Posts Tagged ‘Pathfinder’

Penning the Umbra Witch

November 3, 2014
Bayonetta

She could make watching paint dry seem suggestive.

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

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

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

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

Bayonetta, 16th-level Umbra Witch

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

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

Ability Scores (25-point buy):

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

Human Traits

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

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

Basic Abilities (171 CP)

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

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

Killer Queen of Combat (76 CP)

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

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

Harsh Mistress (42 CP)

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

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

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

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

Wicked Weave (27 CP)

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

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

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

Witch Time (18 CP)

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

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

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

Beautiful Mind, Incredible Body (45 CP)

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

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

Such a Talented Girl (16 CP)

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

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

Myriad Secrets of the Lesser Darkness (57 CP)

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

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

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

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

Secrets of the Deeper Darkness (18 CP)

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

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

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

Underworld Connections (8 CP)

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

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

Give Mummy Some Sugar (6 CP)

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

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

Do It Like Animals (12 CP)

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

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

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

  • Action Hero/Stunts (6 CP).

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

Catch a Glimpse (0 CP)

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

Of course, this ability had to be here.

Deals with the Devil (-24 CP)

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

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

Combat Gear

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

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

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

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

Derived Stats

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

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

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

Witch-fu (Str)

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

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

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

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

A Level One Rarity

June 7, 2014

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

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

Rarity

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

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

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

Rarity, level 1 unicorn pony

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

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

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

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

Unicorn Pony Traits

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

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

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

Basic Abilities (44 CP)

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

Soul of Generosity

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

Upwardly Mobile

  • Contacts x3 (3 CP).

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

Minor Spellcaster (7 CP)

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

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

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

Derived Stats

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

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

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

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

Pathfinder Rarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intuitive Insight (12 CP)

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

Superlative Seamstress (9 CP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race-ing Ponies

May 31, 2014

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

Earth Ponies (20 CP/+0 ECL race)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pegasus Ponies (26 CP/+0 ECL race)

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

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

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

CLOUD WALK

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

Components V, S, DF

Range touch

Targets one touched creature/level

Duration 1 hour/level (D)

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

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

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

Unicorn Ponies (30 CP/+0 ECL race)

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

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

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

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

A Few Rules of Hoof

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pathfinder Ponies

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

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

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

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

Harmonizing the Elements

May 25, 2014

So about two months ago, I became a brony.

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

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

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

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

A Pony of a Different Color

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

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

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

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

The Sixth Element

The Elements of Harmony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celestia Uses the Elements

Early concept art for the second Death Star.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statistical Harmony

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

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

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

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

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

Now that’s what I call harmony.

Pyrrhic Victory

October 26, 2013

If you enjoy video games alongside your tabletop ones, then chances are you’ve heard the name Monty Oum. A high school dropout who taught himself computer animation, Monty became an internet sensation with his fan-film Haloid, before proceeding to top himself with the Dead Fantasy series (currently standing at five parts, an extended preview for the sixth part, and two music videos).

Moving through some jobs in the video game industry that the public display of his works had gotten him, Monty eventually made his way to the machinima studio Rooster Teeth, where he worked on the last few seasons of Red vs. Blue. Following the conclusion of that series’ tenth season, Monty became a leading figure in the conception and production of the studio’s new series, RWBY.

Of all of the series Monty has worked on, I’ve so far found RWBY to be the easiest to get into. His fan-films presume that the viewer has some knowledge about the video game series they’re based on (or at least, they’re more enjoyable if you have such knowledge), and by the time I found out about Red vs. Blue, it was already several seasons along, which made the idea of watching it feel like a bigger commitment than I was willing to make. I also wasn’t entirely sure if it was based on the Halo series of video games or not – it isn’t, as it turns out – which I haven’t played.

RWBY, by contrast, is very clearly an original work, and is still (at the time of this writing) in its first season. Given that, and the relative brevity of each episode, it’s very easy to get into – the entire series can, at this point, be watched in a little over an hour, without knowing anything about it beforehand.

Given that I’m enjoying RWBY, and that I’ve been on a kick of providing d20 stats for various characters using the excellent guide for class-less character-building that is Eclipse: The Codex Persona (as well as its sister book for spells and magic items, The Practical Enchanter), I thought it would be fun to stat up one of the characters from the series. Here are the results of that (also, thanks to the people behind the series’ unofficial wiki, which was very helpful in reviewing various aspects of the show).

RWBackground

Pyrrha_cleavage

She’s a professional warrior. She’s can kick my butt easily. I will not stare at her cleavage…

Set on the world of Vytal, the humans of RWBY live under threat from monstrous, soulless versions of normal animals, known as the creatures of Grimm. While the opening narration states that humans were able to save themselves from extinction at the claws and fangs of the Grimm due to the power of Dust – a crystalline substance that, particularly in powder form, contains mystical energies – the more prominent power in the show (thus far) is that of peoples’ auras.

As explained in the sixth episode, auras – the manifestation of the soul – strengthen and empower people, allowing them to achieve superhuman feats of strength, speed, and endurance. Auras can also manifest a Semblance, an elemental affinity that’s unique to each person.

World Law

Only creatures with a soul may have levels in psionic progressions. Typically, this means only creatures with the Animal or Humanoid types.

Vytal Human Racial Traits (15 CP)

  • Humans get to pick which attribute enjoys the Pathfinder Template bonus – buying off a Corruption worth (4 CP).
  • Bonus Feat (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in skills for one-half cost (3 CP).
  • 1 level of wilder progression/corrupted for two-thirds cost, provides Power only (2 CP). Each individual chooses their own key mental stat.
  • Eldritch (0 CP).
  • Unity (6 CP).
  • Disadvantages: Hunted (by the creatures of Grimm) and Accursed (Power cannot be used until it is “unlocked” – this typically requires someone else with unlocked Power to make physical contact and spend Power equal to half of your total Power) (-6 CP).

Here, we’re equating “aura” with “Power,” that is, power points (aka psionic power points), and as such only creatures with a soul can use it, which we’re told are only humans (and, presumably, the human-like Faunus) and animals, but not the creatures of Grimm (which seem like creatures of the Magical Beast type). Hence, every human starts off with at least a little Power.

Since Semblances are presumably also aura abilities, that means that they use Power. This is slightly awkward, however, as Semblances seem like what Eclipse calls rune magic – that is, comparatively low-powered abilities (compared to typical d20 magic) with a single elemental theme. Since rune magic normally requires mana, we’re giving humans the Unity trait to allow them to use it with Power instead. The visually distinct display they give is covered by the Eldritch ability.

Finally, while the Hunted disadvantage is self-explanatory, the Accursed disadvantage requires a bit more explanation. As we’re shown in the sixth episode, a person who wants to use their aura needs to have it “unlocked” first, which is apparently done by someone else with an unlocked aura. Given that this is a one-time drawback that can be overcome with comparative ease, it doesn’t really seem like it qualifies as a disadvantage.

The flipside to this is that this isn’t really giving Vytal humans any benefits – saving an extra 3 CP on their racial CP total doesn’t change much when they’re nowhere near the 31 CP cutoff limit for a +0 ECL race anyway. Between that, and that this explains why ordinary mooks – like the ones Ruby trashes in the first episode – don’t have aura powers, we’ll let this slide.

Pyrrha_rifle

…crap, I stared.

As humanity has created large cities where they can live in relative peace and security, most people aren’t concerned with going through the lengthy process of learning how to weaponize their aura in this way. A few, however, elect to dedicate their lives to hunting the creatures of Grimm on behalf of the rest of humanity. These people are known as Huntsmen and Huntresses. Their profession is treated similar to most other vocations, in that it requires several years of schooling.

The series’ focus is on several girls who, having finished combat school, have been accepted to a prestigious academy to become Huntresses. One of which is…

Pyrrha Nikos, 7th-level Huntress-in-training

A new student at the Beacon Academy for Hunters, Pyrrha is already a strong warrior, having graduated from the Sanctum school of combat at the top of her class, as well as holding four consecutive victories in the Mistral regional fighting tournament. Blunt and straightforward, Pyrrha is also kindhearted and unassuming. This makes her one of the more level-headed members of the cast in general, and her team in particular.

Available Character Points: 192 (level 7 base) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (starting traits) + 24 (levels 1, 3, 5, and 7 feats) = 228 CP.

Pyrrha is, as the traits for Vytal Humans, above, hinted at, using the Pathfinder Package Deal. As an extension of that, she also receives 6 CP at each odd level, as per the Pathfinder feat progression. Likewise, she receives 6 CP at character creation for her “starting traits.”

Ability Scores (25-point buy): Str 18, Con 17, Dex 14, Int 14, Wis 13, Cha 14. Added +2 human racial bonus to Strength. Added +1 from Improved Self-Development at 4th level to Constitution. +2 enhancement bonus to Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity.

Given the semi-supernatural aspects of the setting, the high-energy combat sequences, and that series by Monty Oum tend to increase these things as they progress, using the “epic fantasy” point-buy value for Pyrrha’s ability scores seemed appropriate.

Basic Abilities (92 CP)

  • Light armor (3 CP), Shield proficiency (3 CP), all simple weapons (3 CP), and “Pyrrha’s weapons” (longsword, javelin, rifle, and shield bash) (3 CP).
  • 1d12 Hit Die at 1st level (8 CP) and 6d4 Hit Dice thereafter (0 CP).
  • +6 Warcraft (36 CP).
  • +5 Fort, +5 Ref, +2 Will (36 CP).
  • 0 skill points (0 CP).

I’m cutting a few corners here. By forgoing buying up her Hit Dice after 1st level, as well as ignoring skill points altogether, in favor of using other abilities (see below) to increase her hit points and skill points, I can squeeze a few more CPs’ worth of special abilities into her build, and make her stats better represent what we see in the show without needing to bump up her overall level.

I’m also cheating slightly with regard to her weapon proficiencies. Eclipse notes that you can buy “limited sets” of martial or exotic weapon proficiencies depending on how limited they are. In this case, the “set” consists of those weapons Pyrrha already uses, which makes it somewhat tautological – they’re defined as a set because she uses them, and she can use them because they’re defined as a set. That said, this is somewhat expected when making stats for a preexisting character.

Aura (73 CP)

  • 6 caster levels/specialized for one-half cost, wilder progression only (18 CP).
  • 6 levels wilder progression (18 CP) (vigor, force screen, concussion blast, detect hostile intention).
  • 5 additional powers known (15 CP) (psionic true strike, catfall, offensive prescience, psionic jump, Perception mastery I – TPE p. 14).
  • Innate Enchantment (psionic variant) – CL 1st, 8,000 GP value, 9 CP/corrupted for two-thirds cost, innate enchantments cease to function if Power drops to 0, and lesser vitality diversion cannot otherwise be shut off (6 CP).
    • lesser vitality diversion (LV 1, may divert hit point damage to power points, at a 1:1 ratio, up to a maximum of 3 points; 1,400 GP for personal-only version),
    • enhance attribute (Strength) I (+2 enhancement bonus to Strength; 1,400 GP),
    • enhance attribute (Constitution) I (+2 enhancement bonus to Constitution; 1,400 GP),
    • enhance attribute (Dexterity) I (+2 enhancement bonus to Dexterity; 1,400 GP),
    • hide like ox (natural armor bonus of +1 plus 1/6 caster levels above 1st; 1,400 GP),
    • shield of faith (deflection bonus of +2 plus caster level/6; 1,400 GP).
  • Doubled Damage, only when attacking unattended inanimate objects/corrupted for two-thirds cost, ceases to function if Power drops to 0 (4 CP).
  • Imbuement (armor variant) with the Improved and Superior modifiers/corrupted for two-thirds cost, ceases to function if Power drops to 0 (12 CP).

Here is where we start getting into the nitty-gritty of what a person’s aura can do. The psionic powers specified are meant to cover all of the “basic” powers that Pyrrha talks about in the sixth episode, as well as approximate the ones we see demonstrated. Likewise, the innate enchantments are also set to be functions that a person’s aura performs more-or-less constantly, so long as their aura hasn’t been entirely depleted, as is her ability to imbue her armor with greater defensive properties (something that’s necessary, given her comparatively low Armor Class).

Her having Doubled Damage is to represent how she can knock aside grown trees – that alone may not be enough to quite approximate the necessary level of damage, but that’s the sort of thing that Stunts are meant to cover (see below).

The issue of a person’s aura running out is covered directly in the twelfth episode. Namely, a person’s aura can be visually measured on a bar graph (e.g. the “life bar” in various fighting video games), and is lowered simply from the course of taking battle damage (something the wiki reasonably presumes is due to it trying to protect the person’s body). This is somewhat difficult to model in the d20 System, as Power points are not hit points.

The solution to this is to use a variant of the effect that an elan uses to convert hit point damage into Power point loss. As that was modeled off of a 2nd-level spell, and we want this to be a lesser effect (particularly since it seems to be implied that this is an effect that’s always active, but only provides limited protection from any single attack), it’s easy to set this as a 1st-level spell and limit how much hp-to-pp it can convert.

Besides lesser vitality diversion, all of the powers listed are either standard psionic abilities, psionic variants of common spells, or are found in The Practical Enchanter.

Combat Prodigy (30 CP)

  • Adept/Acrobatics, Martial Arts (Spathi kai Aspitha), Martial Arts (Akontio), and Martial Arts (Oplo) (6 CP).
  • Block (melee) with the Master and Multiple upgrades/corrupted, only with her shield (12 CP).
  • Block (ranged) with the Master and Multiple upgrades/corrupted, only with her shield (12 CP).

Expert Training (27 CP)

  • Upgrade racial Fast Learner from half-cost to double effect (3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus with the Improved and Advanced modifiers/add Strength bonus to hit points (18 CP).
  • Action Hero/stunts (6 CP).

As alluded to above, Pyrrha’s having Action Hero/Stunts is meant to be a catch-all for anything we see her do in the series that her stats don’t otherwise represent.

Celebrity Status (6 CP)

  • Reputation (6 CP).

Buy Pumpkin Pete’s Marshmellow Flakes!

Equipment

  • “Milo” is a masterwork weapon that can, as a swift action, be changed between a longsword, a javelin, and a rifle. When thrown, the javelin form may expend a bullet to use the recoil to double its range increment. The rifle form has a capacity of six bullets.
  • “Akouo” is a masterwork heavy steel shield. It has been treated to function as if it had the throwing magic weapon property, dealing slashing damage, though this is a nonmagical function of its design.
  • Armor (treated as masterwork studded leather).

Pyrrha suffers from the same issue that almost all converted characters have – she doesn’t get to take full advantage of her gear value for a character of her level. As a 7th-level character, she should have (using PC wealth values) 23,500 GP worth of gear, only a fraction of which is accounted for in the above listing.

As it is, the gear that she does have is better than the standard Pathfinder equipment. Most characters have weapons that can convert from melee to firearms, and Pyrrha’s shield presumably takes advantage of similar advances in weaponry. She’s atypical in that she wears armor, even if it is somewhat skimpy.

Derived Stats

  • Hit points: 12 (1st level) + 15 (6d4 Hit Dice, taking the average) + 21 (Con bonus) + 28 (Str bonus) = 76.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort: +5 (base) +3 (Con) = +8
    • Ref: +5 (base) +2 (Dex) = +7
    • Will: +2 (base) +1 (Wis) = +3
  • Attacks:
    • Milo (sword form): +6 (BAB) +4 (Str) +1 (masterwork) +1 (martial arts) = +12/+7 (1d10+4/19-20)
    • Milo (javelin form): +6 (BAB) +2 (Dex) +1 (masterwork) +3 (martial arts) = +12/+7 (1d8+4)
    • Milo (rifle form): +6 (BAB) +2 (Dex) +1 (masterwork) +4 (martial arts) = +13/+8 (1d12/x4)
    • Akouo (shield bash): +6 (BAB) +4 (Str) +1 (masterwork) +1 (martial arts) = +12/+7 (1d6+2)
    • Akouo (thrown): +6 (BAB) +2 (Dex) +1 (masterwork) +1 (martial arts) = +10/+5 (1d6+2)
  • Armor Class: 10 (base) +3 (studded leather) +3 (Imbuement) +2 (heavy steel shield) +2 (Dex) +1 (hide like ox) +2 (shield of faith) = 23, touch 14, flat-footed 21. Martial arts are not included here.
  • Power: 46 (base progression) + 6 (Int bonus) = 52 Power.
  • Skills points: 0 (purchased) + 14 (Int bonus) + 14 (human bonus) + 7 (“favored class” bonus) = 35.

Skills

Ranks

Ability Bonus

Class Bonus

Total

Acrobatics

2 (1 point)

+2 Dex

+3

+7

Climb

1

+4 Str

+5

Diplomacy

1

+2 Cha

+3

Knowledge (arcana)

1

+2 Int

+3

+6

Knowledge (history)

1

+2 Int

+3

+6

Knowledge (local)

1

+2 Int

+3

+6

Knowledge (nobility)

1

+2 Int

+3

+6

Martial Arts (Spathi kai Aspitha)

7 (4 points)

+4 Str

+3

+14

Martial Arts (Akontio)

7 (4 points)

+2 Dex

+3

+12

Martial Arts (Oplo)

7 (4 points)

+2 Int

+3

+12

Perception

1

+1 Wis

+3

+5

Polarity Casting

5

+2 Int

+3

+10

Polarity Mastery

7

+2 Int

+3

+12

Spellcraft

1

+2 Int

+3

Survival

1

+1 Wis

+3

+5

Swim

1

+4 Str

+5

Pyrrha’s class skills are the twelve on the above table that have a +3 class bonus to them (though Craft and Profession are also class skills for her). Pyrrha is currently earning two skill ranks for each skill point spent on Acrobatics and all three of her Martial Arts skills. As she’s 7th level, however, her total ranks is capped at 7. Since she’s spent 4 skill points on each of her Martial Arts, they’ll all rise to 8 total ranks without her needing to spend any more points when she reaches 8th level.

As her Polarity Casting and Polarity Mastery (her rune magic skills) indicate, Pyrrha’s Semblance is polarity, the ability to control magnetism. So far we’ve only seen her use it once in the series, and for a relatively minor effect. However, we’ve seen her peers use Semblances for greater powers (though still low-level compared to the range of power that d20 spells can have), and since Pyrrha is presumed to be their equal in most regards, I’ve given her slightly greater ranks in this than her single use of this power would, on its own, call for.

No armor check penalties are listed, as her masterwork studded leather has none. Likewise, while her masterwork heavy steel shield does have an armor check penalty of -1, Pyrrha typically stows it on her back before needing to do something that’d require a skill check.

Martial Arts forms

Pyrrha’s use of martial arts is another area where I’m bending my adherence to the source material. While Pyrrha has been to combat school – and was a prodigy there – there’s never been any in-depth look at her, or any student’s, particular style of fighting. As such, I’m extrapolating that she’d have learned formalized fighting styles for each form of her weapon. While the use of Martial Arts as a skill typically lends itself to being played up in-game, here I’m treating it as being as much of a background element as, say, her Base Attack Bonus.

Given the heavy emphasis on a person’s aura, I’ve elected not to give any of the following Martial Arts a mystic aspect to them. All of the superhuman aspects of combat are already covered by her Power-based abilities above. This prevents us from needing to make her Martial Arts dependent on her having Power above 0, or expend Power when using Occult techniques. As a side-effect of this, the prerequisites for learning each of these Martial Arts are quite low.

Spathi kai Aspitha (Str)

A variant form of sword-and-shield fighting, Spathi kai Aspitha places a strong emphasis on quickly shifting from defense to attack. At greater levels of mastery, it also teaches how to use one’s shield as an offensive weapon. It’s considered somewhat esoteric compared to more traditional martial arts that use a sword and shield, but is still taught fairly widely in certain regions.

  • Requires: Proficiencies with swords and shields or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defenses 3, Power, Toughness 2.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Breaking, Mighty Blow, Shield Boomerang (when throwing a shield at a target within 60 ft., may cause it to return to the wielder as part of the attack), Weapon Kata (shield).
  • Known: Attack 1, Defenses 2, Power, Mighty Blow, Shield Boomerang, Weapon Kata (shield)

Akontio (Dex)

Throwing away one’s weapon is rarely a smart move. Hence, Akontio, a martial art based around javelin throwing, is virtually always taught as a companion to another martial art. Focused entirely on offense, Akontio heavily emphasizes precision strikes for maximum damage.

  • Requires: Proficiency with javelins or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power 3, Strike.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Far Shot, Improved Pin (make a CMB check to cause a target that’s adjacent to a wall or similar structure to be stuck to it; item may be pulled out with a DC 15 Strength check), Precise Shot, Sneak Attack.
  • Known: Attack 3, Power 1, Far Shot, Improved Pin.

Oplo (Int)

Oplo is a rifle-specific form of gun martial arts. It teaches that sending a storm of bullets in a target’s direction is inferior to a single, perfectly-targeted shot. Consequently, this fighting style is popular with snipers and anyone else who prefers that a fight’s opening shot also be the final one.

  • Requires: Proficiency with rifles or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power, Strike, Synergy (Perception), Synergy (Stealth).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Crippling, Far Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Reload.
  • Known: Attack 4, Power, Precise Shot.

I’ve invented a few of the techniques here whole cloth (the ones with the parenthetical explanations of what they do) to better model Pyrrha’s abilities, but their power should be modest enough to fit in alongside the standard Martial Arts abilities.

Design Diary

The biggest issue with making Eclipse d20 stats for Pyrrha was trying to give her so many powers and abilities while at the same time trying to keep her level comparatively low.

The issue with wanting her to be low-level is largely due to the background assumptions made regarding ordinary people in the series, and Pyrrha’s relatively young age. Simply put, Pyrrha and her peers are notably more combat-capable than many of the ordinary adults in the series are; something demonstrated when Ruby (the youngest student at the academy) handily mops the floor with several adult men who try to rob her.

The characters who go to Beacon Academy, in other words, are a cut above normal people – they’re the best of the best. As such, they can’t be relegated to 1st- or 2nd-level. At the same time, they’re also still teenagers, and while they’ve clearly had a lot of training, they don’t seem to have had much practical experience. It’s therefore pretty logical to say that they’re nowhere near the top of their potential (e.g. 20th level).

Given that a 1st-level character can be completely outclassed by someone just a few levels above them, it therefore made the most sense to make Pyrrha somewhere in the mid-high single digits, in terms of her level. Given that she displays a wide variety of impressive abilities on top of her considerable combat prowess, this meant that in order to get her down that far – as mentioned above – I had to really stretch her CP allotment to get her down to 7th level, which seems to be the right place for someone with her degree of power. Had I not done so, she’d have ended up being about 9th level, which was higher than I was happy with.

Overall, Pyrrha is a very well-rounded character, having strong offensive capabilities and not-inconsiderable defenses, a fairly wide selection of skills with modest bonuses, and a small-but-significant number of utility powers. Along with her teammates, she’ll likely grow into a Hunter of legendary proportions; something we’ll get to see as RWBY continues!

Some Like It Hot

August 4, 2013

Back when my current Pathfinder group first got started, I was eager to show off my impressive collection of third-party supplements. Whenever new character ideas were discussed, I was eager to chime in with what sourcebook or expansion could help to flesh out an idea.

Of course, I inevitably started to run into some ideas that, try though I might, I couldn’t seem to turn into a viable character, regardless of how many different books I pulled new mechanics from. In hindsight, hitting this particular brick wall – along with the fact that most of the rest of the group looked askance at third-party supplements in general, seeing them as “unbalanced” until proven otherwise – was the beginning of what would eventually become full-on supplement burnout, of which I’ve spoken before.

Fire dancer

So many “hot chick” jokes…

One of the initial ideas that I couldn’t build a character around was for a “fire dancer.” This character idea, from what I was told, was exactly what it sounded like: someone who could control fire – or, in other words, use fire-based magic – via dancing. At the time, the best I could come up with was making a bard who took fire-based spells and made Perform (dance) her primary skill for bardic performances. That and saying that all of her somatic components for spells were dances.

There were a few other, much more specific, suggestions that I had too, but that was the gist of it. Of course, that was a fairly poor build overall, since in all mechanical respects it was the same as pretty much any other bard character. Not only did that character have no abilities that directly abetted the core concept, it had several that actually subtracted from it.

For a character that was supposed to utilize fire via dancing, for example, most of her spellcasting could be defeated by a silence spell. Most bardic abilities were likewise inappropriate. Simply put, there was a vast distance between a dancing bard that used some fire spells and a “fire dancer.”

Of course, all of that ceased to be a problem once I started using Eclipse: The Codex Persona. But of course, a group that looks askance on third-party materials had (and still has) nothing but suspicion for a point-buy character-generation sourcebook. Which is a shame, since I think the character sounds like a fun one to play.

The character below is my expansion of the initial “fire dancer” concept into a full level one build, adding a name and a backstory, alongside the mechanics.

Sharalia

Sharalia was marked as someone special from the moment she was born. While all members of her gypsy clan had night-black hair, Sharalia’s contained a streak of red, marking her as being “virishka,” one who has the spirit of flames within her. Her tribe rejoiced, as it had been three generations since a virishka had been born among them.

Their joy was to be short-lived. The gypsies had always been outcasts among the more civilized people, and hard economic times had made them a popular target, particularly since Sharalia’s undisciplined older brother Pretka had a habit of causing trouble in whatever town the caravan visited. While it was usually just a bit of petty theft or being caught in a compromising position with a local girl, Pretka’s wild streak had grown as times had gotten tough.

When one of Pretka’s pranks finally went too far – he was caught stealing from the local shrine – the people’s mounting frustrations turned to all-out mob vengeance. Deciding to rid themselves of the “heathens and thieves” once and for all, the townsfolk descended on the gypsies in a fury. The tribe had little warning before they found themselves overrun, their caravans put to the torch as they were massacred.

Sharalia, who was six years old at the time, managed to survive; though the wagon she had hidden in had burned to ashes, her nature as a virishka meant that the flames did not burn her. Shattered and alone, Sharalia turned to the streets to survive. Sadly, she spent very little time there before being caught by the local watch and sentenced to slavery, freshly legalized in an attempt to boost the country’s economy.

Sharalia’s life as a slave was hard. The slave brands refused to sear themselves into her skin, resulting in the markings being applied painfully with acid instead, inflicting wounds that still cause her pain. Worse, while her initial owners were an elderly couple who wanted nothing more than menial labor from her, Sharalia grew into a young beauty; by the time she was sixteen, her owners had received many offers to buy the beautiful red-and-black-haired slave girl from them, often for a considerable sum.

Finally unable to resist the fiscal temptations any longer, the couple sold her to a minor noble, a young man who was all too eager to purchase a slave to attend to his “personal needs.” Sharalia, no fool, new exactly what was wanted from her, and hated the thought. However, she also knew the penalty that awaited slaves who tried to escape and failed. As such, it was with a growing sense of panic that she went to her new owner’s bedroom the night after her sale.

The young lord, wanting to enjoy his new plaything to the fullest, gave her an unexpected first order: to dance for him. Surprised, Sharalia slowly started to sway to the memory of an old tune her grandmother had used to hum back in the gypsy camp. Seeing the nobleman’s eyes upon her and realizing that once she finished dancing he planned to ravish her, she threw herself into an impromptu, wild flamenco.

For a few minutes, the sight of her in motion kept her owner entranced, but all too soon he got up and approached her lustily. Sharalia, however, did not cease her dancing, even as her fear and frustration grew. The young noble reached out to grab her…and Sharalia flung her hands out in a sharp motion, unleashing a gout of flame that badly seared him. Worse, it set the opulent bed and curtains aflame, and in moments the entire room was ablaze.

Shocked and terrified, Sharalia fled as her owner and his home burned. Now she had no choice but to live as an escaped slave. Fleeing blindly, it was by sheer luck that she ran into several members of an underground abolitionist movement…or rather, a group of headstrong young idealists who fancied themselves such a movement. Momentarily daunted by Sharalia’s sudden appearance, they nevertheless managed to put their self-absorbed boasting and high-minded ideas to practical use, and managed to help her evade the law.

Several weeks later, the group – mostly made up of other misfits who had unusual talents – was like a second family to Sharalia. Careful exploration of what happened that night had shown her that not only was she exceptionally difficult to burn, but that she could create and control fire…but only via dancing.

Now in control of her destiny for the first time in her life, she’s become committed to their goal of ending the practice of slavery in their lands. Moreover, she hopes to find her brother Pretka, whom she’s sure she saw fleeing into the woods the night their caravan was attacked…

Sharalia, level 1 Fire Dancer

Available Charater Points: 48 (level one base) + 6 (level one feat) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (starting traits) + 10 (disadvantages) = 76 CP.

Sharalia’s disadvantages are Outcast (few people trust gypsies, and escaped slaves even less), Stigmata (her acid-burned slave markings – which seem to resist magical healing – still hurt), and Valuable (a heavy bounty is paid for escaped slaves).

Ability Scores (15-point buy): Str 10, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 16. This includes her +2 racial bonus (applied to Charisma).

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).

As always, this last bullet point is in reference to the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Basic Abilities (29 CP)

  • Light armor proficiency with the smooth modifier (6 CP), and proficiency with all simple weapons (3 CP).
  • d8 Hit Die (4 CP).
  • +0 BAB (0 CP).
  • +0 Fort, +2 Ref, +2 Will (12 CP).
  • 4 skill points (4 CP).

Fire Dancer (32 CP)

  • Adept, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to two skills: Fire Mastery and Perform (dance) (3 CP).
  • 3d6 mana, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no natural magic options (12 CP).
  • Finesse, corrupted for increased effect – may apply Perform (dance) in place of Fire Casting/requires skill checks to successfully cast (6 CP).
  • Easy metamagic theorem with the streamline modifier, specialized for one-half cost/only for the “material” and “verbal” options (6 CP).
  • Damage reduction 6, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only versus fire damage (5 CP).

When using her rune magic to create a fire effect, Sharalia must make a Perform (dance) check to successfully cast the spell. The DC is calculated using the table on page 101 of Eclipse. For example, casting a level one spell effect would be a DC 15 check. Using a spell on the fringe of her “field” of magic adds a +15 to the spell DC.

Sharalia’s spellcasting always uses her metamagic feat to remove material and verbal components – she needs only use somatic components, which are always dances. If restrained, however, she takes a -15 penalty to her check. Worse, a failed check will have some sort of backlash, which usually means that unintended targets tend to catch on fire…

Combat Cunning (12 CP)

  • Reflex Action (Combat Reflexes variant) (6 CP).
  • Augment Attack (sneak attack) (6 CP).

Perspicacious (3 CP)

  • Upgrade racial Fast Learner to 2 skill points per level (3 CP).

Table: Skills

Skill

Ranks

Ability Modifier

Class

Total

Acrobatics

1

+2 Dex

+3

+6

Bluff

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Fire Mastery

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Knowledge (local)

1

+0 Int

+3

+4

Perception

1

+1 Wis

+3

+5

Perform (dance)

1

+3 Cha

+3

+7

Sharalia has twelve class skills total, plus Craft and Profession. The six skills above are class skills, with the remaining six being Diplomacy, Disable Device, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and Survival.

Sharalia’s use of Adept hasn’t quite come into play yet. Since Pathfinder characters are capped at having skill ranks equal to their level, Adept’s granting skill ranks for half-price in select skills means that she’ll gain two ranks for each skill point spent in Fire Mastery and Perform (dance)…but she has to be high enough level to gain those ranks. As such, both skills will automatically go up one more rank when she reaches second level, without her having to pay for them.

Sharalia’s use of her favored class bonus has been put into hit points, giving her, with her Constitution bonus, 10 hit points to start with.

At this point, Sharalia is essentially a rogue with a minor talent for using fire-based magic. While she’ll be well served to pick up some more mana during her adventuring career, as well as skill boosters for her rune magic skills, she’ll definitely want to better round out her abilities. Likely Imbuement, to make her weapons flaming, maybe some uses of Luck for bad spellcasting checks, and some combat tricks to use fire against her enemies more directly. Anything that plays towards her background and character theme is likely to better develop her over the course of a campaign.

Sailing to Saturn

May 13, 2013

I mentioned in my previous post that, like many table-top gamers, I play a lot of video games. Well, to further legitimize the stereotype, I also watch a lot of anime, though, as with the video games, these days it’s not nearly as much as it used to be.

I was captivated by anime when I first discovered it, which luckily for me was during its entry into the American mainstream in the mid-late 90’s. Unfortunately, being a teenager at the time, I had little in the way of personal funds to acquire this new habit. As such, I had to make due with what was being shown on broadcast television…which at that point was very little. One of the few shows that was available to watch, however, was Sailor Moon.

Compared to the domestic animation available at the time, watching Sailor Moon was a revolutionary thing, as ridiculous as it sounds now. We take things like an advancing plotline and actual characterization somewhat for granted now, but at the time they were exceptionally rare in animated TV shows. Even considering that it was an anime which mostly featured monsters of the week, was poorly edited for American television, and was made primarily for teenage girls, it was one of the highlights of my cartoon-watching years (which are now behind me…mostly).

Eventually I acquired fansubs of the show which, along with translated copies of the manga, helped me to appreciate it more. True, it suffers in comparison to contemporary anime, but it’s still fun, even if only for the sake of nostalgia. It’s in that spirit that the next character I’m providing stats for is from this series. Here is…

Sailor Saturn

“I am Death, destroyer of worlds.”

Hotaru Tomoe is one of the youngest Sailor Senshi, being twelve years old when she’s introduced as Sailor Saturn. She’s also the most powerful, being the Senshi of Death (but not rebirth, as is often mistakenly attributed to her). She takes to the field quite rarely, compared to her fellows, and then only to face an enemy of unusual strength…and even then, she usually has little trouble dispatching them, given the overwhelming force of her attacks.

That’s…somewhat problematic. Hotaru is young and inexperienced, which in d20 terms is how you say “low-level,” something that doesn’t fit at all with the sheer destructive force she can bring to bear. True, we’re using Eclipse: The Codex Persona to generate her stats, which gives us some leeway in how we develop them, but that’s still a large gap to overcome. Particularly since Eclipse posits that children of Hotaru’s age are level zero characters!

So how can we resolve this disparity? Well, there’s one immediate answer: given that Hotaru’s powers as Sailor Saturn are something she manifests rather than something she learns, we can say that her powers are a template, rather than class levels. In fact, one of the co-authors of Eclipse already posted a generic magical girl template on his blog, so we’re going to crib that and modify it as needed for our purposes.

Available Character Points: 24 (level 0 base) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (starting traits) + 10 (disadvantages) +0 (duties) = 46 CP.

Hotaru’s disadvantages include History (her dual-persona with Mistress 9, and her connection to the Death Busters), Secret (her secret identity as Sailor Saturn; if revealed, she gains the Hunted and Valuable disadvantages), and Unarmored (like all magical girls, the Sailor Senshi rely solely on their magical abilities for attack and defense).

It’s worth noting that, after the end of the third season, Hotaru bought off her History disadvantage as part of the season’s climax. As this counts as an “epic adventure” that dealt directly with her history, it cost her no Character Points to remove; it’s listed here as a notation, to account for her disadvantage-based CPs.

Note that, being level 0, Hotaru has yet to receive any points for her duties – which include combating supernatural evils and supporting her Princess – as those won’t pay off until she grows some more. She also has yet to receive any level-based feats, though she is receiving Pathfinder’s 6 CP of “starting traits.”

Ability Scores (0-point buy): Str 7, Dex 10, Con 8, Int 11, Wis 12, Cha 15. This includes Hotaru’s +2 human racial bonus (applied to Charisma).

The number of points assigned for buying ability scores is typically set by the tone of the campaign. Given that Sailor Moon seems like a fairly typical fantasy campaign, albeit an urban one, a 15-point buy is typical (the series has its moments of “high” or even “epic” fantasy, but these are usually at the denouement of a season, and are not representative of the series as a whole).

Unfortunately, that doesn’t work here. Just like the problem we had with Gargamel, Hotaru simply doesn’t have overwhelming ability scores in any area, and indeed is notably sub-par in several areas. Given that, I’m electing to try something different here: her point-buy value has been reduced to 0 – the points she receives from her single-digit ability scores, as well as her human racial bonus, give her enough points to buy stats which, I think, accurately reflect her character.

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).

As always, this last bullet point is in reference to the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Basic Abilities (10 CP)

  • Proficiency with one simple weapon: spear (1 CP).
  • 2 hit points (0 CP).
  • +0 BAB (0 CP).
  • Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +1 (3 CP).
  • 6 skill points (6 CP).
Skills

Ranks

Ability Modifier

Total

Diplomacy

1

+2 Cha

+3

Heal

1

+1 Wis

+2

Knowledge (art)

1

+0 Int

+1

Knowledge (history)

1

+0 Int

+1

Perception

1

+1 Wis

+2

Sense Motive

1

+1 Wis

+2

Hotaru’s skills are something of an oddity. Since we’re using the Pathfinder rules for Eclipse, Hotaru should be able to pick twelve skills, plus Craft and Profession, as class skills. However, she can only take ranks equal to her level…but she’s level zero!

The compromise we’re making here is to allow Hotaru to take up to 1 rank in skills, but she won’t receive any bonuses for class skills. In effect, until she reaches level one, she treats all skills as cross-class.

Minor Healing (12 CP)

  • Healing Touch, specialized for increased effect/each use requires an expenditure of Body Fuel, effective level is increased by +2 (6 CP).
  • Body Fuel with the Efficient modifier, specialized for one-half cost/must use Constitution, may only be used to fuel Healing Touch (6 CP).

Essentially, Hotaru can take one point of Constitution burn (that is, Constitution damage that can only be cured non-magically) to heal – with her current statistics – 4 hit points of damage to someone. That’s exceptionally little return for such a high investment, but it fits with the source material; Hotaru is shown to heal only minor injuries, mostly cuts and scrapes, and is heavily exhausted as a result.

Ironically, as a level 0 character, Hotaru loses no hit points as a result of taking Constitution damage. I would expect that it’s still a fatiguing experience, though.

Sailor Crystal (18 CP)

  • Extraordinary Returning (12 CP) with the Rewrite (+6 CP) modifier.

That Sailor Senshi are reborn when they die is an early trope in the series, but the first season makes it seem situational; that is, they come back because they’re reincarnated/resurrected in various instances.

It’s only in the last season that they start getting into the nature of what, exactly, Sailor Senshi are, and how they’re different from normal people, that being that their soul is a “sailor crystal” that’s linked to a particular planet. It’s heavily implied that these crystals are, on their own, eternal, which in turn suggests that dead Sailor Senshi will come back to life – at some point, and possibly in a new incarnation – if slain.

Unfortunately, this is never answered out-and-out during the last season, as the final villain is more focused on conquest, corruption, and consumption than all-out genocide. Ergo, we’ll have to make an educated guess. Given that resurrection and rebirth happen so often in the series anyway, we’ll go ahead and make this an intrinsic power.

For a d20-based game, the soul is hard to definitively destroy, but it can be done, to say nothing of other methods of attacking or trapping it. Hence, this is Returning with the Extraordinary modifier. Since they sometimes return in a new incarnation that’s different, albeit only slightly, from their previous life, that’s the Rewrite modifier.

Sailor Saturn Transformation (6 CP)

  • Reflex Training, specialized for one-half cost/may be used to take a standard action once per day (3 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, specialized for one-half cost/only for half the normal GP value (3 CP).
    • Void Sheathe (700 GP), this is a variant that only functions for her “transformation pen.”
    • Sailor Senshi Transformation Sequence (2,000 GP).

The use of Reflex Training here allows Hotaru to not only transform instantly in response to a threat (needing a free action to grab her transformation pen and a swift action to invoke her transformation), but also to then take a standard action immediately. Given the comparative rarity of her fighting an enemy, however (since enemies seem to appear once a week at most), this usually isn’t needed more than once per day.

Technically, Hotaru is 200 GP over her limit for her innate enchantments here, but that’s such a small amount that we’ll waive it. Also, while the Void Sheathe spells is from The Practical Enchanter, the Sailor Senshi Transformation Sequence spell is as follows:

Sailor Senshi Transformation Sequence, Transmutation; Level 1; Components V, F (transformation pen); Casting Time 1 swift action; Range personal; Duration permanent (D). This spell changes the user’s clothing into some stereotypical battle-costume. The change is actually instant, but the spell effect gives everyone watching the vague impression of a lengthy and dramatic transformation, with background music and appropriate imagery.

All of the above are for Hotaru’s “normal” form; that is, these things are independent of her actually having transformed into Sailor Saturn. For her transformation, we’ll apply the following template:

The Sailor Saturn Template (26 CP/+0 ECL)

  • Immunity to anyone independently making the connection between Sailor Saturn and Hotaru Tomoe (very common, minor, minor) without the use of a great deal of detective work, powerful magic, or some similar method (8 CP).
  • Luck, with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • Opportunist, use Acrobatics once per round – allowing her to move up to her speed as part of the check – as a free action. This may be used to avoid an attack of opportunity (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment. All abilities are constant (e.g. unlimited use), level 1 or level 0 effects at caster level 1 (spell level x caster level x 2,000 gp), with the personal only modifier (0.7). Total cost 12,600 gp (14 CP).
    • Inspiring Word, +1 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and skill and ability checks (1,400 gp).
    • Jump, +10 enhancement bonus to Acrobatics checks involving jumps (1,400 gp).
    • Force Armor I, +4 armor bonus to AC (1,400 gp).
    • Force Shield I, +4 shield bonus to AC (1,400 gp).
    • Mending, keeps her costume in good condition (700 gp).
    • Immortal Vigor I, 12 additional hit points (1,400 gp).
    • Resist Energy, resistance 10 to all forms of energy damage (1,400 gp).
    • Void Sheathe, this is a variant that only functions for the Silence Glaive (700 gp).
    • Enhance Attribute (Constitution) I, +2 enhancement bonus to Constitution (1,400 gp).
    • Fast Healing I, regain up to (20 hp per level per day – 10 hp at level 0) hit points (1,400 gp).

Of course, the above CP costs don’t match the amount listed at the template’s heading. That’s because the entire template is corrupted for two-thirds cost. This is for several reasons: The template is only active when she’s using her Sailor Senshi Transformation Sequence spell; when it’s down, she doesn’t have any of the templated abilities (this could be a major weakness if she ever faces someone who can use dispel magic). There’s also a fairly unending cavalcade of enemies for her (and her friends) to face, even if Saturn is left on the bench most of the time. She’s also at least somewhat famous, which can be a hindrance when trying to keep her identity a secret.

Except…now we come to the issue of her attacks. Let’s go over these in more detail. In the anime and the manga, Sailor Saturn has four special powers that she can use:

Death Reborn Revolution is, in the manga, the attack the defeats Pharaoh 90, which he says is a “negative energy” attack. Hm, that does fit with her being the Senshi of Death, insofar as Pathfinder is concerned. Now, the attack looks like ribbons, but that doesn’t mean anything; at most that’s an instance of the Eldritch ability (Eclipse p. 31) altering the cosmetics of the spell.

As for the spell itself, it must be fairly powerful to take out one of the Pharaoh 90, the “big bad” of the third season. So let’s say that it’s harm…but given that it’s used at range, it must have the Extension (+1 spell levels) upgrade from the Extension metamagic theorem. It also seems to be an area effect, given that it seems to hit Sailor Saturn also (requiring Sailor Moon’s intervention to save her and reincarnate her as a baby), so let’s call that the Boost (+2 spell levels) and Hammer (+2 spell levels) upgrades from the Area metamagic theorem.

Given that harm is a 6th-level spell, that’s an additional +5 spell levels, for a level 11 spell in total. Okay…let’s say those modifiers are built into the spell itself, rather than being true metamagic. That reduces the total cost by 20%, down to +4, making it a 10th-level spell. Still very high, but we’ll take what we can get.

Silence Glaive Surprise is, in the manga, a mist-like attack that seems to confuse and frighten the Amazones Quartetto. In the anime, it’s an attack that Sailor Saturn almost uses to destroy Queen Nehellenia, but is interrupted before it’s unleashed.

Hm, this one is tricky. The manga appearance seems to imply it’s not a damage-dealing effect so much as one to cause confusion. But the anime seems to imply that it’s a powerful attack, though we never see it. The best thing here may be to split the difference. Let’s take a damage-dealing fog spell, acid fog, and throw in the Alter (negative energy) (+0 spell levels) and Infliction (confusion) (+2 spell levels) upgrades from the Elemental Manipulation metamagic theorem. That makes it deal negative energy damage in accordance with her theme of Death, as well as the Death Reborn Revolution, and has the disorienting effect as well. Since you don’t get a price break for building in +2 spell levels of metamagic, this is an 8th-level spell…that’s her weak attack, too.

Silence Wall, also called Silent Wall in the anime, is a defensive ability. It raises a dome of dark energy over Sailor Saturn, and the people near her, to protect them from incoming attacks. Okay, we can use roughly the same formula here. That’s a resilient sphere that, presumably, also has Alter (negative energy) (+0 spell levels) upgrade from the Elemental Manipulation metamagic theorem added to it. That’s slightly awkward, as changing the spell from force to negative energy seems counterintuitive. I’d say that this sacrifices the wall’s hardness (but not it’s hit points; it’s still a barrier), but in return inflicts negative energy damage to anyone touching it.

Lowering her Glaive over the world is an attack that doesn’t have a name. In fact, it’s not an attack at all, strictly speaking. She just symbolically lowers the Silence Glaive and…everyone and everything on a given planet dies.

Huh…

Okay, that’s a bit tricky. Let’s break this down as best we can. That’s clearly a negative energy attack. We could use a minor spell like inflict light wounds, since most people are only 1st-level characters with a scant handful of hit points anyway. But that doesn’t seem right, since this is supposed to kill absolutely everyone, and in some worlds there’ll be mighty heroes and powerful monsters with more hit points.

Let’s call this another instance of harm. To this we’ll add the Grandiose (+20 spell levels) upgrade from the Area metamagic theorem to cover the entire world, as well as the Verbal (+1 spell levels) upgrade from the Easy metamagic theorem to remove the verbal component. This is going to be monstrously huge…but there is one catch. When Sailor Saturn uses this power in the anime, it kills her. That’s the “dying to cast it” modifier (-4 spell levels), so that helps bring things down a bit. That’s a grand total of +17 spell levels on top of this 6th-level spell. If we build this into the spell effect though, that’s a -3 spell level reduction, bringing it all down to…a 20th-level spell.

Ouch.

So now we come to the problem. We’ve already spent all of Hotaru’s character points. Even if we find a method that doesn’t require her to buy a ton of caster levels for these spells, the spells themselves will cost far and away more Character Points than she has, or likely will for many levels. So what then do we do?

The Silence Glaive

Maybe it should be the Silence Glaive-Guisarme?

At this point, the only real answer is to turn to her weapon, the Silence Glaive, itself. Even as a relic, giving it those powers would cost far and away too much, so we’re going to go further and make it an out-and-out major artifact.

That’s problematic in more ways than one. For one thing, it moves the menace from Sailor Saturn herself, and shifts it to her weapon (which we’re not giving any restriction as to who can use it). Moreover, it strains credulity to have a zero-level twelve-year old wielding a major artifact…but if we can have a level one halfling wielding one on a trek to a distant volcano, why not here too?

That said, there are two divergences from the anime and manga that I’m going to make where the Glaive is concerned. The first is in regards to its weapon properties. Sailor Saturn never uses the Silence Glaive as a melee weapon, which is counterintuitive in a d20 game. Given its status as a major artifact, I’m going to call it a +6 spear (hence Hotaru’s weapon proficiency, in case she ever wants to make a melee attack).

Secondly, I’m not going to limit it to the four specific effects above. Rather, we’ll make it a weapon that can grant the wielder great power over negative energy, and say that the few instances that we saw in the source material (most of which were unique) are simply examples of a much wider array of powers. That’s getting away from the canon slightly more than I’m comfortable with, but I think that having that much power calls for slightly more breadth.

THE SILENCE GLAIVE (major artifact)

This five-foot polearm is composed of a single piece of black metal, the haft flaring slightly for grip. It’s blade is curved slightly, reminiscent of a sickle, with a small counter-point opposite it.

Less a weapon than a force for destruction, this +6 spear grants its wielder god-like control over the forces of death. The Silence Glaive’s wielder has access to 20 generic spell levels, which instantly replenish each round and may only be used to cast spells that utilize negative energy. These spells are always cast at 20th caster level.

Suggested Means of Destruction

  • Plunge the Silence Glaive and the Ginzuishou into the Galaxy Cauldron together, where the release of their energies will destroy both of them, as well as the Galaxy Cauldron itself.
  • Use it to kill everyone who was never born, inverting the Silence Glaive’s power over death and causing it become a normal, non-magical weapon.

In Conclusion

Overall, Sailor Saturn is…so phenomenally unbalanced that we need a new word for just how unbalanced she is.

Her stats are notably sub-par, even for a zero-level character. Even in her transformed state, she’d easily go below 0 hit points – and could likely be killed outright – with one solid hit from a level one melee-oriented character. That contrasts very poorly with her wielding such a powerful artifact; she’s essentially just begging for someone to one-shot her and take it for themselves (or, if an enemy feels bad about hitting a little girl, just making a disarm check).

This at least explains why she takes to the battlefield so rarely, and always surrounded by her friends when she does. She has a great deal of power, but that power is easily taken from her.

Special K…ombat

April 28, 2013

Like most gamers, I play a lot of video games. While I don’t play nearly the amount that I used to as a kid, I still find the time every now and then to fire up a console or a handheld.

Recently, I pulled out my old copy of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Like most kids who were teenagers in the nineties, I played the hell out of that series of games, first in the arcades and then at home on the consoles. It’s not hard to see why either; the games were very “edgy” with their gruesome fatalities, digitized characters, and completely insane storyline.

The series wound down as the nineties ended and we all grew familiar enough with the games that the novelty wore off. Unexpectedly, however, the games successfully reinvented themselves as the new millennium arrived, something that not many series can pull off (I’m looking at you, Sonic the Hedgehog). The graphics transitioned to polygons, the arena made use of 3D fighting, and the story grew much tighter.

The Mortal Kombat series recently gave itself another facelift with its 2011 reboot, but for now I wanted to focus on the last game in the original storyline, the aforementioned MK: Armageddon. Specifically, I wanted to look at that game’s rendition of the series’ most popular character:

SCORPION

"Yoga Flame! No wait, that's not right..."

“Yoga Flame! No, wait, that’s not right…”

There’s little need to introduce Scorpion; rather, its more germane to say that this write-up focuses on him as he appears during the events of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. By this time, Scorpion is far stronger than he was during the original Mortal Kombat, as evidenced by his greater array of powers, multiple fighting styles, and his leadership of his undead clan. This is Scorpion at his deadliest.

To reflect that, we’re setting him at 12th level. The idea for that is that the characters in the original Mortal Kombat game were all 6th level characters – the logic there being that, as The Alexandrian laid out, the greatest an ordinary person can ascend is 5th level; since the characters in that game are already breaking the limits of what humans can achieve, as demonstrated via their special moves, they’ve already surpassed normal human limits, albeit only slightly.

After that, we’re presuming that the characters all gain one level for each subsequent game, so since Armageddon is the seventh game in the series (we’re not counting all of the side-games), the characters have gained six levels. Hence, Scorpion is a 12th-level character now. Of course, we’re going to use Eclipse: The Codex Persona to generate his stats.

Having elaborated on that, as the announcer says: Fight!

Available Character Points: 312 (level twelve base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 12 (restrictions) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 6 (“starting traits”) + 12 (fast learner) + 36 (levels 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 feats) = 394 CP.

As the above should make clear, we’re using the Pathfinder progression for Scorpion’s feats. We’re also going to use Pathfinder’s tendency to give “starting traits” to characters as well. Since these are supposed to be two “half-feats,” we’re just calling those an extra 6 CP at 1st level.

Scorpion’s disadvantages are Compulsive (to take revenge on those he feels have wronged him, his family, and his clan), History (Scorpion’s history includes his clan’s rivalry with the Lin Kuei, his hatred of the sorcerer Quan Chi, and his anger at the Elder Gods for what they did to his clan), and Unarmored (a staple for the characters of Mortal Kombat).

Scorpion’s restrictions are to not use any spellcasting or psionic progressions.

Ability Scores (25-point buy): Str 18, Dex 16, Con –, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 14. This includes his +2 human racial bonus (applied to Strength), and three instances of Improved Self-Development for reaching levels 4, 8, and 12 (applied to Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma).

We’re cutting a few corners here. The earlier games would have used a much smaller point buy, but as the story continued and things grew more and more over-the-top, a higher point-buy became more appropriate. By the time Armageddon arrived, using the highest value was much more in line with how things were going.

We’re also going to allow Scorpion to retroactively gain skill points for increasing his Intelligence score. Given how little skills seem to matter in Mortal Kombat, this doesn’t seem that unfair.

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).

As always, this last bullet point is in reference to the Pathfinder Package Deal.

Before we get to Scorpion’s level-based abilities, we’re also going to need to develop his “race” a little more, as Scorpion is an undead creature from the Netherrealm (aka Hell). Given that this is where evil people go when they die, it’s best to leave his human traits as they are and simply apply a template.

Since Scorpion’s powers aren’t any greater than those of other kombatants, most of whom aren’t undead creatures like him, it makes sense to say that Scorpion’s template as a Netherrealm creature adds comparatively little to his overall abilities (something that makes sense since, in later games such as Deception and Armageddon, the story modes have the main characters – Shujinko and Taven, respectively – fighting their way through Netherrealm denizens with comparative ease compared to their fights with Scorpion).

Hence, we can say that Scorpion has the following:

Netherrealm Ghost template (31 CP/+0 ECL)

All of the abilities of this template are specialized for one-half cost/the user becomes an undead monster, is vulnerable to channeled positive and negative energy, can be banished back to the Netherrealm, and loses all ability to experience positive emotions.

  • No Constitution score (0 CP). Includes immunity to ability damage (including all poisons), ability drain, energy drain, and effects requiring Fortitude saves unless they work on objects or are harmless. Does not breathe, eat, or sleep, cannot tire, and can move, work, or remain alert indefinitely. They cannot be raised or reincarnated and are instantly destroyed at 0 HP.
  • Negative Energy Metabolism (0 CP). Undead are healed and enhanced by negative energy and harmed or hindered by positive energy, instead of the reverse. As a side effect, they regain 10 HP whenever they would normally suffer a negative level, but treat positive levels as negative levels.
  • Finesse with the Advanced modifier (6 CP): May substitute their (Cha Mod) for their (Con Mod) when calculating hit points and Fortitude saves.
  • Immunity to things which affect biological processes (Very Common/Major/Epic, 22 CP). This includes paralysis, stunning damage, nonlethal damage, diseases, death effects, critical hits, and most necromancy effects.
  • Adaptation/Netherrealm (3 CP).

This template’s use of Negative Energy Metabolism is kept because the differences between positive and negative energy is one of the most fundamental ways that Pathfinder differentiates the living from the undead. However, it has little practical meaning in the Mortal Kombat universe. Likewise, undead in that universe have no blanket immunity to mind-affecting effects. Given that, Scorpion might be in for an unpleasant surprise if he finds himself in a more typical Pathfinder world!

Basic Abilities (207 CP)

  • Weapons group proficiency (3 CP): katana and rope dart.
  • 12d10 Hit Dice (72 CP).
  • +12 BAB (72 CP).
  • Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +4 (60 CP).

Notice that no skill points have been bought. Despite this, Scorpion still receives a fairly plentiful number of skill points, which we’ll go over below.

Guarded Fighting (60 CP)

  • Reflex Training (as per Combat Reflexes) with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • Block (all three forms, all with the Advanced modifier) (36 CP).
  • Defender with the Improved modifier (+3 dodge bonus) (12 CP).

Scorpion’s Armor Class is going to be terribly low for a 12th-level character, having only his +3 Dex modifier, his +3 dodge bonus from Defender, and whatever defensive bonuses he’s getting from using one of his martial arts styles (see below). This is on purpose, as the MK cast has little use for passive defenses – most of the time they avoid taking damage by actively blocking.

Bloody Spear (12 CP)

  • Trick (corrupted for increased effect/requires a full-round action (including initial attack) – when striking someone with a rope dart, the victim is flat-footed until their next turn, and Scorpion may make an immediate pull check) (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training (may make a single attack after successfully pulling a victim) (6 CP).

Given that the bloody spear attack, Scorpion’s famous “Get over here!” move, needs to have so many different effects – the initial damage from the spear, then pulling the enemy in, and then leaving them unable to defend themselves while Scorpion gets a free hit – it was pleasantly surprising that this could be done with only 12 CP. 

A “pull check” works just like a drag combat maneuver, save that you do not move, and cause the opponent to move towards you on a success. The opponent can not move closer than being adjacent to you.

Hellfire Attacks (16 CP)

  • Augment Attack, corrupted for increased effect/as a full-round action, appear adjacent to a foe on their opposite side, making a single unarmed strike with +1d6 fire damage (6 CP).
  • Augment Attack, corrupted for two-thirds cost/as a full-round action, perform an unarmed strike with +1d6 fire damage (4 CP).
  • Trick, when performing a coup-de-grace, treat it as an unarmed attack that deals fire damage (6 CP).

These are meant to represent most of Scorpion’s remaining special moves. The first is his “hellfire punch,” where he teleports to attack a character’s back with a flaming punch; I’d recommend keeping this limited to foe that’s already very close. The second is his “backflip kick.” The third is meant to be his classic fatalty, where he reveals his flaming skull and sets the opponent on fire.

To Hell and Back (30 CP)

  • Path of the Dragon, specialized and corrupted for increased effect/Shaping (6 CP), Pulse of the Dragon (6 CP), Heart of the Dragon II (18 CP). The specialization and corruption are that these abilities are reduced to two level 3 spell effects:
  • Allowing Scorpion and one other person (unwilling, with a save) to plane shift to the Netherrealm from Earthrealm, or vice versa.
  • Raising a single column of fire beneath an opponent, 5d6 fire, DC 15 Reflex save for no damage.

This is how Scorpion is able to enter and leave the Netherrealm to enter Earthrealm seemingly at will, something most Netherrealm ghosts don’t seem to be able to do. Note that we’re saying that he’s using a level 3 variant of planeshift that can only go from Earthrealm to Netherrealm and vice versa, only bring one passenger (if unwilling, they get a Will save to not be taken), though it has no focus and no off-target chance.

Technically, we should say that Scorpion’s Path of the Dragon grants another ability also: to always create a rope dart when he needs one, though they disappear a few rounds later. That’s minor enough that it costs no additional CPs.

The last bullet point is Scorpion’s “hellfire” special attack.

Mortal Kombatant (42 CP)

  • Adept (Martial Arts/Hapkido, Martial Arts/Mugai Ryu, Martial Arts/Moi Fah, and Intimidate) (6 CP).
  • Adept (Knowledge (history), Knowledge (planes), Perception, Stealth) (6 CP)
  • Convert human fast learner to specialized in skills for double effect (3 CP).
  • Martial Arts for 1d8 damage (9 CP).
  • Fast Learner (6 CP).
  • Extraordinary Returning (12 CP), Scorpion cannot permanently die unless his torment is eased by having his clan and family resurrected.

The extraordinary returning should probably have been part of another package deal that all Mortal Kombat characters get, since by the time Armageddon arrives, all of the characters who have ever participated previously are there for the final battle, no matter what fate they suffered previously.

Leader of the Undead Shirai Ryu (27 CP)

  • Leadership (6 CP) of the undead (+3 CP), with the Strength in Numbers (+3 CP), Horde (+3 CP), Born leader (+6 CP), and Emperor’s Star (+6 CP) modifiers.

This is something that’s been mentioned several times so far in this article, but might not be familiar to readers who haven’t played through Mortal Kombat: Armageddon’s story mode.

In Mortal Kombat: Deception, the Elder Gods tasked Scorpion (who had appeared before them at the end of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance) to destroy Onaga, the Dragon King. Scorpion agreed, but his price was that the Elder Gods resurrect his clan, the Shirai Ryu.

Scorpion failed to destroy Onaga, not because he could not defeat the Dragon King, but simply because Shujinko found Onaga first and successfully killed him. In MK: Armageddon, we find out that since Scorpion had tried to faithfully carry out his task, and since Onaga had been destroyed anyway, the Elder Gods granted Scorpion’s request…but because he still had not completed his mission, they twisted it. His clan had been resurrected as ghosts, like him.

Needless to say, Scorpion is enraged by this, and vows vengeance on the Elder Gods. Thus he fights on the side of evil in the final battle.

Test Your (Mental) Might

We mentioned above that despite Scorpion’s buying no skill points, he still has plenty of them. That’s due to several things. First, he’s upgraded his human Fast Learner trait so that it grants 2 skill points per level (24 total). Second, he also receives 2 skill points per level from his Intelligence (24 total). Finally, he’s gaining 1 additional skill point per level thanks to his “favored class bonus” from the Pathfinder Package Deal (12 total).

Given that, Scorpion has a total of 60 skill points. Not bad for someone who didn’t buy any directly. Moreover, he’s getting two ranks for each point he spends in the skills he purchased Adept for. Since each character receives twelve skills as class skills, plus Craft and Profession, we’ll select the following for Scorpion’s class skills: Acrobatics, Climb, Craft, Escape Artist, Intimidate, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (planes), Martial Arts, Perception, Profession, Sense Motive, Stealth, Survival, and Swim.

Let’s put these together to see Scorpion’s skill bonuses:

Skills

Ranks

Ability Bonus

Class Bonus

Total

Acrobatics

3

+3 Dex

+3

+9

Bluff

3

+2 Cha

+3

+8

Climb

3

+4 Str

+3

+10

Intimidate

12 (6 points)

+2 Cha

+3

+17

Knowledge (history)

12 (6 points)

+2 Int

+3

+17

Knowledge (planes)

12 (6 points)

+2 Int

+3

+17

Martial Arts (hapkido)

12 (6 points)

+2 Cha

+3

+17

Martial Arts (moi fah)

12 (6 points)

+3 Dex

+3

+18

Martial Arts (mugai ryu)

12 (6 points)

+4 Str

+3

+19

Perception

12 (6 points)

+1 Wis

+3

+16

Stealth

12 (6 points)

+ 3 Dex

+3

+18

Swim

3

+4 Str

+3

+10

Notice that Scorpion has taken ranks in three different martial arts. These are the ones used in Mortal Kombat: Deception and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (though programming limitations meant that his Moi Fah style was left out of the latter game). Given that martial arts can offer substantial combat bonuses, let’s flesh these out more.

Moi Fah (Dex)

This variant of kung fu focuses on making large, sweeping movements to keep enemies at bay. Moi Fah has little in the way of offensive techniques, being focused primarily on defense. It is usually learned as a back-up style for instances of facing an unexpectedly strong enemy. This presents the “base” version of Moi Fah, developed as a mundane style with no occult techniques, and correspondingly minimal requirements; many users pioneer their own variant with greater supernatural combat abilities.

  • Requires: Improved Unarmed Strike or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Defenses 4, Synergy (Acrobatics), Synergy (Bluff), Toughness 2.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Combat Expertise, Dodge, Improved Feint, Mobility.
  • Known: Defenses 4, Synergy (Bluff), Toughness 1, Dodge, Mobility, Improved Feint.

Hapkido (Con)

A relatively recent offshoot of jujitsu, hapkido teaches a well-rounded mixture of attack and defense, along with techniques for grappling. While less popular than many older forms of martial arts, its broad base of techniques makes it an excellent starting martial art for those who have little experience in unarmed combat, though variants exist for use with sword, staves, and nunchaku as well. This is the “base” version of hapkido, having no occult techniques and correspondingly low requirements to learn; no supernatural variant of the style has yet been invented.

  • Requires: Improved Unarmed Strike or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defenses 3, Power 1, Strike.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Improved Grapple, Instant Stand, Mind Like Moon, Prone Combat.
  • Known: Attack 2, Defenses 2, Power 1, Strike, Instant Stand, Mind Like Moon, Prone Combat.

We’re going to say that Scorpion’s use of Advanced Finesse, from the Netherrealm Ghost template, applies here too.

Mugai Ryu (Str)

An older form of sword-based martial arts, mugai ryu is an aggressive style. It has largely been displaced by contemporary sword forms, primarily kendo, though numerous variants of mugai ryu still exist, many of which claim direct inheritance of the “ownership” of this martial art. Most of these have improved upon the style by adding occult techniques to its roster. The version listed below is the “base” form of mugai ryu, having no occult techniques, and likewise only minimal entry requirements.

  • Requires: Proficiency with swords or equivalent point-buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power 3, Synergy (Intimidate).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Improved Sunder, Mighty Blow, Quick Draw, Whirlwind Attack.
  • Known: Attack 4, Power 2, Synergy (Intimidate), Quick Draw, Mighty Blow, Whirlwind Attack.

FINISH HIM!

One of the reasons I chose Scorpion to be the subject of this post is that he’s one of the better examples for showcasing Eclipse’s flexibility in character design compared to “standard” Pathfinder/3.5 characters.

Try and imagine making Scorpion using only the Pathfinder rules. Even if you expanded the content you used to the various supplements, and even third-party supplements, it would be an uphill battle to make a character that not only approximated Scorpion’s special powers, but didn’t come with a great deal of extraneous powers that he didn’t have in the source material.

It’s in areas like this – for characters that have highly individualized special powers that aren’t traditional spellcasting – that Pathfinder is weakest, and Eclipse is, by comparison, strongest. Whether it’s for superheroes, anime characters, video game fighters, or something else, characters that aren’t easily fit into the mold of “class levels” are where point-buy is most obviously the way to go.

Until next time readers, may your fights end in friendship, rather than fatality.

Superdupernatural

March 8, 2013

I recently got Netflix, and I have to say that overall I’m quite pleased with the service. While it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the movies that are available, it’s an excellent resource for watching TV shows. I’m currently using it to catch up on my favorite show: Supernatural.

The best hunter since the dog in Duck Hunt.

Best hunter since the dog in Duck Hunt.

Supernatural is a television series of the “urban fantasy” genre. Set in contemporary America, it follows two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who are “Hunters.” That is, they are among the few people who know that monsters are real, and so dedicate their lives to hunting and killing the creatures that prey on humanity. There is a larger plot, of course, but that’s the essence of what the show is about.

I discovered the show during the summer of 2009, when the fourth season had just ended. I managed to catch several of the just-concluded season’s episodes during the summer re-runs, and from the fifth season onward I haven’t missed an episode (though that sometimes entails going back and finding ones whose initial airing I had missed). While wikis and synopses helped to fill in the gaps, there were still a lot of blanks from my having missed the earlier seasons.

Now I’m almost totally caught up, and I’m enjoying the show even more thanks to having a deeper understanding of the show’s progression. Armed with that knowledge, I decided that it was once again time to mix chocolate with my peanut butter, and stat out a character from the show using the brilliant d20 supplement Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

As such, allow me to present Sam Winchester, as he appears during the fourth season, for your Pathfinder game.

SuperNatural 20

The world of Supernatural is a quintessentially low-fantasy world, even taking into account it’s set on an Earth where most people have no idea that monsters and magic are real. While later seasons do turn up the proverbial dials a little bit, the show is one where the battles between monsters and those who fight them are confined to the shadows; this is a world of guns and ghosts, not fireballs and tarrasques.

In other words, this is a setting where the E6 rules are the order of the day; there’s more about what E6 is at that link, but the main idea is that characters can’t gain more than six levels. Given that, and that we don’t want to necessarily assume that Sam (the main character, alongside Dean) has already hit the limit of how far a person can advance this early in the show, I’ve decided to set him at 3rd level. Given that the show is currently in its eighth season, and has been renewed for a ninth, if we presume that the characters go from 1st to 6th level throughout the life of the show, then this seems reasonably accurate.

We’re also going to use a very conservative point-buy for Sam’s ability scores: 10 points only. Since this is the value listed for “low fantasy,” it seems to go with the theme of keeping the character – and, by extension, the game representation of the show – fairly well grounded (and it certainly helps to explain why Sam and his brother lose so many fights).

Available Character Points: 96 (level three base) + 10 (disadvantages) + 6 (duties) + 12 (levels one and three feats) + 6 (human bonus feat) = 130 CP.

Sam’s disadvantages are Accursed (he’s the chosen vessel for Lucifer), History (his family’s history of fighting evil, as well as the tampering Azazel did to give Sam his psychic powers), and Secret (his “job” as a Hunter, as well as his demon-given psychic powers; revealing his secret causes him to suffer the Hunted and Poor Reputation disadvantages).

Sam’s duties represent his life as a Hunter, which he doesn’t want to live but can’t ignore due to familial obligations and the consequences of what happens if he tries (e.g. a lot of people die).

Ability Scores (10-point buy): Str 10, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 15. These include Sam’s +2 racial bonus.

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).

I’ve referenced the Pathfinder Package Deal virtually every time I’ve posted a character. While I usually link back to where it was originally posted, or simply refer to a previous post with such a link, I’m going to repost it in full here, for ease of reference. To make sure that credit is given where it’s due though, I’ll reiterate that the material below was originally written over at the Emergence Campaign Weblog.

The Pathfinder Package Deal is actually a small template, which provides… .

  • +2 to an Attribute, Corrupted/the attribute is fixed by race (8 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted/only works as long as the user sticks to a particular archetype and relatively narrow plan of development chosen at level one at each level, points may only be spent on skills and additional hit points (2 CP).
  • Immunity/not being allowed to buy up their (normally maximized) level one hit die later on. Uncommon/Minor/Major (3 CP). There are several ways to get more hit points which are more effective – but Pathfinder effectively equates skill points and hit points as far as “favored classes” go, and this is the easiest way to go about that.
  • Pathfinder normally grants immunity to the experience-point cost of making magic items on the grounds that “experience isn’t something you use up”. Unfortunately this means that a long-term, campaign – where years may pass between major adventures – destroys the magic-item economy. It also misses the fact that “experience points” – some sort of magical energy that accumulates in you until it transforms you – have nothing at all to do with experiences or memories. Ergo, I’m going to substitute Action Hero (the Crafting option), Specialized and Corrupted/the user still has to spend the time, and money, and may ONLY create items by spending action points (2 CP). That will let characters use their item-creation feats without spending XP, but will limit item creation during any long stretches of downtime.
  • Pathfinder provides a +3 bonus to “Trained In-Class Skills”. This isn’t properly part of Eclipse, it’s simply an option attached to the skills system – “Characters get a +3 bonus on skills that fit their character concept”. The awkwardness in Eclipse comes in deciding which skills qualify as “In-Class” given that Eclipse doesn’t really HAVE classes. The simplest option is simply to let the character consider Craft, Profession, and their selection of a dozen other skills “in-class”. No cost.

The Pathfinder Package Deal thus has a basic cost of 15 CP – three more than you can normally get out of a package deal. Fortunately, all Pathfinder characters suffer from a major disadvantage; Accursed (must use the Pathfinder versions of spells even where those have been downgraded, may not take “overpowered” feats, -3 CP).

That gives us a net cost of 12 CP for the Pathfinder Package Deal – and it gives Eclipse-style builds an option; they can accept the Pathfinder Package Deal, or they can use another one, or none at all.

Basic Purchases (69 CP)

  • 3d10 Hit Dice (18 CP).
  • Simple Weapons Proficiency (3 CP) and Small Arms Proficiency (6 CP).
  • +3 Base Attack Bonus (18 CP).
  • Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +1 (15 CP).
  • 9 skill points (9 CP).

Between the 9 skill points he’s purchased directly, plus 3 for being human, plus 3 for his 13 Intelligence, plus 3 from his “favored class bonus” (see the second bullet point in the Pathfinder Package Deal), Sam has a total of 18 skill points.

Sam’s twelve class skills (see the last bullet point in the Pathfinder Package Deal) are Bluff, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Escape Artist, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (local), Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (religion), Perception, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth.

Sam’s skills are mostly drawn from the standard Pathfinder skills list; a few, however, are from d20 Modern.

Skills

Ranks

Ability Bonus

Class Bonus

Other

Total

Acrobatics

1

+1 Dex

+2

Bluff

1

+2 Cha

+3

+6

Climb

1

+0 Str

+1

Computer Use

1

+1 Int

+2

Diplomacy

1

+2 Cha

+3

+6

Disable Device

1

+1 Dex

+3

+5

Drive

1

+1 Dex

+2

Escape Artist

1

+1 Dex

+3

+5

Gamble

1

+0 Wis

+1

Heal

1

+0 Wis

+1

Intimidate

1

+2 Cha

+3

Knowledge (arcana)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+5

Knowledge (history)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+5

Knowledge (local)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+5

Knowledge (nature)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+5

Knowledge (religion)

1

+1 Int

+3 class

+3 Skill Focus

+8

Perception

1

+0 Wis

+3 class

+4

Sense Motive

1

+0 Wis

+1

Sleight of Hand

1

+1 Dex

+3 class

+5

Stealth

1

+1 Dex

+3 class

+5

Survival

1

+0 Wis

+1

Swim

1

+0 Str

+1

A close look at the above table will show that Sam has gained 22 skill ranks from his 18 skill points. How? It’s due to his having taken Adept twice (see below). He’s spent a half-point in each of his Adept skills, which gains him a full rank in them. This is technically cheating, as skill points are treated as indivisible units, but it’s minor enough that we’ll overlook it.

Much to my chagrin, working on the above made me realize that I had forgotten to take the “favored class bonus” into account for all of the previous Eclipse Pathfinder characters I’d posted here. Given that, it’s best to presume that for each of them, any favored class bonuses are applied to their hit points.

Man of Learning (24 CP)

  • Adept/Bluff, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Escape Artist (6 CP).
  • Adept/Knowledge (history), Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth (6 CP).
  • Skill Focus/Knowledge (religion) +3 with the Stunt option (12 CP). 

This last ability is how Sam – as with many other characters – can chant incantations that can summon someone’s ghost, draw a sigil that traps demons who move through it, exorcise demons possessing someone with some words of Latin, etc. Presumably these would have DCs somewhere in the upper teens to low twenties. Likewise, Supernatural most likely doesn’t have Knowledge (planes), replacing it instead with Knowledge (religion) where required.

Hunter’s Training (12 CP)

  • Block/melee (6 CP).
  • Improvise Weapon (3 CP).
  • Martial Arts (3 CP).

As alluded to previously, given that Sam needs to make a DC 20 Reflex save for his block to be successful, this seems very apropos for how things often turn out on the show.

Dark Blessing of Azazel (22 CP)

  • Witchcraft II (dreamfaring, hand of shadows, infliction)/specialized (requires rite of chi to restore lost power), and corrupted, dreamfaring may only be used uncontrolled, showing only futures related to Azazel and those tainted by him; hand of shadows may only exert force equal to what Sam could physically handle; infliction may only be used to inflict damage to demons (not harming their human hosts) (4 CP).
  • 3 levels of wilder, no caster level/corrupted, provides power points only (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 bonus uses/specialized, requires drinking the blood of a demon (6 CP).
  • Immunity to demonic powers (uncommon/minor/major) (6 CP).

As mentioned above, these stats represent Sam during the fourth season; the powers above drive this home. At this point, Sam’s previously-displayed visions have gone dormant, though he could reactivate them if he wanted to. By this point, he’s completely focused on his ability to attack demons with his powers, without harming the person they’re possessing.

The last bullet point bears some further explanation. This is an aggregate of two things: Sam’s immunity to the psychic powers of the other children tainted by Azazel, and his immunity to demonic possession via the protective sigil tattooed into his skin. While the latter can be defeated by anything that would mar the tattoo (e.g. scarification), that doesn’t happen to Sam at any point in the show once he acquires it, and so we can overlook that here.

Finally, since we still have 3 CP left over, let’s add…

  • Contacts (3 CP).

These are Sam’s connections with other Hunters. Given how often these others die over the course of the show, these points are reallocated among new contacts fairly often.

Until next time readers, may you know the proper chant to exorcise all of your demons!

Re-clipse

February 24, 2013

Several months ago, I wrote about how I had wanted to use Eclipse: The Codex Persona to make a character in my current Pathfinder group, but was shot down by the other players. While I wasn’t ready to give up on that particular goal, I recognized that it was going to have to be put on the back-burner for a while.

Well, two weeks ago my group surprised me – they were withdrawing their objections to my using Eclipse! Needless to say, I was delightfully surprised, but also slightly confused; what had made them change their mind? As it turned out, it had been me, but not because of anything I’d done deliberately. Rather, it had been a result of my enthusiastically role-playing a dramatically weak character that I’d rolled up after my original push to use Eclipse had been vetoed.

Yeah, it was kind of like that.

This was my reaction. It was also how I was dressed at the time.

After my group had initially decided that they didn’t want me to use Eclipse, I decided to go in the opposite direction, in terms of character creation. Eclipse, being a point-buy character builder, requires that you have an existing back-story that you want to model your character around; that is, you use the flexibility of a point-buy system to flesh out an idea that you already have (as opposed to building the character organically, which is certainly doable but is much more likely to result in a character that is, conceptually, all over the place).

Opposed to this is the idea of developing a character’s mechanics first, and then creating the narrative identity around that, followed by fleshing them out through play. In other words, let the dice and the course of events determine just who the character is. This is the style of play which – as others have claimed – is how D&D was originally built around. It was also the style that I decided to play towards.

I wasn’t going to do it half-assed, either. I didn’t have any fall-back ideas for what sort of character I wanted, so I felt that using a point-buy system purely to generate ability scores (my group’s preferred method of ability score generation) was fairly meaningless here. Moreover, being one of the guys in the group with the longest history with the game, I had previously (and jokingly) mocked the use of point-buying ability scores as “not how we did it back in the old-school.” Given that, I felt fatalistic enough to let the dice choose my character for me…and I was going to let them be harsh about it, too.

I was going to roll my stats randomly, using the 3d6-in-order method of generation. No roll-4d6-and-drop-the-lowest, no re-allocating the results around to different ability scores. Just roll them randomly for each stat, and play what I got.

Needless to say, the results were exactly what you’d expect: Str 5, Dex 9, Con 6, Int 11, Wis 15, Cha 11.

Given that, as part of my “doing it old school” attitude towards this character I’d written off using any supplements or expansions beyond the Core Rulebook, it seemed that being a cleric was my only real option.

Needless to say, this was uncharted territory for me. I’d never played a divine spellcaster before; the issues with having a connection to an established religion were a burden (e.g. knowing how the religion worked, having ties to its terrestrial hierarchy and structure – especially since we were playing in the GM’s home-brew world) that I hadn’t wanted. But I was resolute, and since the GM was willing to give me some leeway in playing up my character’s religion, I went forward with the idea. As such, my cleric – Varek Tam – joined the group.

In the course of our initial adventure, Varek was (alongside another cleric in the party) our group’s healer and buffer, working to make sure that the rest of the characters (particularly the headstrong barbarian, who went below 0 hit points five times in the course of our first adventure) were able to stay up and combat-ready. This was, to me, the perfect example of having game-play and random ability scores define your character: I saw Varek as someone who was weak individually, and because of that knew the value of strength through community. His clerical domains were, not surprisingly, Community and Protection.

Things went fairly smoothly from there on out. I put all of Varek’s ability score bonuses, both racial and from hitting every four levels, into Wisdom – that seemed obvious, since it would pump up the one thing he did well, casting spells – instead of trying to ameliorate his otherwise-anemic ability scores. While I initially tried to put him right in the thick of things alongside the other characters, adopting a “come what may” attitude, it wasn’t long before I found myself keeping him away from danger so that he could continue enhancing and healing the other party members.

Unfortunately, Varek’s Hit Dice rolls each level were, on average, poor. Taking the Toughness feat, and sinking all of his favored class bonuses into additional hit points effectively cancelled out his low Constitution, but nothing could cancel out poor rolls for more hit points.

It was here that the group in general, and the GM in particular, were concerned. While I had known that they were impressed that I was going forward with such a sub-standard character, I hadn’t realized quite the degree of props they had given me. This was doubly true for the fact that I was role-playing the character’s personality to the hilt as someone who was concerned with the spirit of community and togetherness, focusing on the good of the group without being taken in by draconian measures of “individuals must suffer for everyone’s benefit” that can come with focusing too much on the collective.

The problem was that the GM had plans for all of our characters, in terms of the campaign’s storyline. The plans for my character, however, were rapidly being put in jeopardy due to the widening gap in effectiveness that was becoming more and more apparent with each level we gained. Having a few less hit points at 2nd level was one thing. Having less than half the hit points of most of the group at 6th level was something else again. The rest of the group was concerned too, since it was taking two dedicated clerics to keep everybody going (our total group size is seven PCs).

That was where Eclipse was brought back into the conversation (though again, I didn’t know that quite yet). The group’s main worry was (as I understood it) that I’d use the system to min-max the crap out of an Eclipse character and…well…eclipse the rest of the party. My willingness to play a weak character, and focus on his role-playing potential rather than his mechanics, had apparently driven home the point that I wasn’t going to do that. It’d also allow me the flexibility to fix Varek’s horrifically low hit points. The verdict was settled: I’d be given a chance to use Eclipse.

Of course, I wouldn’t just be allowed to re-spec my character. Up until this point, I had shied away from my character’s back-story – I had fleshed out who he was now, but not how he’d gotten that way. The GM decided to use this weakness as a strength, and said that my character was recovering memories that he hadn’t even realized he’d lost…and that these were the in-game use of Eclipse statistics. Given that, the GM’s plan was that each day, for a number of rounds equal to his character level, I could “swap out” using Varek’s normal Pathfinder statistics for Eclipse statistics (something the group referred to humorously as “memory mode”). The GM likewise said that, since this would be a limited ability, I shouldn’t feel bad about tricking out what Varek could do. The one caveat was that the character be re-designed around the same thematic elements as he had had so far; that is, no turning him into a martial heavy-hitter, etc.

Needless to say, I was elated! I decided to take the GM’s words to heart, and set about making an Eclipse version of Varek (who was, and still is, 6th level). Since the GM had given me permission to take the gloves off, I decided that all of Varek’s abilities were specialized (for one-half cost), due to only being able to use Eclipse for a few rounds per day. This essentially doubled how many character points I could spend on Varek, and it was easy to make an exceptionally-powerful incarnation of him.

Said incarnation lasted for one week.

The GM had changed his mind on the matter of swapping-out Pathfinder stats for Eclipse stats; while it would make Varek incredibly powerful for a few rounds, he was still a weakling the rest of the time, and far too easy to kill when he’d run out of time in “memory mode.” As such, the GM changed his original ruling, and now I was going to be allowed to use the Eclipse stats to run Varek full-time. This, of course, meant I couldn’t specialize everything across-the-board, but it meant that I could design the character with a more long-term progression in mind.

Of course, the irony was that I was told to re-spec the character to Eclipse while still playing closely towards how his Pathfinder stats were constructed. Ironically, this meant that the end result of redoing the character’s stats was, if I interpreted the GM literally, virtually indistinguishable from how Varek looked under the Pathfinder rules. After all, you can easily re-create the Pathfinder cleric in Eclipse, to the point where it’s effectively identical.

Naturally, I didn’t hew quite that closely. After all, it was far more important to address Varek’s low hit points, and related deficiencies (e.g. his low saves, etc.), resulting in some things being traded away to find ways to bump those up. The end result is below.

Available Character Points: 168 (level 6 base) + 18 (levels 1, 3, and 5 feats) + 6 (human bonus feat) + 10 (disadvantages; history, inept (Dex), stigmata) = 202 CP.

Varek receives feats at each odd-numbered level, a la the Pathfinder progression. His disadvantages play into the themes of the characters and the campaign: his ineptness builds on his physical weakness, his history is part of the campaign’s storyline with a lost age of disaster slowly returning, and his stigmata is that he had an old wound caused by negative energy over his heart – energy-aligned metals are part of the GM’s campaign world, and this plays into Varek’s ties with positive energy.

Ability Scores: Str 5, Dex 9, Con 6, Int 11, Wis 18, Cha 11. Includes Improved Self-Development (for Wisdom) and racial bonus (for Wisdom).

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).

As always, this last bullet point is based off of the Pathfinder Package Deal that all Pathfinder-style characters get with Eclipse.

Basic Purchases (99 CP)

  • 6d8 Hit Dice (25 hit points) (24 CP)
  • Light and Medium Armor Proficiency (9 CP)
  • Shield Proficiency (3 CP)
  • All Simple Weapons Proficiency (3 CP)
  • +3 BAB (18 CP, corrupted for two-thirds cost/does not count for iterative attacks – 12 CP)
  • +5 Fort, +2 Ref, +5 Will (36 CP)
  • 12 skill points (12 CP)

Varek’s base attack bonus was reduced to help save on Character Points. Since his low Strength means that he’ll almost never enter combat, I reduced it to one-half his Hit Dice, rather than three-fourths. Likewise, it was corrupted to remove iterative attacks, since those are of no use to him.

Special Abilities (103 CP)

  • 6 levels clerical spellcasting (no package) plus caster level (48 CP)
  • Spell Conversion (healing spells) (6 CP)
  • Shaping, specialized/increased effect (only works for prepared set of 0-level cleric spells), corrupted/two-thirds cost (must use verbal and somatic components) (4 CP)
  • Finesse with the Advanced modifier; apply Wisdom bonus to hit points instead of Constitution bonus (12 CP)
  • Channeling 3 times per day (6 CP) plus 4 bonus uses (6 CP)
    • Conversion, a set of four level three effects (9 CP), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only actually provides two effects (6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus, add Wisdom modifier to channeling intensity and magnitude (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, all abilities constant (e.g. unlimited use), personal only (x0.7 gp cost). Spell level 1 x caster level 1 x 2,000 gp. 5,600 gp value (7 CP).
    • Immortal Vigor (2d6 bonus Hit Dice, plus Wis bonus (+8) – retroactive to first level, and so are maximized (e.g. 20 extra hit points), 1,400 gp)
    • Warding Rune (1 + caster level/3 (max. +4) resistance bonus on saves, 1,400 gp)
    • Force Armor I (+4 armor (force), 1,400 gp)
    • Force Shield I (+4 shield (force), 1,400 gp)
  • Immunity, Stacking limits when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (Common, Minor, Trivial – only covers L1 effects, 2 CP).

The biggest changes in Varek’s stats here are his removing the “clerical package” option when buying his magic levels. While he did buy spell conversion so that he can spontaneously cast healing spells, the rest of the clerical domains were of little use for what they offered. This helped pay for Advanced Finesse, which lets him use his Wisdom to receive bonus hit points (this is explained as his having more positive energy in his body than normal biological processes could normally sustain – he’s simply “more alive” than his biology would normally support, something sustained by his faith).

Similarly, the innate enchantments help to round out the rest of his basic stats, providing bonuses to his hit points, his Armor Class, and his saving throws. Since he wears +1 hide armor (green dragonhide) and carries a heavy steel shield, the immunity to stacking limits for his innate enchantments is also a small-but-necessary purchase. He can also channel more often than he could before, and with greater efficacy thanks to Augmented Bonus (though I’m only mostly sure, rather than totally sure, that it doesn’t need to be Improved to apply his Wisdom modifier to both his turning intensity and magnitude).

Overall, these change Varek’s stats quite a bit.

Table: Hit Points

Source

Totals

6d8 Hit Dice

25 hit points

2d6 Immortal Vigor Hit Dice

12 hit points (1st level – maximized)

Wisdom bonus (+4)

32 hit points (includes Immortal Vigor HD)

Total

69 hit points

Table: Saving Throws

 

Fortitude

Reflex

Will

Base values

+5 base

+2 base

+5 base

Ability modifiers

-2 Constitution

-1 Dexterity

+4 Will

Warding Rune

+3 Warding Rune

+3 Warding Rune

+3 Warding Rune

Total

+6

+4

+12

Table: Skills

Skill

Ranks

Ability Mod.

Class

Total

Diplomacy

2

+0 Cha

+3

+5

Heal

1

+4 Wis

+3

+8

Knowledge (religion)

6

+0 Int

+3

+9

Perception

3

+4 Wis

+7

Sense Motive

3

+4 Wis

+3

+10

Spellcraft

3

+0 Int

+3

+6

The issue of what skills constitute “class skills” for Eclipse characters, which are class-less, hasn’t come up yet. I suspect, however, that the GM will limit me to the list of class skills for the standard Pathfinder cleric. The above skills that are receiving the “+3 class skill bonus” are reflective of that.

Table: Armor Class

 Source

 Bonus

Base

10

Dexterity

-1

+1 green dragonhide hide armor

+5

Heavy steel shield

+2

Force Shield (stacks)

+4

Force Armor (stacks)

+4

Total 24

Having said all of that, I’m still trying to figure out a longer-term plan for Varek, in terms of buying further abilities for him. He wasn’t originally meant to be an Eclipse character, and while I do have some themes in mind for him (the good of the group – healing, buffing, and maybe some defending), I’m unsure of how to properly reflect these with further powers.

Presumably he’ll want to take an immunity to having his innate enchantments dispelled or negated, and he’ll probably expand on them with some low-level boosters (e.g. some +2 stat bonuses), but I’m wondering if I should eschew his clerical spellcasting (and maybe take Superstition to reflect that he’s not devoted to a particular higher power) in favor of expanding his channeling powers.

I’d appreciate any ideas for where to take the character from here, but however he develops, it’s going to be a lot of fun using Eclipse to take him there!