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Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/30/2014 03:12:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, today I'll do something different - and take a look at a free d20-supplement. This review has been requested last years and it took forever. Why? Because we're talking Eclipse, 202 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 197 pages, so what do we get?



First of all - if you like this pdf, you can buy the print edition or pay for it here - in the fine shareware tradition, I encourage those of you who find this book interesting to do so.



So, what is this about? This book is essentially the world's biggest character class-generator for d20-based systems. Don't believe me that this system is massive? Well...you could conceivably play children, infant characters even with it. The system introduces CPs - character points, which are used to buy EVERYTHING - skills, feats, Hit Dice - everything can be customized via these points, of which a character receives 24 per level. How does HD work? Essentially, a character gets d4+con-mod for free - bigger HD cost progressively more CP, allowing, provided the DM allows it, up to d20 HD.



This is a running theme - the system herein offers maximum flexibility, but never tires of emphasizing that a DM should retain the final say.



Skills not on the class-skill-list start as essentially the equivalent of cross-class, becoming class skills at 6 invested CP- with 1 CP equal to 1 rank. Now relevant for PFRPG would be that class skills/cross-class skills are handled more in line with PFRPG than its 3.X predecessor here, but with a catch - the character can also buy very specialized knowledge, i.e. knowing about a specific tome, a ritual etc. - these cost CP as well and provide in-depth information on those topics. Generally, that makes for a very interesting way of handling very specialized information. Saving throws cost 3 CP per point and most specialized abilities clock in at 6 points, but could theoretically also cost more, depending on the ability in question.



BAB is increased similarly - via the slightly unfortunately named Warcraft - which is an ability that costs 6 points and nets +1 BAB. Base Caster Level works similarly and have a limit of level+3, surprisingly. This also extends to the BAB, allowing you to potentially go above the level in question. Spellcasting per level is purchased in a similar manner, with fixed costs. And yes, these include the 3.X psionic classes.



Now beyond tables upon tables, there are roleplaying modifications to CP earned - depending on the campaign you run, you could prescribe X bonus CP to be used in a specific way. On a character's side, players may enter obligations, restrictions and the like to increase or decrease the CP gained each level. Disadvantages, much like flaws, are presented here as well. Action points are part of the deal as well, mind you, and represent just another buy-in option of specialized abilities available for CP.

Want to have a dominion, an equippage? Doable. Want to get completely rid of any class-distinctions? There you go. Point-buy casting via mana (which could be used to generate power points or spell-levels?) - in here. Return from death, villain-style? Possible. Shapeshifting? Sacrificing treasure in favor of mystic powers? Oversized combat maneuvers and weapons? Yep. Deal ability damage with attacks? Yup. Block attacks via fixed ref-DCs? Yep. This would also be one example (of many), where a particular rules-solution is inelegant and wouldn't see use at my table - ever - non-scaling, competing throws? Not my cup of coffee and similarly, not particularly balanced design.



Metamagic, lacing of spells - the same exceedingly modular approach applies. The same goes for handling ECL+X races and race-generation - including size modifications down to cellular levels. Some existing templates are also broken down by CP-cost and channeling energy, monster abilities etc. are covered in their own chapter, allowing for quite an array of alternative options for channeling.



Now, I've noted the option to have a dominion - this one nets Dominion Points, which allow further options for customization and achieve with the political might. Card-themed casting, godfire, occult abilities, martial styles, ritual magic, witchcraft - all there. Have I mentioned spells from the levels 10 -23? Yes, in case these meteor showers just don't cut it anymore.



World generation and motivations for characters would also be found herein - the system supports anything from anime-style campaigns to gritty ones and even pokémon-style gameplay. Sample character class (and PrC)-break-downs, handling different power-levels - and even checklists to make sure your now class-less character has proper motivations etc. - all of this is covered and infinitely more.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to an easy to read 2-column b/w-standard with fitting stock art. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks.



Paul Melroy and Patrick Bryant have created an interesting book for 3.X - one that can be made compatible with PFRPG, by the way, if you're willing to do some work.

EDIT: I've been made aware that the system has been made Pathfinder compatible - you can find the respective information here:



http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/eclipse-pathfin-
der-basics-and-races/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-barbarian/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-bard/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-cleric/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-monk/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-fighter/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-druid/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-paladin/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-ranger/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-rogue/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-expanded-alchemist/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-sorcerer/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/eclipse-d20-the-
-soul-knife/ (notes on the Dreamscarred Press-Pathfinder version at the end)

Thanks to the comments that pointed this out!

Over all, Eclipse provides a superbly modular framework, essentially breaking down d20-based gaming to its base constituents in the endeavor to allow maximum flexibility. And generally, the authors have done an exceedingly fine job with it. The major problems I found were system-inherent - maximum flexibility allows for maximum options and hence also maximum fluctuation between PC power levels. While generally, the system tries hard to maintain a sense of balance, overall, eclipse is less about standard number-crunching and more about narrative-driven playing environments. "But why not go diceless or old-school in that case?" Well, perhaps you like the framework, perhaps you want some choices...or perhaps you just want general ideas on what *could* make for compelling, non-standardized options.



Now what makes Eclipse different, concise within the d20-framework? It is a system that breaks just about EVERYTHING down to CP - everything. Attacks, sneak attack, psionics, mana, runes, being a lord - everything. This is the system of ultimate possibilities and this vast array of options, some of which you probably won't even think you desired, makes this book such a mile-stone.



For a mile-stone it is. This book, true to its name, eclipses by far other race/class generators I've seen and over all, remains MUCH MORE balanced than e.g. the race generation in Paizo's ARG or just about all similar generators I've read so far. I still wouldn't unanimously recommend it as a base for a campaign if your players enjoy the power-gaming/number-crunching game, unless you're willing to do quite a lot of checking, also because some of the individual rules simply aren't balanced (or not scaling) or rather clunky. While in no way true for the majority of content herein, I managed to break a couple of sample concepts - which is acknowledged and in line with the more narrative-driven focus of this book. So what is the grand achievement in this book? This is essentially the talented concept, taken a significant step further. Now while it's theoretically compatible with Pathfinder, I'd contest that claim somewhat by pointing out the changed ability-suites, power-levels, skill-emphasis etc. - it *IS* compatible, yes, but it also imho requires A LOT of work and quite a few design-decisions not all DMs will be capable of making to fully break down PFRPG in CP. While the conversion on the blog are extensive, they necessarily can't cover the entirety of material out there, so be aware of the necessity to do some conversion.



This is modular...in the highest sense. And it also is one of those books that get the juices flowing. Even if you don't use this book, there are so many ideas for classes, archetypes, feats, magic systems etc. in here that any designer who hit a writer's block regarding such concepts can flip open this book and get inspired - not necessarily by the individual mechanics, but by their proximity, their concepts, their general idea and general CP-cost - the same holding true for balancing more esoteric means and CP as a means of specialized knowledge is a stroke of genius idea that could easily be integrated into a given game, even without the rest of the rules - this is crunch/idea-cherry-picking at its finest - and it's free to check out. If you like what you're reading, support these guys.



All in all, this may not be perfect, but the book is an inspiring read nonetheless and should be checked out by anyone intrigued, even slightly, in the idea of a truly modular character-generator that gets rid of all the class-borders. As such, I will rate the inspiration, what can be drawn from this, at 5 stars. You should be aware, though, that the experience provided here is radically different from standard d20 and requires a crunch-savvy DM as well as a lot of dialogue between DM and player and should not be considered a toolkit for anyone. Personally, some of the rules-components rub me the wrong way, I'm a bit too balance-obsessed and too time-starved to break down NPCs etc. in CP, but at the same time loved the inspirations this book provided.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
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Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
by Carl C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/28/2013 16:18:07
I've not delved deep in this, but it seems to be the 3E classes broken up into their component parts, with a points system for reassembling them again. It also adds about an equal measure of new stuff, adding a lot. It can either be used to let players make their own "classes", or for the DM to balance and develop homebrew classes. Not updated for Pathfinder.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Publisher Reply:
Handily enough, Pathfinder is already Eclipse-compatible - as are most other d20 systems. There's an article series on how to build various Pathfinder races and classes using Eclipse on the support blog linked in the book. If you want to look at those, try http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/?s=pathfinder Creating or reproducing "classes" really isn't the point though; it's to allow the players to make one-of-a-kind characters with whatever abilities fit their conceptions without needing more than one book. That's why it covers replacing all classes, prestige classes, templates, feats, and races from pretty much any source. If you'd like to look at some samples, there's quite a list over here: http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/eclipse-character-construction-cribsheet/
Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/31/2013 14:42:16
I really don’t know how I’ve gone this long without reviewing this book. I’ve known about it for quite some time, and have been using it for the last several weeks in my home game, yet somehow writing a review didn’t occur to me. That oversight ends now.

I think that for everyone who plays a d20 System game, be it Pathfinder, d20 Modern, 3.5, d20 Future or whatnot, that there’s a sense of frustration with how patchwork the system’s exception-based rules are. That is, if you have an idea for a character, you can try to design an appropriate facsimile, but unless it happens to fall within some very specific parameters, there’ll be some aspect of the character creation mechanics that doesn’t quite fit with what you had in mind.

This, of course, leads to one of two things. Either you modify your expectations to fit within what the “class level” structure allows, or you go on a never-ending hunt for splatbooks and third-party supplements in hopes of finding new rules that will let you build exactly what it is you’re looking for.

Have you ever wanted to build a character that can shapeshift into different forms, but isn’t a druid, or even a spellcaster? What about a character that is able to manipulate fire via dancing? Or one whose spellcasting ability is limited by physical ability, rather than “prepared” spells? How many supplements and sourcebooks would you have to comb through to find rules that could let you play those characters? For that matter, how many would have rules to make ALL of those characters, and whatever others you can imagine?

The correct answer is: one. That being Eclipse: The Codex Persona, from Distant Horizons Games.

Weighing in at just over two hundred pages, Eclipse is an OGL supplement that has generously been made available for free. There’s also a page for a pay-for version of the book, which is completely the same as the free version in every way. In essence, the pay-for version is a tip jar, allowing you to pay for the book if you feel so inclined. Given that this book is essentially the same as every other character book ever released, that’s a staggering level of generosity.

The book hits the technical high marks for what’s expected of a PDF: copy-and-paste is enabled, and there are full, nested bookmarks present. Most helpfully, there is a link to the authors’ blog – I’ll mention why this is helpful shortly.

I should take a moment to mention the artwork. Entirely black and white, the artwork seems to be a mixture of stock art and works from the public domain. Moreover, most pieces are given a humorous caption. I say “humorous” because these captions tend to be of the Monty Python variety (in terms of how they read, rather than any specific quotations). For example, the illustration in the section on shapeshifting is of a woman with inhuman hands licking at her fingers. The caption? “Is it cannibalism if I wasn’t human when I ate him?” They’re pretty much all like that, though some are real groaners. As someone who loves making bad jokes (especially puns) I was tickled by these, but they might induce strain due to excessive eye-rolling in other readers. Be warned.

So now, having said all of that, just what IS Eclipse: The Codex Persona?

Simply put, Eclipse is a point-buy method of character generation for the d20 System. It wasn’t the first book to release a point-buy system, nor was it the most popular (thus far), but it is by far the most successful. Let’s get to why.

The book’s first section introduces the fundamentals. Basically, characters get twenty-four Character Points (CP) at each level. These points can be spent on a variety of things, ranging from the basics (Hit Dice, weapon/armor proficiencies, base attack bonuses, save bonuses, and skill points), to spellcasting abilities, to the much more colorful powers in chapter two, with things like damage reduction, the ability to actively block incoming attacks, esoteric means of communication, and so much more.

A review must, of course, gloss over some details, which is a shame since the first two chapter that detail these myriad abilities take up roughly a third of the book. But there’s something more fundamental that must be taken into account. While a large list of abilities that can be purchased is absolutely necessary to any point-buy system, it’s ultimately going to be limited – it has to be, since no single book can possibly list every ability that will ever be thought of in every other sourcebook, right?

Well, not exactly, no.

What makes Eclipse unique is that it gives a method for tailoring EVERYTHING that can be bought with Character Points, allowing you to alter them as necessary to fit with your idea for how they should work. How does it do this, you ask? By utilizing two related concepts: corruption, and specialization.

To be clear, both of these terms are referring to the same basic idea: that by placing some sort of limitation on an ability, you can give it a corresponding increase in another manner OR you can reduce the amount of Character Points the ability costs. The terms “corruption” is used to refer to a comparatively mild limitation, while the term “specialization” refers to a more severe one. It’s by using these abilities to modify the existing powers that you can create virtually limitless abilities.

For example, the Empowerment special ability lets you use your own ability score modifiers and caster level when activating a magic item, up to (3 + Int mod) times per day (sort of like how magic staves are normally). That costs 6 CP. But you could specialize that ability by limiting it to just, say, magic wands. By accepting that degree of limitation, you can choose to either cut the price in half (3 CP), or keep the full price, but remove the “per day” modifier. So when you make a character that’s a self-styled “Master of Wands” – with little actual spellcasting power, but is able to use magic wands far better than most fully-fledged wizards – you can easily distinguish him from other run-of-the-mill wizards and sorcerers.

The third chapter of the book builds on this, exploring what it calls “paths and powers.” These are, largely, more of the same, but where the first two chapters presented individual abilities that were largely unconnected, the various sections in chapter three showcase powers that have various sub-abilities. For example, channeling is the basic “turn/rebuke undead” power that clerics have. Here, however, not only can you manipulate how powerfully and how often you can channel positive or negative energy, you can do so much more. Beyond things like not needing a holy symbol, you can convert the energy into spell effects, turn or rebuke other types of creatures, grant bonuses to magic weapons, animate corpses, and so much more.

Many of the new abilities presented in chapter three are different systems for using magic. Skill-based magic systems, for example, have multiple different presentations here. So are low-level psychic powers, high-level direct manipulations of magic, mystical artistry, eldritch connections to a land you rule, and even divine ascension, among others.

Chapter four concerns itself solely with epic-level magic. This may seem very specific, but with the various ways to manipulate spellcasting (did I mention the metamagic theorems in chapter two?), it becomes something of a practical concern…depending on the sort of campaign you run. The spells here don’t use, surprisingly, any kind of new system of magic. Rather, they still use spell levels, ranging from level ten spells all the way up through level twenty-four.

It’s in chapter five that we move away from mechanics and more towards how to utilize what’s in the book. There’s a section for players here, and a section for GMs. The player section largely discusses the type of character you want to build, which is more helpful than it sounds when you can build pretty much anything you want. For GMs, the advice is even more practical – any role-playing game system can be abused by problem players, and in an open system like Eclipse, this requires a more proactive GM. Issues of deciding ahead of time what powers (and combinations of powers) should be disallowed are dealt with, in addition to suggestions and advice for what to do if a character goes out of control. Some templates and sample epic-level monsters help to round out the GMs tools.

A few appendices close out the book. There’s a quick example of chakras, presented as an in-game reason for disallowing certain power combinations. The second and third appendix take standard 3.5 and d20 Modern classes and show how they’d be built in Eclipse, along with how to take standard feats using Eclipse abilities. Some helpful worksheets are the last thing given.

If you’ve read this far, you probably have a pretty good sense that I’m a big fan of Eclipse. The author says in the foreword that none of his players want to use any other character-building options besides what’s here, and having gotten a chance to use the book in my own game, I can completely understand why. Why go back to digging through various books to hodge-podge together a character that resembles what you wanted to make, when you can use one book to put together exactly the PC you really want to play?

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Eclipse is a book against which no criticism can be leveled. The biggest critique that can be said of the book is that it’s horribly lacking where examples are concerned. This is no small complaint, as the system is a fairly complex one to understand, especially if you’re expecting more of the fairly rigid class-level structure from standard d20 games. There are numerous points where a helpful example would go a long way towards making things clearer.

To be fair, the book does have examples for some sections, but these are few and far between. The system is, I believe, fairly intuitive…but only after you’ve made a significant investment in understanding exactly what it’s offering and how it goes about doing it. Luckily, there’s a remedy for this: remember the authors’ blog that I mentioned earlier? It has a plethora of sample characters and items built with Eclipse (including my favorite articles on how to build 100% Pathfinder-compatible characters using the book), and more than fills the need for examples of what can be done with Eclipse.

It’s also important to keep Eclipse’s limits in mind. The book allows for many options in building characters, and while this often brushes up against many other parts of the d20 System, there are some that it doesn’t replace. For example, there are many different ways to manipulate the skill system with the powers here, but the system itself is independent of Eclipse (which is why it works with d20 Modern skills, 3.5 skills, Pathfinder skills, etc.). There are different ways to build magic items, but magic items themselves aren’t dealt with here (though relics, which are similar, are). Eclipse is a powerful character generator, but it’s not a complete replacement for your d20 game of choice.

My understanding is that Eclipse is so named because it “eclipses” all other character-building options in the d20 System, and I can honestly say that it does. Think of every fictional character you’ve ever read, watched, or heard about; you can make them all here. You may still need to increase the amount of levels necessary to do it, but it can be done. The Codex Persona is exactly what it promises, and is still completely compatible with whatever d20 game you’re playing, to boot. So put on your protective eyewear and look into the Eclipse.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Distinctions & Demerits
by Zachary T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2012 07:46:16
The useful: a list and descriptions of possible developments on a character, which a player could draw from.
The useless: opens with some kind of points-by-level thing for applying distinctions and demerits, to be layered on top of the already convoluted d20 "character build" nonsense.

This sort of thing should emerge in play, and I was looking for some kind of framework for these sorts of in-play things to feed back on the character thereafter. I have my own ideas along this line, and wanted to see how it was done here.
Nice choice of illustrations. Not quite worth the price.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Distinctions & Demerits
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The Practical Enchanter
by Ravi R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/16/2011 16:24:45
I really like the options in this book, both for personal items and for location-based items. The items that affect whole communities are a great idea, one that helps supports rp'ing a character deeply involved with their society/neighborhood.

The explanations, examples, and comparisons with SRD material is excellent. They make it crystal clear how to use the options given, what is possible, and what kind of divergence from the Core-Rulebooks-game one can expect.

I can't say enough good things about this. The writing is excellent, and occasionally humorous. The presentation is clean and easily understood. The rules are easily amenable to mix'n'match as desired. Many, many new options are provided for those interested in magic items.

One of my most satisfying purchases!

Plus, it is shareware, so one can go through the entire product before deciding on a purchase.

Anyone interested in magic items should certainly take a look - magic crafters especially!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Practical Enchanter
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The Practical Enchanter
by Ravi R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/16/2011 16:22:17
I really like the options in this book, both for personal items and for location-based items. The items that affect whole communities are a great idea, one that helps supports rp'ing a character deeply involved with their society/neighborhood.

The explanations, examples, and comparisons with SRD material is excellent. They make it crystal clear how to use the options given, what is possible, and what kind of divergence from the Core-Rulebooks-game one can expect.

I can't say enough good things about this. The writing is excellent, and occasionally humorous. The presentation is clean and easily understood. The rules are easily amenable to mix'n'match as desired. Many, many new options are provided for those interested in magic items.

One of my most satisfying purchases!

Plus, it is shareware, so one can go through the entire product before deciding on a purchase.

Anyone interested in magic items should certainly take a look - magic crafters especially!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Practical Enchanter
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Eclipse: The Codex Persona
by Colin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/03/2011 00:01:16
For quite some years I refused to play d20 system games. The prestige-classes, the convoluted rules and feat-based exceptions, the general idea of new classes being made as a one-upmanship of existing classes, and the third-party stuff that just broke the game – all combined to put a foul taste in my mouth as soon as d20 was mentioned.

Then along came Eclipse: The Codex Persona (E:CP). A point-buy character creation system for d20/OGL. It is totally flexible and with a bit of work you can create any character-concept you would like right from level one. It's clear that the Distant Horizon Games' designers have done their testing and the comments through-out the product show it. They pull no punches in letting you know it can be abused, and as they say, if your players are making fireball-throwing wizards for a grim and gritty rogue game then the problem is not the game-system. Unlike mainstream d20 products who seem to pretend it can’t happen E:CP shows you examples of broken builds so you can get a good idea of what not to do and what to look out for when new players pick up the book and make characters.

E:CP’s point-buy works on the basis of one feat is 6 character points. A PC has about 24cp per level, and starts with 48cp. E:CP considers characters to have 3 levels prior to level-1 (-2, -1, 0). It expands on the idea of abilities and feats with Corruptions and Specializations: basically they are ways to alter the feat/ability to either be increased in effect (eg. Specialized for double-effect), or reduced in utility (eg. Specialized only to be used in a thunderstorm). The cost either alteration (specialization or corruption) increases or reduces the cost of the ability based on its application.

At first E:CP is a bit difficult to understand. There’s a few points of understanding that are implied and not stated as clearly as I would like. The scope of what is a corruption versus what is a specialization takes a fair bit of reading to get used to. On top of this the magic-progression descriptions are a little clunky in how they function, and combined with Base Caster Levels really could use a clean-up for clairty. A more straight-forward, step-by-step, description could be better for dullards like me but I got there in the end.

As the designers rightly say you need a strong concept before you can make a character. Since point-buy can be like a massive market with near limitless choices you can get into a rut trying to finish spending the last few character points. That’s why a clear concept, with abilities and why the character has them, is so necessary.

Eclipse: the Codex Persona has returned me to the fold of d20 gaming. Without it I would still be out in the wilderness of the less popular systems. I strongly recommend getting this excellent piece of OGL work and trying it out. As they say in "How Do I Use This Product?”:
"We’ve play-tested, pushed, prodded, and pulled every corner of this system. And it works. None of our players are willing to play d20 with any other system anymore – and we think it would be cruel to try and make them."

Get the sharware version and when you’re converted go back and drop the $9.95 and get Eclipse II: Libram Arcana for more examples and goodies. Totally worth it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse: The Codex Persona
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Paths of Power
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/26/2011 22:55:53
Ideas and options for alternate magic systems in d20. Lots of great ideas here and can be used as a tool kit, options or just a way to give characters a different feel.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Paths of Power
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Legends Of High Fantasy
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/14/2011 07:36:17
Like the other books from Distant Horizon, LHF modifies, or replaces, the standard d20 rules. In this case it is for a setting but everything can be adapted, or used whole cloth, for your use. It starts with character motivations, backgrounds that provides minor bonuses and variant races.

The second chapter is where the meat of the book begins. Variant classes that can be signifincantly different from those in the SRD. The cleric, ranger and wizard are almost completely rewritten, the paladin is no longer a class but rather a calling in life with a divine boost, the monk is no longer a class but rather traditions that other classes can use and the fighter gets a boost. Clerics are not warrior priests and cast spontaneous spells. Rangers get (multiple) totem spirits that modify their spell list. Wizards have to spend cash each time they cast a spell and magic can have minor side effects.

Then there are three prestige classes. Dark Disciples gain power from lower powers, Fey-Brethern ally with chaos (fey aren't remotely human in the setting), and Merrin Crusaders are human warriors far beyond the basic fighter.

The druid and sorcerer have the most significant changes. They have a d12 hit die because they need to burn hit points for casting spells. Their method of spellcasting is different from clerics and wizards. They have much more freeform magic in the form of spellweaves. These are catagories that contain spells with effects that aren't set in stone like those in the SRD. One example is those sorcerers who can tap positive divine sources via the Holy Magic, a spellweave that contains the spells armor of light, awesome wrath, benediction, exorcism, hearten, open the way, prophecy and white light. To cast a spell, the sorcerer picks one of the spells and then suggests an effect. The DM says yes or no and in either case, some damage is taken (i.e. trying to cast beyond one's ability causes damage). A druid spellweave, Water Magic, as animation, tide of blood, polar current and tincture of alchemy. This allows the creation of life as well as manipulating water in its various forms.

Spellweaving is an interesting way to allow freeform magic. It isn't truely freeform so many of the headaches that come from having such power simply don't come into play.

The fourth chapter (three is the spellweaves) describes feats and weapon and armor proficiencies (something added in the class variants). Starter feats must be taken at first level. They are powerful but come with drawbacks.

Skills make up the fifth chapter. Most are what you expect but there are a couple that are different. Warcraft replaces BAB and ritual magic allows for freeform magic that is limited in a completely different way from spellweaves. Where spellweaves are generally quick to cast (round or less), rituals can take minutes to a decade or more. They require resources and, for higher level effects, special items. In some ways these are similar to incantations from Unearthed Arcana (and Urban Arcana) but they have nothing like seeds. There are lots of rules, suggestions and examples, 9 pages in all.

The sixth chapter examines magic within society. The wealth level templates and charms and talisments were also placed in The Practical Enchanter but there is more to creating charms and talisments in this book. The chapter ends with talents (a much shorter version than that in The Practical Enchanter), a way of providing magical powers to all characters.

The seventh chapter is legal information.

This book is as well written as the others from DHG and provides a lot of variants that could be useful to you. To me, it sits next to their other books as a 5 star product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legends Of High Fantasy
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Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
by Ice W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/23/2009 08:30:26
My earlier review:
A poster on the ENWorld forums recommended this to me after I expressed a desire for point-buy systems.

I checked it out and found it a bit too wrapped up in D&D conventions (class skills were mentioned), still having a "progression" base for some of its elements (apparently you bought your spell progression rather than individual spells and levels), and not entirely dedicated to a "build your own" approach (the "companion" ability simply mentioned using existing progressions).

I don't think it's a document for fulling branching out into point-buy from standard d20, but it might be useful to those who want a system for building their own classes.


UPDATE: After taking more time to look at this product I admit what I said before was hasty and ill-thought. While I can't say it's perfect — and it's certainly a lot to learn and work with, more than some people may be willing to put up with — it's definitely trying.

What makes it feel clunky at first is that rather than try to design a point-buy system that stands on its own the designers stick to backwards compatability with 3.0 and 3.5 D&D as well as d20 Modern, and then add further options. The entire work becomes a toolkit. A full toolkit, which you can choose from to suit your desired play experience. It's just staggering the amount of options available, one should really just download it — especially since it's free — and see for themselves.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
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The Practical Enchanter
by Anthony B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/09/2009 06:47:13
I've had this book for a while, but found it to be so far-reaching that I experienced trepidation about actually using it in a game. I just couldn't anticipate how my players might exploit it or use it to create custom spells that went far beyond what I could adjudicate on the fly. However, I've just found my first use for it, and it's great.

I needed a system for curses -- for people too weak to retaliate against aggressors through normal combat. And as I went looking for a good PDF, I remembered this book. The system for laying down a curse turns out to be wonderfully done. It empowers the weak without overpowering clerics & wizards (who are already powerful). However, clerics & wizards can certainly use the system. It's also great for how it cleverly puts a game mechanic behind all those curses you've read in fairy tales.

For example, I wanted a curse such as, "May your appearance be as ugly as your black heart!" And with that curse, I would hope the enemy would be disfigured or lose charisma or grow horns or... something bad. And it turns out that something open-ended like that is exactly right for this curse system. You figure out who it affects, how powerful of an effect you hope for, how long it should last, apply some modifiers, and poof, you have a curse.

My only issue with the curses is that they are listed as Necromancy spells, yet somehow commoners are supposed to be able to use them. Here is the paragraph in question: "Curses are easy to lay and difficult to remove. Elderly peasants who couldn’t manage a Ray of Frost can lay them. Dying men, offended parents, and anyone who’s wronged can lay them, even if they’ve never had any magical training." So... if curses are spells and commoners have no spellcasting ability, how's that work? If curses are a special exception, can commoners cast level 9 curse spells? If not, why not? Do they have daily limits as spellcasters do, or not? And what's their saving throw spell DC, considering commoners have no spellcasting stat?

In the end, that hardly bothered me. Curses have a level adjustment modifier if you let the curse eat a certain amount of your XP. So I just decided that commoners who cast curses have their XP eaten in order to get them up to the desired level. And I used charisma as their spellcasting stat.

I wish I knew how the author used curses, though. These issues must have come up.

Even with flaws, I really enjoy the mechanics for curses.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Practical Enchanter
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Publisher Reply:
Hm. The "Reply" button is finally working here... For a very long time indeed it didn't appear on this review for some reason. First up... The spell templates are for building spells; the specific spell built must be acquired normally. There's no composing spells on the fly there unless you can get them down to level (-1) or below - and spells like that only pop up in a few specific instances - such as curses. . Commoners (and pretty much anyone else) can lay curses through standard game mechanics; 1) First apply the curse modifiers (for blood relationship, spending XP, etc) to reduce the spell level of the curse you want to inflict to (-1) or below. 2) "Research" it - requiring time and money and having a DC based on the spell level. With a negative spell level, time and money are zero. With no time required, access to a library is moot. With the research checks being instantaneous, you can simply take 20 without expending time. 3) Casting it requires a negative level spell slot - that is to say, something below having no ability to use magic. Anyone with no ability to use magic qualifies. 4) The saving throw DC may default to Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma at whim; Everyone has at least no ability to use spells associated with any ability. Ergo the save DC is (10 plus the negative level of the spell plus a caster-chosen attribute modifier). Sadly, this does mean that - when the commoners curse that evil dark lord - he'll probably laugh it off. Even when he rolls a "1" on his save, he'll just have someone throw "remove curse" on him as soon as he notices - although he might not for some time; most negative-level curses are going to wind up very specific and fairly minor. Truly major curses are thus still reserved for powerful spellcasters.
Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
by Margaret N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2008 20:40:53
This is a very nice handling of d20 rules that completely does away with the straightjacket of classes and adds a few things that weren't part of the standard rules. The formatting is basic and the art is quite good (too few gaming books use classical sources for pictures). It's not for newbies to the the rule system, but players who understand it will enjoy the flexibility it grants.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
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Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
by Richard L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2008 17:57:01
Once you get it into your head that you can make almost any character design with Eclipse, the only problem you have is keeping your players a bit grounded, but really, who cares, its fun - having a by-blow of a greek god adventuring with a somewhat morose vampire (among others) was simply a blast. For those who think its not a true flexible point buy system, read more carefully.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Practical Enchanter
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/09/2008 12:08:07
It’s difficult sometimes to review things on a 1-5 scale. Usually that range is enough to clearly denote just what I think of a product, but very rarely, I’ll read an RPG supplement that makes me wish I had a wider scale. Specifically, there’s a very small group of books, less than half-a-dozen, that I’d give six out of five stars to if I could; The Practical Enchanter is one of those.

A companion volume to Eclipse: The Codex Persona, The Practical Enchanter does not require that you have the former book to use it. Like it’s sister book, The Practical Enchanter is available free for download, along with a pay-for version that is identical – Distant Horizons Games released the pay version purely so gamers who really liked the book could voluntarily pay for it if they felt so inclined. This is an incredibly magnanimous gesture on their part, particularly since I think the book is a steal at twice the price.

The PDF of the book is two hundred forty-two pages long, including the covers, OGL, credits page, editor’s note, and an explanation of the shareware version. The text is OCR and is fully searchable, allowing for cutting and pasting. Full bookmarks are also given, tagging every section and subsection in the book clearly. The table of contents is not hyperlinked, but given that the bookmarks cover everything listed, this isn’t really a problem.

As with many Distant Horizons Games products, the artwork found in the book is all material that has long since entered the public domain. All black and white (save for the covers), everything here is over a century old, at the very least. Given the nature of the pieces used here, they all have a very distinct feeling to them, particularly since they were (presumably) all made as serious art. The detail and rendering on them is exquisite, even if the pictures rarely seem to directly relate to the text on a particular page. Also, unlike Eclipse, none of the pictures have captions. A plain, black border encloses every page, along with alternating listings of the book’s title, and its parent company at the bottom of each page. In short, this is a book that could conceivably be printed out with relatively little difficulty, though if you want the entire thing in physical form, it may be cheaper and more worthwhile to just purchase the print version.

One final thing that must be noted before examining the book’s specifics is that, similar to how Eclipse had rather silly captions for many of its illustrations, The Practical Enchanter has periodic commentary appearing in its pages from Grod the barbarian, and his compatriots. Very much a stereotype of his chosen profession, Grod banters with fellow characters such as Lute the bard, Guildmage Xanos, EVIL WIZARD (yes, he spells his name in capital letters), and every so often, the book’s editor. While largely humorous, these comments are always relevant to the section of the book they’re in, and sometimes are nicely insightful.

So now that all that’s out of the way, what’s the book actually about? Well, The Practical Enchanter is a magic book for your d20 game. It’s not just a book of new spells, nor does it give an entirely new magic system, but rather straddles the line between those two distinctions, doing a little of both. By its very nature, this makes it mutable, offering different things depending on what you’re looking for. Each of its six chapters is quite different from the others, allowing you to pick what you need as you like.

The first chapter (and in my mind, the best) covers new spells. This isn’t just a random assortment of new spells listed alphabetically, however. Rather, the chapter looks at the types of bonuses/penalties you can get in the d20 system, and analyzes spells that grant (or inflict) those, and provides spells based on that. In many cases, these are spells, but you also often see spell templates – spells whose mechanics are variable, and make the spell level vary depending on what mechanics you choose. Want the spell to be long range and affect a group of people? That’ll drive the level of it up. A sidebar describing how they worked the mechanics accompanies every subsection here, and the chapter is peppered with comments on additional affects that can be applied to any spell for an increase in level (for example, making a spell able to get through a golem’s magic immunity raises its level by +3). By mixing these altogether and treating each result as a different spell, there are thousands upon thousands of combinations possible just from this chapter alone.

The second chapter presents practical variants on spellcasting. Specifically, it concerns itself with methods of spell research, and using the Spellcraft skill to create magical effects. While this may sound dry in theory, the sheer breadth of what the book fleshes out is incredible. With a high enough Spellcraft check, for example, you can theoretically design a new spell instantly as you think of it, rather than taking weeks of costly research.

Chapter three covers new feats. Again, the level of innovation here is quite high, such as a feat that lets you use magic/items that normally shouldn’t work in your campaign world. Roughly only half of the book’s feats are actually detailed in this chapter; the others appear in relevant sections – this chapter lists them and gives a page reference for them, though.

The fourth chapter covers new magic items. These are all “social” magic items, made to make life easier in towns and cities, for the good of the general population, rather than for adventurers to better kill things with. What may make this section a tad bit less appealing for some is that instead of the standard d20 magic item formula (magic aura, caster level, necessary spells and feats, market price), these have their creation information given differently, with a focus on how to create them and how the price was established. Still, these will likely be very useful to someone looking to make their high fantasy world feel more “realistic.”

Chapter five deals with alternative systems. If you don’t have or want magic in your game, this chapter deals with how to turn the book’s new rules and effects into things such as superheroic powers, or cybernetics, among other things. The final chapter covers two kinds of great enchantments, heartstones and wards major. The former is essentially an area with great magic that you can tap into, while the latter is imbuing an area with great magic that it can use itself. Several appendices round out the book, with the first one giving tables of relevant information, and the second being an index of each and every new spell listed alphabetically.

I think that The Practical Enchanter is the single best magic book ever to come out for the d20 system. It’s honest look at the mechanics of magic, and how it uses that to simplify most spells and present myriad new options sets a new level of standards for magic in the game. And that’s without even looking at all the other new materials if offers. Given that it’s available for free, there is absolutely no reason for you not to have downloaded this book already and started using it. The Practical Enchanter has a mind-boggling amount of material to offer your game, so go ahead and put it to use.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Practical Enchanter
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Paths of Power
by Robert B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/04/2006 00:00:00
Form first glance, this book looks very useful. The new mechanics are simple, yet effective, IMO. I foresee this book getting used, which is rarity for me and PDF products.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Paths of Power
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