Today for something different: Optimized Character Concepts

Today we look to the first and second post on ruscumag.wordpress.com about character concepts in Eclipse: The Codex Persona. There are a lot for me to commet on, so I’ll jump right in:

The Overly-Familiar

The idea of this loop is to stack familiars and then turn them into combat machines via the “Template”-option. The idea is solid, but requires DM-approval every half step of the way, even more so than any other Eclipse build, and that says a lot.

For this build, it is important to keep in mind that, if a familiar dies, you need to save against XP-loss, which means you should probably leave them at home at higher levels. Still, 18 CP provide for one of the best low level options available…

Or it would be if there weren’t the pesky little rule about creatures only having 1/3 of your character levels ECL. A level 0 character can’t have any companions and a level 1 character can only have a 1/3 CR creature as a companion… Templates do not increase that limit.

Sure, corrupting and specializing it to ignore that limit might be valid, but if you do, keep in mind that the DM will probably make it more of a pain than it’s worth.

The Impervious One

Ugh… Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the big one. Natural Law immunities, as in, Immunities to a specific rule of the game. See, the problem with that is as follows: Normally, it is totally acceptable to specialize an ability to ignore some of that abilities limitations. That is because the ability, in itself, will gain another weakness to balance the first.

If you buy an immunity, however, this creates two problems:

For one, the ability looses it’s limitation without gaining another one. If you make Berserker stack, but in return have to roll again against a save, then sure, take that +30 Strenght and roll me 4 saves against the next death effect. Tell me how that works out for you. If there is no weakness, however, you will just have +30 Strenght for next to no downside. This ties in with the Nove concept and makes it so much worse than it otherwise would be.

The second problem is that it allows you to influence mechanics that you would otherwise have no influence on. Stacking limitations, as seen in the post, is one of the biggest things: If you can just continue to cast Bear’s Endurance, why bother investing into about anything? This is the form that makes Bottleneckers much more broken… Yet can apply to absolutely everything.

This is the most broken build option and should be handled with the most care possible.

The Cosmic Power

Yeah, whoever read my posts on channeling know what’s coming now: The channeling conversion has no listed control issues and is thus perfect for this archetype.

I’ll be honest here: I like to build my characters with a few powerful tricks to pull.

And while saying that, I would like to point to the biggest offender in this category: Path of the Dragon. This path offers enormous power, at-will no less. While Conversion can be used infinitely, if you know how and your DM doesn’t triple check all your choices, the Path of the Dragon doesn’t bother with that.

All 9ths every round every day from level one onward (if you know what you are doing) get’s boring fast… At least on a combat scale.

And this is where I’d like to address the fellow players of this archetype: Is breaking fights really that important to you?

If you are like me, then probably not: Cosmic power creates a negotiating position for low-level characters beyond “do this or I kill you”. Cosmic power creates a scenario where you don’t HAVE to try to grab for XP at every opportunity, and, hilariously enough, allows you to RP without having to calculate what result will bring you closer to your next level to enable you mechanically to do what you want. As a character, you are more social or political than you are a fighter or interested in combar. You don’t go into a dungeon for treasure and XP from the dungeon itself, you go in there for boons, favors, contacts and privileges from your employer. Of course, that is also the problem of the cosmic power: If you are in a game without “Overworld” or any sort of interaction beyond combat, you are in for a bad time as a cosmic power. The D20 system is very mechanics-oriented, but that doesn’t mean that it’s only for combat. For the cosmic power, it means that if someone asks how you are able to provide something or do what you do, you can point at your sheet and go back to the interesting stuff.

Sadly, there is the second type of cosmic power: The combat destroyer. D20, for the most part, is a social game. That means that if you ruin someone’s fun, you ruin it for yourself too. And that INCLUDES nuking an encounter on the first turn, constantly talking about how awesome you are or actively limiting someones choices by abusing your power. I don’t care if you can do it, you shouldn’t for the games sake.

In the end, the cosmic power is the concept that can work if the player is willing to have it work and play nice out of character, and one of the few concepts that allow an evil character to work, as it has been proven time to time again that a good party is more likely to turn on an evil party member than the other way around. As a cosmic power, never be the one to start PvP and try your best to avoid PvP, but don’t break character for it: If the good aligned character wants to attack you for the sake of attacking you, well, he deserves what he has coming for him. Even then, make the fight interesting. It’s still part of the game, and not playing like you are untouchable enhances it for you and the other players.

The Bottlenecker

This is what the D&D-community calls a SAD character. Not sad, SAD. Single-Attribute-Dependant. You know, like a Wizard.

With a single exception: A Wizard can’t fight with swords, while a bottlenecker… probably can. A bottlenecker is any person that uses Finesse or Augmented Bonus. In extreme cases, both.

Rather often, Finesse is not even the worst thing. After all, it’s still just a single attribute, even if it’s rather high. Augmented Bonus, however, is an entirely different beast. Why? Well, because we can augment multiple ability scores with the same magic and stack them up. Remember how I talked about the impervious one aiding bottleneckers? A impervious one can basically do the same thing with Finesse as he can do with Augmented Bonus. Imagine this: Someone with 10 Strenght and 10 Constitution casts Bite of the Werebear. Now he Finesses his Strenght to Hit Points. Bite of the Werebear gives +16 Strenght, but only +8 Constitution, which means that it grants an additional +4 HP per HD for 12 CP. Assuming he uses Augmented Bonus, that costs 18 CP, he gains an additonal +8 HP per HD. Now, just for fun, let’s say he was the impervious one. In that case, he casts it twice. Now the boni themselves double too! If he uses Augmented Bonus, that means he would go from +0 HP per HD to an incredible +24 HP per HD.

In conclusion, a bottlenecker isn’t breaking the game as long as you have a sensible explaination for why your Finesse or Augmented Bonus is appropriate and if you use Augmented Bonus as sparingly as possible without ruining you build.

The Nova

We all know this archetype. It’s every caster/manifester.

Long story short: You have limited resources per day, blow them all in 15 minutes and then go back to sleep. The easiest way to avoid this is by giving people a strict time limit (a lich rises to take over the world for the paladin, a social event the cosmic power can’t afford to miss), so they can’t just rest most of the time.

Finally, a way to avoid this has been addressed in the framework of page 16. The framework has two purposes. First off, it doesn’t allow you to invest more than a few CP in a single ability chain. I dislike this part of the framework and design my characters to work around it. Why do I dislike this function?

Well, because the second limit works much better: It halves your available CP by making you spent points in Warcraft, Skills and Saves, no matter how irrelevant they are for your character concept. It makes the characters more D&D-like without limiting the creativity.

This archetype is rather annoying if it’s overdone. So yeah, just don’t allow 15-minute adventuring days, and you are pretty much set.

The Charmed Life

Innate Enchantment. That’s what this archetype amounts to. There is not much I can say to this one: The website gives a great example of specialized abilities removing a normal weakness, but in itself, there is nothing to say. It’s a boring archetype and something I have not done in all the time I had Eclipse simply because it is so boring. The only things I can recommend with this is a low-level Power Word: Pain and Charm Person, but other than that… Yeah, I cannot rate this archetype, just because I cannot see the appeal of it.

The Pet Spammer

It’s the overly familiar, but better. Equipped with summoning spells and competent followers, this guy is not quite the Thrallherd of Eclipse… And should be dealt with accordingly.

Just load up your enemy with dismissal and dispel or even turn them against him with Perfected Summons. After that, the pet spammer only has his followers… And if your DM knows the original Leadership, you know why that is a bad situation.

Again, the impervious one could make this a true Thrallherd… Unstoppable and with an infinite army. This is, again, why the impervious one is the most powerful archetype and should be handled with care (or sometimes even a “no”).

The Glorious One

This is every character that uses the “Glory”-Ability. Yeah, that’s it. There is nothing much to add to Thoth’s evaluation: Change it to BASE Con, or rather, don’t let spells and powers increase it’s effects, and you should mostly be set.

The Deathblow

It’s basically this, but without bottlenecking or creativity. It’s boring, mostly focused on dealing damage… Yeah, what goes for the nova goes for this guy, and he can also be defeated by blocking the attack or an immunity against death attacks. It can’t do much outside of combat, it’s boring…

Just ask your player if that’s really what he wants to play, inform him that if he can do it, an enemy might do it too, tell him how boring it is… And if he still insists after that, just throw more enemies at him or up the CR by one or two. This isn’t too broken to deal with on a normal basis. If he wants to roll another d6, fine. Meanwhile, the other characters start flying and bending reality to their will.

The Social Networker

The “Blessing”-specialist. Long story short, this guy is no problem unless he is combined with the charmed life, at which point the charmed life is the actual problem.

Really, this guy is only a problem when the party is there to back him up, he will likely not have too many resistances on his own and is the primary target. This is, like the Deathblow, more of a case of making the problem with this build clear to your players.

The Shapeshifter

The shapeshifter build has some straightforward weaknesses: They can only turn into things that exist and they cannot turn into unique creatures.

With the impervious one, they are incredibly good (no HD limit, for example), but otherwise they are not too problematic, unless they fixate themselves on a specific creature or are only in for the Attribute Boni… In which case, we don’t really have a shapeshifter as much as we have a High-CR player, which in itself is a different problem.

Still, a person that can shapechange has often limited uses and most creatures aren’t nearly as flexible as a good build is. It is nice, but unless you allow them to make their own creatures to turn into (which would then require some serious magic on it’s own) or they use one of the few really broken monsters, there isn’t too much to worry about. What’s more the creatures here don’t grant you their casting abilities and spell-likes…Which downgrades a lot of them.

The Stunt Double

This archetype uses Action Hero/Stunt to gain temporary abilities by sacrificing a very limited resource.

You can see the problem there, right? Anyway, the stunt double has the problem that it can throw out specialized and corrupted abilities.

Now I know what you are thinking: “I can bolster myself via channeling though. My magnitude will be high enough and I can basically add it to my intensity to gain positive levels. Isn’t that better?”

Well, here is the part that makes Action Hero/Stunt so incredibly good: It costs 6 CP.

Truly, this can be troubling during the game and there is no good way to avoid it one way or another. The way I deal with it? By having it forcefully specialized, because it is just too good otherwise.

The Luckmaster

Everything has already been said over on ruscumag, but there is one detail I’d like to add: Look at the Vorpal special quality. The look at this ability. You just discovered the biggest problem with this ability.

Otherwise, this character rarely does too much to your game: Immunity to instant death a few times per day is often the extend of it. A clever combination of The Adamant Will and the Death Ward spell can do a lot of what this ability covers in terms of stopping effects from taking you out of the game.

And since they tend to buy even more bonus uses every level up, they are boring to boot. Why? They probably can’t do much more than that! Their problem will be that while they can take 20, they have no ability that makes taking 20 worth it. No increase crit multiplier, no spells to take 20 to bypass SR with…

This is one of the cases where you, while you should also apply the things Thoth mentioned, should talk to your players and tell them why it might be a bad idea.

The MegaWitch

So… Witches with high power reserves are bad, right? Well… not that much, actually. Oh, sure, they have some abilities which are really badass, but how does that compare to, well… An actual psion?

Don’t get me wrong, I can see some of these abilities causing problems: Sanctify is broken with high power reserves, Ashen Rebirth can make a Witch awesome at covering great distances, Apparition is very cheep and Spirits of the Deep allows awesome minionmancy…

Yet, a spellcaster can do stuff like that too, right?

It is a valid character path, a very valid one as a matter of fact, but… It doesn’t seem utterly broken to me.

Then again that is probably why it’s in the “optimization and over-optimization”-part instead of the broken build part, right?

The biggest problem is acquiring temporary templates, like Half-Celestial. The way I’d handle it is to say that, as long as the template is active, you gain the ECL… which means that there is a good chance for you to loose out on XP.

 

I will not talk about the other two, the deity and the x-man, because both of those look like powerful options, but aren’t really broken concepts.

And with that, we come to the end of this page. Thanks for reading.

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