an ajna is a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity. Removing an ajna from an unwilling character is the same as stealing an item in combat (they’re considered to be “fastened” to a character due to the adhering magic). Ajnas are otherwise the same as ioun stones, having AC 24, 10 hit points, and hardness 5, with a market price equal to one-half an ioun stone of the same type. An ajna may be cracked or flawed, but cannot be used in conjunction with a wayfinder.

An example ajna is presented below, formatted for Pathfinder:

Ajna, Dark Blue Rhomboid

Aura strong varied; CL 12th; Slot headband; Price 5,000 gp; Weight ––


This stone grants the wearer the effects of the Alertness feat.

Cracked: This stone grants a +1 competence bonus on Perception and Sense Motive checks. Price: 200 gp.

Flawed: This stone grants a +2 competence bonus on Perception checks and a –1 penalty to initiative checks. Price: 150 gp.


Feats Craft Wondrous Item; Special creator must be 12th level; Cost 2,500 gp.

(3.5/PF1) Playing a Utility Mage, Introduction and Part I: Spell Categories

November 28, 2022

My current campaign, where I’m playing a magic-hating slayer (a PF1 class) with the witch killer archetype, is moving toward its conclusion. As a result, I’ve started to think about my next character, with a wizard being an appealing prospect. To that end, here are some general thoughts I’ve had on how to get the most out of a wizard PC who has an out-of-combat focus.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that character classes lend themselves to certain roles. While various builds, alternate class features, and Pathfinder-style archetypes can tweak what each class does best, the base versions have particular areas of focus where they tend to be most effective. For wizards, one such area is what I call “utility magic.”

To be sure, their broad selection of spells allows for wizards to fulfill a wide variety of specialties. Blaster mages, battlefield controllers, summoners, and many more are areas where wizards can excel, or at least serve as above-average practitioners (even if several of those areas have their own specialty classes with a tighter focus). But utility magic is an area where wizards truly shine.

But rather than jump the wand, let’s start off with a simple definition of exactly what utility magic – or rather, a “utility mage” – is:

A utility mage is a wizard who primarily uses their spells to solve out-of-combat problems that the party faces.

Now, that’s a fairly broad and unnuanced statement, and so requires clarification. For one thing, this doesn’t mean that a utility mage has no part to play when combat breaks out. They absolutely do! But it’s not their specialty, which means that they’re not going to be an unstoppable force of destruction on the battlefield. Taking huge chunks out of an enemy’s hit points is something best left to fighters, rogues, sorcerers, and similar classes; utility mages do their part, but they truly shine when the problem facing the group is one that can’t simply be cut down.

With that said, let’s take a look at how a utility mage can best prepare their spells for the challenges they’ll face.


Before we talk about how a utility mage should prepare their spells, it should be stressed that what’s below are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. If you have a good idea of what your party will be facing in the near future, make sure to keep that in mind when readying your magical loadout for the day, adjusting the recommendations below as necessary. Flexibility is a utility mage’s greatest assets, so be sure to use it maximum effect when you know what you’ll be up against ahead of time.

Taking that into account, here are a few categories for how you should ready your spells each day:

Spells to Prepare: It’s self-evident that the spells you’ll want to actually prepare in your available spell slots are the ones you think there’s a high likelihood of needing to cast sometime over the next day. But you only have so many slots, which means getting the most you can out of the spells you’ve readied.

To that end, one of the most salient factors worth considering is the duration of a particular spell. Mage armor is an excellent choice here, because its hour-per-level duration means that once you have a few levels under your belt, it’s practically guaranteed to last for an entire adventuring day. Shield, by contrast, is much less likely to last as long as you need.

As a rule of thumb, any spell with a duration of 10 minutes per level should be considered here (taking into account the usefulness of the spell in question; if you’re adventuring in a temperate climate during the summer months, an endure elements spell won’t be very helpful, even if it does last for a long time). False life, resist energy, see invisibility; all are excellent choices that have the potential to last through the active part of an adventuring day, especially if you happen to have an Extend Spell metamagic rod handy.

There’s a second category of spells that you’ll also want to consider preparing here, but based on casting time rather than duration. Specifically, any spell which requires an immediate action to cast is something you’ll want to prepare, simply because there’s no other way to cast them in a timely manner. Feather fall, along with spells such as avoid planar effects (3.5), emergency force sphere (PF1), liberating command (PF1), or nerveskitter (3.5) are all spells you can’t put to their fullest use if you need to spend a move action drawing a scroll. Dedicate a spell slot to them so that you won’t wish you had later.

Spells to Leave a Slot Open For: A quirk of the d20 rules is that, if a preparatory spellcaster chooses to leave a spell slot open when preparing their spells for the day, they can fill it with a particular spell after fifteen minutes of study. You’ll want to take advantage of this for when an unexpected situation happens that requires a spell you haven’t prepped.

The general guideline here is to leave a single slot open at each spell level; if that’s too much, leave open a slot of the highest spell level you can cast, and one at every other level below that (remember, you can prepare a spell in a higher-level slot). That way, if it turns out that you need control water or stone shape, you can prepare them without having to wait an entire day.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with waiting an entire day if the party is in no rush. It won’t be that often that you’ll have fifteen minutes free to prepare a spell, but won’t be able to wait until tomorrow’s round of spell preparation. Even so, there are times when losing a day might make a difference; if the enemy army marches out the next morning, you won’t be able to wait a day to send an arcane eye into the commander’s tent to look over their plans.

While spells with niche effects are the go-to for this particular category, note that spells with long casting times also fit this designation very well. If you have ten minutes free to cast sending, then an extra fifteen minutes to prepare it usually won’t make that much of a difference. Ditto for fire trap, hallucinatory terrain, and major creation, among other spells.

Spells to Put in a Scroll: You know how wizards get Scribe Scroll for free? There’s a reason for that! Even if you trade that free feat away via an archetype or alternate class feature, make sure to take it via a feat slot as soon as you can; it’s that important!

Remember those niche spells we said probably weren’t worth preparing in a slot ahead of time? This is where they go! Something like water breathing doesn’t seem worth preparing at all when you’re about to venture down into a dungeon. But when the back room of the place turns out to open into a cavern with an underground lake, and some tentacled horror lurking in the water grabs the paladin and pulls him under, all of a sudden it’s one of the most important spells in your arsenal…and you can bet that he’s not going to be able to wait fifteen minutes for you to prep it in an open slot.

That’s really the perfect example for this category, because it encompasses spells which won’t be necessary ninety-nine percent of the time, but when they are needed, they’re needed right now! When your fighter fails his save against a medusa’s petrifying gaze, you need him back in the fight immediately, which is when it’s time to break out that scroll of stone to flesh you’ve been carrying around. The same can be said for using that scroll of remove curse you’ve been saving (since the cleric doesn’t usually prepare that spell) when the aboleth you’re fighting dominates the party’s barbarian.

That combination – immediacy and eccentric effect – is also why you shouldn’t bother putting spells with unusually short or notably long casting times on scrolls. The former (as noted previously) aren’t useful if you need to spend an action retrieving a scroll, while the latter can just be prepped into an open slot (since you already have the free time to cast them). That doesn’t even take into account that the PF1 rules specify that activating a scroll takes a standard action or the spell’s full casting time, whichever is longer, to boot. Since each scroll is a monetary investment on your part, make sure you’re putting your gp where it’ll do the most good.

Spells to Cast from a Wand or Staff: Remember that bit about a utility mage having a role to play in combat, even if it wasn’t where they excelled? This is what that was in reference to.

As exciting as it can be to imagine busting out a little-known spell that turns things around, there are going to be times when a fight is just a matter of wearing down the bad guys’ hit points before they wear down yours. To that end, you’ll want one or two good attack spells, an equal number of defensive spells, and a buff spell or two (all 4th-level or below), all of which will be your go-to magic for when a fight breaks out. Those are what you’ll want to go into wands, or ideally a staff.

If that sounds boring, remember that these are your fallback options for when there’s nothing else you can do to contribute. Solving out-of-combat problems is important, but when a fight does break out, you don’t want to be the guy sitting there doing nothing because he prepped for all sorts of unusual contingencies but has nothing to do in a straightforward battle. Better a staff/small group of wands than using a sling or a light crossbow.

This might seem like a less-than-ideal proposition, given that wands tend to have poor caster levels and worse save DCs. A wand of fireball, for instance, is caster level 5; that means it only deals 5d6 damage, which is 17 points on average, and 8 if the bad guys make their Reflex saves…which they likely will, since the save DC is only 14.

The thing to remember here is that’s what “not being optimized for combat” looks like. Reliably dealing a small amount of damage each round, ideally to multiple enemies at once, is a respectable role to play, even if it’s not one that warrants the spotlight. If you do want to stand out a little more, however, consider asking the GM if you can pay to improve a wand’s caster level (as per the “adding new abilities” clause for creating magic items). The difference in cost of upgrading a CL 5 wand of fireball to, for instance, a CL 10 wand of fireball is easy to calculate (it simply doubles the price from 11,250 gp to 22,500 gp), and while that won’t change the save DC, it ups the damage dice and helps to deal with spell resistance. If you can’t upgrade an existing wand, then make sure your next one is built that way to begin with.

A final note with regard to wands with attack spells: you’ll want to have at least two, just in case you run into an enemy who’s immune to one damage type. You can’t hurt devils with a wand of fireball, for instance, so you’ll want to have a wand of lightning bolt just in case.

For defensive and buffing wands, you’ll either want to choose spells that are personal-only (such as shield) or affect multiple creatures (such as haste). Spells which can be cast on others, but only affect one person per casting (such as cat’s grace), are likely to be depleted in very short order if everyone wants those used on them before every fight. While wands are made to be used, burning through them faster than you can fund buying/making new ones is something you want to avoid. Even for spells with long durations (such as protection from energy), you’ll still expend a number of charges equal to the entire party at the beginning of the adventuring day, which can add up faster than you might think; better to prepare those long-duration spells in your slots, even if you need to do so multiple times over.

One trick that help with a defensive/buffing wand’s lifespan is to buy or make them with the Extend Spell metamagic feat built-in. That this can be done is established in Pathfinder via riffle scrolls (which are just normal scrolls whose spells have been modified by Silent Spell), and there shouldn’t be a problem with it in 3.5 either. Using Extend Spell in this way is often a money-saver.

For instance, a typical wand of haste is 11,250 gp, since its construction cost is 5 (caster level) x 3 (spell level) x 750 gp. A wand of extended haste (CL 7 x spell level 4 x 750 gp) is 21,000 gp. And yet the latter lasts for 14 rounds compare to the former’s 5, being almost triple the duration for less than double the price. It also affects seven characters instead of five, in case you have a larger party. For more savings, ask if the GM will let you upgrade a former into the latter (though you’ll either need to have taken Extend Spell or have a metamagic rod for that).

Now, the advantage of a staff is that you can combine all of these functions into one (if you’re worried about the theme of the staff, just say that it’s “battle”). Doing so has numerous advantages, the largest of which is that it saves on money. Consider the following example (for 3.5):

Morios, a utility mage, has a CL10 wand of fireball (22,500 gp), a CL 10 wand of lightning bolt (22,500 gp), a CL 7 wand of extended haste (21,000 gp), and a CL 3 wand of extended shield (4,500 gp). His total expenditures add up to 70,500 gp. Even if he crafts all of those himself, halving the prices, that’s still expensive! To cut down on costs, Morios decides to commission the crafting of a custom staff that has all of those spells.

Because staves can’t be crafted with a caster level of less than 8 (and there’s no reason to go higher, since they always function at their wielder’s caster level), and because Morios doesn’t want to have to expend two charges for any particular function, the costs are as follows:

  • The extended haste (being a 4th-level effect) costs 12,000 gp (caster level x spell level x 375 gp).
  • The next-highest effect can be either of the 3rd-level spells, so fireball is arbitrarily chosen, costing 6,750 gp (caster level x spell level x 281.25 gp).
  • The remaining 3rd-level spell, lightning bolt, only costs 4,500 gp (caster level x spell level x 187.5 gp).
  • The final spell effect, a 2nd-level extended shield, costs 3,000 gp (caster level x spell level x 187.5 gp).

That comes out to a grand total of 26,250 gp, barely more than the cost of his single most-expensive wand! Throw in that there’s no more wasting actions drawing and switching between wands, and that his staff will automatically use his caster level and ability score modifier to save DCs, and this is a much better option all around…or is it?

One thing to keep in mind here is that, as attractive as staves are, they have some hidden drawbacks. The big one being that you’re now drawing on a communal pool of charges for your spells. Before, Morios’s four wands had two hundred charges between them, with an average cost of 352.5 gp per charge. For his staff, he’s paying 525 gp per charge. Whether or not that’s worthwhile is a toss-up (you can’t assign a gp value to saving actions switching between wands, nor the ability to use your own caster level and ability score modifier for save DCs), but purely in terms of cost it’s a net loss, particularly since the charges will run out that much sooner.

And it’s worse for PF1-style staves. Their cost to create is higher, albeit only barely (the example staff listed above would cost 28,000 gp to purchase in PF1), but while their ability to be perpetually recharged for no monetary expenditure means that you save gp in the long run, their miniscule pool of only ten charges – and inability to regain more than one charge per day – means that you’ll expend them almost immediately if you use them as your go-to in battle, and then be stuck waiting for days to fully recharge them.

If you’re playing Pathfinder 1st edition, and want to follow these guidelines for playing a utility mage, it’s probably better to eschew staves altogether in favor of wands.

Next time: Spells are a utility mage’s bread and butter, but they don’t get all that many for free, so we’ll look at various methods of spell acquisition.

Tweaking the Improved Familiar feat for Pathfinder 1E

January 25, 2022

The Improved Familiar feat is almost a microcosm of the evolution of d20 System options across its most notable RPGs.

In D&D 3.0, the feat didn’t exist under the Core Rules, premiering in the Tome and Blood supplement. D&D 3.5 saw it added to the Player’s Handbook (as well as the SRD), and while it had a few expansions here and there (such as in Dragon #331, which allowed a PC to take the feat and gain an additional ability in exchange for keeping their existing familiar), Pathfinder 1E made its expanded list of improved familiars Open Game Content (just like the rest of the system), making its options much easier to collate.

One thing that’s worth noting, however, is that the Improved Familiar feat doesn’t always require you to take a new familiar in place of your old one. It’s entirely possible for you to take a standard familiar with a template (originally that was only celestial or fiendish, but more possibilities were added over time). While that can be a different creature altogether, there’s no reason to think that this can’t be the same familiar you’ve had up until now, imbued with planar energies that “upgrade” it to a planar being.

Taking that idea further, why not allow for the Improved Familiar feat to augment your familiar in other ways as well? Likewise, why do those template require such strict alignments on behalf of the familiar’s master? It makes sense that you need to be good-aligned to have a familiar with the celestial template, but limiting it to Neutral Good feels too restrictive. Clearly, some tweaking is needed.

To that end, here are my suggestions for alternative options (in addition to simply selecting a more powerful creature) for what Improved Familiar can do:

Upon taking the Improved Familiar feat, if you are at least 3rd level or higher in the class that grants a familiar, you may apply one of the following templates to it (with your alignment requirements as noted):

Advanced, aerial, aqueous, celestial (any good), counterpoised (any neutral), cthonic, dark, entropic (any chaotic), fey-touched, fiendish (any evil), fiery, giant, primordial, resolute (any lawful).

Any abilities which are dependent on Hit Dice use either the familiar’s Hit Dice, or your levels in the class that grants you a familiar, whichever is higher.

Special: If you have a subtype corresponding to a particular template noted above (e.g. the Good subtype for the celestial template, the Aquatic or Water subtype for the aqueous template, etc.), have a familiar, and have at least 3 or more Hit Dice, you receive Improved Familiar as a bonus feat, but only to grant the corresponding template. If you have more than one subtype, you may pick which corresponding template to apply to your familiar; once made, this choice cannot be changed.

At the GM’s option, a template with a Challenge Rating adjustment of +1 or less other than the ones above may be granted to your familiar upon taking this feat.

This allows for a much greater degree of customization, along with a greater range of who can select the various aligned templates for their familiar. Likewise, the special notation allows for characters from alien realms to have a templated familiar without costing them a feat (since otherwise it would be odd to consider, for instance, an efreeti wizard might have to carefully protect a non-elemental familiar on the Plane of Fire until he could earn another feat slot). We’ve also left the possibility open for a different template to be applied if there’s one that’s not on this list but would otherwise be appropriate.

Hopefully this makes your familiar feel a little more new.

Changes, Tweaks, and Other House Rules

November 13, 2021

One of the primary features of tabletop RPG games is that they’re inherently “hackable.” While house rules predate RPGs by a very long time – just look at various twists people have come up with for Monopoly, or even simple poker for that matter – the expansive (and quite often rules-heavy) nature of role-playing games means that there’s a greater variety of areas where players can alter things to better suit their tastes. While I’m sure there are some tables out there which keep everything by-the-book standard, my guess is that they’re in the minority by far.

To that end, here are five house rules (albeit comparatively modest ones) that my current group has introduced for our Pathfinder 1E campaign.

#1: Multiplying damage on a critical hit

We’d instituted this house rule before we even knew it was a house rule. You see, if you look at the various weapon tables, you’ll see that under the “Critical” column, they all have a multiplier listed; either x2, x3, or rarely, x4. So we took those literally, deciding that upon a successful critical hit, you totaled your damage (minus sources that used their own dice, such as sneak attack) and multiplied them by the listed amount. So if you dealt 12 damage with your greataxe on a critical, you inflicted 36 points of damage on an enemy. Seems obvious, right?

Except, as it turns out, that’s not how it works.

If you read the actual text regarding critical hits, it says “A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together.” While it describes that as being a “multiplier” in the very next sentence, this is clearly a form of shorthand, much like the x2, x3 and x4 notations in the weapon tables’ Critical columns. So confirming a critical with a greataxe means rolling that d12 three times, adding your damage bonuses to each roll, and then totaling them up.

Given how this adds extra rolls to the process, slowing things down (e.g. the person playing the greataxe-wielding character probably doesn’t have 3d12 on hand in case of a critical), we weren’t too keen on it. There was also the fact that the official method made criticals less exciting. Once a critical hit is confirmed, the possibility of rolling the maximum value on the die is one that makes us all hold our breaths; that possibility is distinctly minimized when multiple dice are rolled, and the decrease in tension is one we were all very keenly aware of. For those reasons, we decided to keep doing it the way we had been, and we’ve yet to look back.

#2: Draw anything when moving (even just 5 feet)

The clause about drawing a weapon as a free action while moving (albeit only if you have at least a +1 Base Attack Bonus, which all martial characters had as of 1st level, and everyone else did after that) is one that we all found fairly easy to keep in mind from the get-go.

What we tended to overlook, however, was that this only worked with regard to a “regular move.” While not rigorously clarified, that phrase probably means “taking a move action to actually move” across the battlemat, as opposed to charging, running, or taking a 5-foot step. But my group overlooked this fairly early on, and so it quickly became a regular feature where we’d draw weapons while doing any of those things.

But while that was an unintentional reinterpretation of the rule on our part, we were far more deliberate about expanding what could be drawn beyond weapons. Simply put, the fact that you could draw a weapon – any kind of weapon, from a dagger sized for a halfling to a greataxe larger than your half-orc barbarian – as a free action while moving, but not any other kind of item, damaged our sense of verisimilitude. Was a wand really that much harder to draw than a shortsword? Is a potion more difficult to manipulate than a whip?

Ultimately, we couldn’t countenance such an artificial distinction, particularly when it was so punishing with regard to the game’s action economy. So now, moving any distance for any reason (unless the movement is involuntary, such as if you’re being bull rushed), allows you to draw an item kept on your person.

#3: No more Heighten Spell feat

Heighten Spell is a feat that we’ve done away with completely in our game. The reason for doing so isn’t because we don’t care for what it does, but because what it does shouldn’t be locked behind a feat to begin with. If you’re casting a spell via a slot that’s higher than the spell’s actual level, you’re already taking a drawback (since there are presumably spells appropriate to the slot being expended that would be more powerful/useful). So allowing for the spell’s DC to be adjusted according to the new slot, without requiring a feat to make that happen, seems like the least that can be done.

There are several other reasons for this change, most of which are comparatively minor in scope, but collectively make for a compelling point. For instance, Heighten Spell is a metamagic feat, which means that whenever a spontaneous spellcaster uses it to cast a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action now has to take a full-round action, punishing them further. It’s not like they can avoid this with a magic item either, since there is no metamagic rod of Heighten Spell. And of course, having the spell function as per the slot used to cast it without requiring Heighten Spell makes it a little easier to get through a globe of invulnerability, keeping spellcasters a little more relevant when that spell comes into play.

#4: Activating (most) magic weapon properties is a free action

If you take a look at the “Activation” entry in the overview for magic weapons, you’ll see that those weapons with properties that need to be deliberately initiated (as opposed to providing a passive bonus of some sort) require a standard action on their wielder’s part to do so.

This is far, far too high of a cost under the game’s action economy.

Since you only get one standard action in a combat round, and making a single attack is itself a standard action, this means you’re essentially losing an attack in order to activate your weapon’s flaming property. And if your weapon has the shock property in addition to being flaming, you’re now using TWO standard actions – essentially, giving up two combat rounds – in order to get the benefit of both properties. And if you’re dual-wielding a pair of flaming shock weapons, well…you might as well not even bother entering combat.

The above is why we’ve house ruled all such weapons to need only a free action to activate or deactivate. Doing so stops punishing characters for choosing particular properties (and also eliminates instances of people leaving their weapon properties active in perpetuity, claiming that just because they’re magic they won’t set anything on fire when put in a sheathe or laid down across a bedroll; I really hate that entire idea).

That said, this rule isn’t completely universal. If a weapon property grants the weapon the ability to act on its own (such as dancing weapons), then activating it still requires a standard action, since otherwise it’s essentially granting the wielder an extra action when invoked, as opposed to not wasting the single action they would otherwise have put to better use.

#5: Certain magical properties don’t cost extra when added to existing magic items

This one’s a little arcane (pun intended), so bear with me.

If you recall the 3.5 Magic Item Compendium, you might remember that there was a small-but-significant adjustment to the rules for creating magic items at the end of the book’s sixth chapter. While written in a fairly discursive manner, it dealt with the little-known rule for adding new abilities to extant magic items, quietly eliminating the x1.5 multiplier for certain “common effects.”

Most (but not all) of these effects were related to the “Big Six” of magic items; specifically, there was no longer a cost multiplier associated with adding armor, deflection, or natural armor bonuses to AC, resistance bonuses to saving throws, enhancement bonuses to ability scores, or energy resistance onto an existing magic item. This freed up a few thousand gp here and there for PCs to be able to afford magic items that were less mechanically helpful but were far more evocative in what they did. (From a narrative standpoint, I like to think that these effects simply “take” to being built into items easier than others, and that explains why they don’t cost as much to add into existing magic items.)

Unfortunately, coming so late in the life-cycle of 3.5, this rule never got added to the SRD, and so was never incorporated into Pathfinder 1E. But since it’s so easy to institute, we had no trouble implementing it anyway, and found that it helped to diversify our magic items in a way that the MiC’s designers no doubt hoped.

What house rules have you added to your tabletop RPG campaigns? Sound off in the comments below!

Variations on a Theme

October 6, 2021

One of the more notable aspects of the d20 System (i.e. D&D 3.X and Pathfinder 1E) is how much magic item creation is not only formularized, but put into the hands of the PCs.

Earlier editions still allowed PCs to make magic items, of course, but the process was not only much more arduous in terms of what was required, but the actual ingredients involved were left up to the GM to determine. So if you wanted to create a wand of fire, the GM would come up with whatever list of fire-themed materials they felt was appropriate, at which point it was then up to the PCs to track down, purchase, steal, or otherwise acquire the necessary components, at which point the spellcaster(s) would need to undergo the lengthy process of constructing the item they wanted. And even then, there was no guarantee that it would turn out precisely the way they’d envisioned.

In the d20 System, once you take the relevant item creation feats, it’s simply a matter of expending the necessary time and money (and XP in D&D 3.X), along with an (easily-passed) skill check or two. In fact, in Pathfinder you don’t even need the prerequisite spells to make (most) magic items, simply raising the skill DC for each one missing instead! Doing so allows characters to not only tailor their gear to an unprecedented degree, but also allows for potentially unlimited variations on a theme.

To that end, here are a few variant magic items that take advantage of this flexibility to fill a few gaps among the magic items found in the Core Rules.


Aura moderate transmutation; CL 8th

Slot wrists; Price 25,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.


These wristbands function as greater bracers of archery, but with crossbows (including wrist launchers, but not ballista or other siege weapons) instead of bows.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, crafter must be proficient with a crossbow; Cost 12,500 gp


Aura faint transmutation; CL 4th

Slot wrists; Price 5,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.


These wristbands function as lesser bracers of archery, but with crossbows (including wrist launchers, but not ballista or other siege weapons) instead of bows.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, crafter must be proficient with a crossbow; Cost 2,500 gp


Aura moderate transmutation; CL 8th

Slot wrists; Price 25,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.


These wristbands function as greater bracers of archery, but with firearms (not including cannons or other siege weapons) instead of bows.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, crafter must be proficient with firearms; Cost 12,500 gp


Aura faint transmutation; CL 4th

Slot wrists; Price 5,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.


These wristbands function as lesser bracers of archery, but with firearms (not including cannons or other siege weapons) instead of bows.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, crafter must be proficient with firearms; Cost 2,500 gp

Given that bows are already the optimal ranged weapons in most games, there’s no reason why a magic item that makes them even more potent can’t be reskinned in service to less-common choices of distance-fighting weaponry.


Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th

Slot none; Price 250 gp; Weight ––


Imbibing this liquid grants the drinker an uncanny knack for scaling difficult surfaces (+10 competence bonus on Climb checks for 1 hour).


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, spider climb; Cost 125 gp

Given that there are elixirs that provide an hour-long +10 competence bonus for all of the other physical skills, such as Acrobatics, Perception, Stealth, and Swim, this one rounds out the gap in coverage.


Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th

Slot hands; Price 4,500 gp; Weight ––


These leather gloves grant the wearer a +3 competence bonus on Dexterity-based checks. Both gloves must be worn for the magic to be effective.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, cat’s grace; Cost 2,250 gp

This is essentially a circlet of persuasion, except keyed to a different ability score and set in a different body slot. The choice of Dexterity for this item was because of the number of skills that ability affects, which (under the Pathfinder rules) is seven: Acrobatics, Disable Device, Escape Artist, Fly, Ride, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth. Charisma affects the same number – Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Perform, and Use Magic Device – so long as you count Perform as only being one skill.


Aura moderate conjuration; CL 9th

Slot none; Price 6,000 gp; Weight 20 lbs.


This backpack functions as per a handy haversack, save that its side pouches each have the storage capacity of a minor bag of holding and the central portion can hold as much as a type I bag of holding. Regardless of how much is stored in it, the backpack only ever weighs 20 pounds.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, secret chest; Cost 3,000 gp

The benefit of a handy haversack isn’t that you can retrieve items faster than you could from a bag of holding (which is more spacious in what it can contain), but that it allows you to do so without drawing an attack of opportunity. Given how that’s far more important to most players than staying under their encumbrance limit (when they pay attention to that limit at all), it’s something of a surprise that improved haversacks like the one above aren’t more common.


Aura faint enchantment; CL 5th

Slot none; Price 3,200 gp; Weight 1 lb.


This small rectangular block of sweet-smelling incense is visually indistinguishable from nonmagical incense until lit. When it is burned, the special fragrance and pearly hued smoke of this special incense are recognizable by anyone making a DC 15 Spellcraft check.

When a divine spellcaster lights a block of incense of reflection and then spends 8 hours praying and meditating nearby, the incense enables him to either prepare all his spells (if a preparatory spellcaster), or use each of his spell slots (if a spontaneous spellcaster), as though affected by the Empower Spell feat. However, all the spells prepared in this way are at their normal level, not at two levels higher (as with the regular metamagic feat).

Divine spellcasters who are able to use other types of spellcasting do not gain any benefit for their non-divine spells from incense of reflection.

Each block of incense burns for 8 hours, and the effects persist for 24 hours.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell, bless; Cost 1,600 gp.

A scaled-back version of incense of meditation, this item has some additional text added to cover gaps and ambiguities that the original item doesn’t address, such as spontaneous divine casters and multiclass characters.


Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th

Slot none; Price 250 gp; Weight ––


This gummy substance is a deep red in color, and can be applied to a weapon as a standard action. It gives the weapon the properties of cold iron for 1 hour, replacing the properties of any other special material it might have. One vial coats a single melee weapon or 20 units of ammunition.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item; Cost 125 gp

While various types of weapon blanch have become the go-to for most groups that need a quick way to overcome material-based damage reduction, silversheen remains viable, despite being more expensive, thanks to its longer duration. As such, there’s no real reason why there couldn’t be a cold iron version as well (whereas an adamantine version could potentially bring up issues of bypassing the hardness of other objects).

These are just a few potential variants; even overlooking the possibility of completely original items (or simply combining the properties of various items), there are many more possibilities. A horn of law/chaos really isn’t that different from a horn of goodness/evil. Neither is a cube of heat resistance much of a change from a cube of frost resistance. Or scale up your boots of teleportation to boots of greater teleportation.

When it comes to magic, there’s no reason to stick to the standard stuff.

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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).


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).


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.


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 in 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.


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.


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.


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.

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)

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

Deities Bristala, Gladoneral*
Common Believers elves
Granted Spell-Like Ability command


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.


  • 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.