Templates; Six Ways to Twist a Character

author: Ruemere (Patryk Adamski)
email: ruemere@poczta.onet.pl
date: 2003-11-18, revised 2004-01-10
status: test

Introducing desperate measures

Template shortcuts: Dark Champion | Dream Self | Doomed Prophet | Eater of Sin | Master of Crafts | Plague Reaper

The following article presents a short list of dark boons to be bestowed on unwary characters. These boons are meant to provide additional depth to roleplaying, increase a little character power and complicate life of everyone involved. They are supposed to be introduced by a game master, since in the hands of players they are likely to be unbalancing despite best intentions of article's author.

Desperate measures, from campaign standpoint, represent somewhat dark fulfillment of one's wishes, a gift with an evil twist. In order to be granted one, a character must make a desperate plea to an unnamed or evil power. Once something hears the words, the boon is granted.

Because of this rather loose mechanic, these gifts are to be used in a setting with prevailing and powerful supernatural influences of intelligent beings, who are best left alone. These beings use the powers to further their ends by either siphoning energy from the recipient or by guiding her toward achieving specific goal.

The mechanics are easy

Let's start with an answer to the question: who can bestow such powers?

Divine powers, obviously. Also any being of outsider type. Should you also decide to, some of these powers may be available to arcane or divine spellcasters, who possess Craft Wondrous Item feat.

An important thing to remember is that a dark boon is an investment, i.e. a being granting one of them also pays a certain cost (listed in price section of the description). As part of the bargain, a connection between boon recipient and a being granting the power is created. Any divine or outsider type being can (and most likely will) channel a part of recipients lifeforce through this channel (decrease all experience gained by boon's recipient by 10%). This connection also allows to easily scry and locate gift target (+4 to any checks involving scrying and/or locating the target).

Mortals who granted such boons are not subject to such advantages. However any Enchantment [Mind-Affecting] abilities employed by them on gift recipient's are at +2 circumstance bonus to DC. Also, an extraordinary ability, they can order gift's recipient (and influence her attitude) as per Charm Person spell (this is a side effect of the gift, and unless the gift power is suppressed, it is continuously in effect). Note to GM: Charm Person effect can be successfully resisted (albeit with +2 circumstance to DC as mentioned above) in certain cases.

Dark boons are templates with two additional descriptive fields:

Price is the negative side of the boon. It is also an investment on the side of gift patron.

Power adjustment field is an entry for Challenge Rating (CR) and Level Adjustment (LA) modification if the abilities granted by the gift are strong enough to significantly increase character power. CR modifier is applied in order to help a game master to calculate encounter risks and experience awards. LA adds to effective character level for the purpose of determining new level equivalent for experience progression. If either CR and LA is a fraction, round down. However, should the individual in question acquired new powers, total all powers in order to preserve balance in your campaign. Experience reduction due to LA adjustment is in addition to 10% experience reduction due to lifeforce siphoning effect by divine powers or outsiders.

series of Boons for the unwary

Dark Champion (template)

The wish is granted for those who wish to take vengeance upon their enemies or to those who just want to quickly repay painful debts of blood.

Benefit: A Dark Champion loses herself in her pursuit of vengeance bringing destruction indiscriminately to both intended and unintended victims.

Unstoppable Menace (Su): A bond is formed between gift recipient and dark malignant entity of extraplanar origin. The entity uses this bond to gain control of the character for extended periods of time, usually for the purpose of combating enemies. The host gains +4 enhancement bonus to Strength, +4 enhancement bonus to Dexterity and DR:10/Good. The host also becomes immune to both fear and mind-affecting effects (as her mind and soul are taken over by an external force). Host eyes become black pits, her voice becomes low and guttural and she gains ability to speak both Infernal and Abyssal (though she is unlikely to just speak). Champion's alignment is changed to Evil for the duration of the possession.

The Dark Champion can enter the frenzy willingly (a free action) or whenever she is angered (GM's or player discretion) or whenever she takes damage in combat. The Champion cannot control her actions during the frenzy, though she may choose method of harming her targets and the order in which the targets are affected (she may not choose attack method she knows her target to be immune to).

The frenzy ends whenever the Dark Champion resists external influence (a Will save is made) or when the Dark Champion runs out of creatures to attack (the Dark Champion will execute Coup de Grace on any dying creatures). Note, that once all the enemies are down, the Champion will attack her former allies. The frenzy may be also ended by a Banishment or similar effect (use character saves to determine success).

Should the Dark Champion fail to exit frenzy, she may make another attempt once per hour. She may also attempt to bargain with possessing entity, but usually the price is high (a period of total control without host consent or control or knowledge).

Resisting the frenzy is a Will save at difficulty of 10+1/2 total character level or 14+1/2 total character level if the price of the power was paid by patron.

Price: Life force (1000 XP) paid by either patron or recipient. Should the price be paid by patron, increase difficulty to resist entering and ending frenzy by +4.

Power adjustment: CR+1, LA+0. While the unfortunate recipient is more dangerous in combat, she also suffers great penalties in social interactions.

Special: This is a supernatural ability, suppressed but not cancelled by antimagic effects.

Dream Self (template)

Out of suppressed urges and unspoken wishes, out of self-loathing and regrets, a new self is born. It is a copy of the original character, but without imperfections and without conscience. Its memory and its actions are dictated by its interpretations of original's wishes.

Benefit: A Dream Self is not an evil twin version of original. It is rather a childish and unhindered by morality representation of one's whims and dreams.

Perfection Personified (Su): The recipient of this boon gives birth to a better version of herself. The Dream Self uses all statistics of the original with these modifications: add +4 to most important ability (GM's discretion), +2 dodge to armor class and +4 competence bonus to two skills of GM's choice. This alter ego always appears to be in perfect health and its alignment is Chaotic Neutral. Its' goals are (in order of importance, from the most to the least important) protecting original from harm, fulfilling perceived wishes of the original with no regard of anyone else's good or safety and gaining psychological dominance over original.

Dream Self appears whenever original loses consciousness (be it through sleep, wounds or drug intake) and immediately begins to work on last wishes of the character. However all actions of the Dream Self are not hindered by any morality, therefore a simple quarrel may result in a deadly retribution, character's wishing for a penny in a Dream Self robbing a wealthy merchant (or begging in a street). It's first and foremost goal is protecting the original though, at all costs.

Dream Self, during periods of original's activity, hides in a Shadow plane, regenerating if necessary (at the rate of 2 hitpoints per round). She regains spells (the same repertoire as the original) and recharges her abilities the moment the original does. Once the original loses consciousness, it is free to enter original's plane through any shadow (within 30' of the original) big enough to fit an original as a move equivalent action once per day (for example, a Dream Self Rogue may strike at original's opponent through opponent's shadow). She may leave original's plane as a move equivalent action once per day disappearing into any shadow. She will immediately disappear with original's regaining consciousness.

Perfection's Toll (Su): Whenever Dream Self achieves important goal of the original or whenever Dream Self saves original's life, she gains one point of Ego (this represents Dream Self's developing personality). Once the Ego points equal original's level, Dream Self may elect to attempt to stay in original's plane forcing original to disappear reversing their situations with the following differences: the character gains Shadow Plane regeneration, ability to enter plane of Dream Self once per day during Dream Self unconsciousness (and exit once per day, she also is forced away once the Dream Self awakens), but not other Dream Self bonuses. Dream Self alignment changes to Neutral Evil (permanently) as the copy begins to revel in her freedom. The character may try to regain her position by entering another Ego conflict. While dominant, Dream Self cannot gain new Ego points.

Combating for dominance is a standard Ego check (original's Will save vs Dream Self's Ego score).

Perfect Life (Su): Killed Dream Self regenerates fully one day later in a Shadow Plane, hence many her actions are taken with no regard to her safety. If killed during dominance period, the original is immediately forced out Shadow Plane through nearest appropriate shadow. Death of the original kills Dream Self (subsequent resurrection does not restore Dream Self, rather a new one is created with usual associated experience cost). Dream Self does not age, though her initial appearance reflects original's. Original forced into Shadow Plane stops aging, though if back in original plane, she resumes aging as normal.

Price: Life force (2000 XP) paid by either patron or recipient. Should the price be paid by patron, Dream Self starts with Ego points equal to character's level minus 4.

Power adjustment: CR+1, LA+1.

Special: This is a supernatural ability, suppressed but not cancelled by antimagic effects.

Doomed Prophet (template)

There are numerous stories of insane visionaries leading others to their doom. Such people share two traits: magnetic personality and strong purpose they strive to attain. Their incredible leadership qualities may inspire followers to heroic acts, but ultimate price of an prophet's ideal is measured in losses of her followers.

Prerequisite: Cha 15 or Leadership feat. Must have shown willingness to sacrifice herself and others for a greater purpose.

Benefit: The recipient acquires supernatural ability to lead others to their doom. She also gains minor miraculous powers.

Voices (Su): The Doomed Prophet hears voices guiding her toward her greater purpose. These voices (usually three or four distinct personalities) guide her toward fulfillment of patron's purpose. The Prophet is influenced by them as if influenced by a Charm spell effect. Voices are not separate entities. They are a new part of the recipient and use faces of people once known to the character.

GM's note: the personalities should have different functions: one should be used for tormenting the recipient should she exhibit any doubts with regard of to her goal, one should be used for praising for gaining new converts and so on. For example:

  • Marius, stern and unforgiving father of the recipient (died of wasting sickness a long time ago), he is the most likely to use Word of Penance, Word of Defiance and Word of Power powers,
  • Nainin, elder sister who took over the duties of recipients mother and father (one night she simply failed to return home, her fate remains unknown), she is the most likely to use Word of Praise power,
  • Iben, younger brother, cunning and crafty, a little cowardly, usually speaks to warn the recipient (fell off the rooftop of one of the houses years ago). He's the most likely to use Word of Warning power.

Word of Defiance (Su): Once per day the Voices may speak and urge the character to defy the might of character's opposition. Treat this as a Dispel Magic, Greater effect, cast at character's level, cast at either Doomed Prophet (targetting all hostile magic effects on character, a free action) or as typical Dispel Magic, Greater spell (a standard action, Doomed Prophet must verbally challenge the opposition) - the voices speak through character.

Word of Penance (Su): Once per day the Voices may speak and penalize character for her lack of effort or failures. Doomed Prophet receives one point of permanent Wisdom damage and a Bestow Curse effect (no save allowed, effect: -4 penalty on attack rolls, saves, ability checks, and skill checks). The first person attempting to remove these effects must also save successfully against Bestow Curse effect cast at Doomed Prophet level (effect: each turn, the target has a 50% chance to act normally; otherwise, it takes no action). Resuming the activities desired activities removes Bestow Curse effect, Wisdom damage must be healed separately. Should ever Prophet's Wisdom be reduced to 0 through use of Word of Penance power, the Prophet's mind breaks down under the stress and she goes insane.

GM's note: enterprising characters with access to powerful healing magic (or with extraordinary high Will save) may attempt to overgo effects of this power. If such thing happens, increase all save and dispel DCs and by +1 next time the recipient is subjected to Word of Penance. This penalty can grow but cannot exceed Character's base Will save.

Word of Power (Su): Once per week and only if the character is being prevented from achieving an important goal the Voices may speak and urge the Doomed Prophet to execute an extreme effort. The effects of this power last for 10 minutes per recipient's level or until the recipient's reaches her goal (whichever's shorter). Once the power ends, the Prophet takes 4 points of permanent Constitution damage (should she was reduced to 0, she dies and, despite Strength of Greater Purpose power, does not recover).

The Doomed Prophet is surrounded with a nimbus power, a halo of yellow light. Anyone attempting to harm the Prophet must save as if versus Heightened to Prophet's level Sanctuary spell.

The Doomed Prophet gains +4 bonus to one (GM's choice) of her abilities, usually the one most important for her to achieve her goal.

The Doomed Prophet gains +10 insight bonus to two (GM's choice) of her skills, usually the those most important for her to achieve her goal.

Any creature struck by a Prophet's melee attack (melee touch suffices) is also subjected to Telekinesis spell effect (Combat Manoeuver: Bull Rush or Trip only, cast at 9th or Prophet's character level - whichever's higher). This power is used as a free action, but no more than once per round and only on the first creature struck.

Any object struck by a Prophet's melee attack (melee touch suffices) is also subjected to Shatter spell effect (single solid objects only, spell cast at 3rd or Prophet's character level - whichever's higher). This power is used as a free action, but no more than once per round on the first object struck.

GM's note: This power is meant to be an ultimate ability used only for the most important moments of the Doomed Prophet's existence (and, of course, at GM's, i.e. your discretion). For example, should the leader of a great crusade found herself on a battlefield, 30 feet from her most powerful archenemy of her faith, she could attempt to charge in order to engage her foe regardless of her personal safety - starting with Major Miracle power and then following through with Word of Power motivation, she could finally achieve one of goals of her crusade.

Word of Praise (Su): Once per day the Voices may speak and reward the character for her advancements. The recipient experiences feeling of ecstatic happiness and comfort. She gains +4 enhancement bonus to Charisma and Endure Elements spell effect benefits until the following morning, she is also healed as if by Minor Miracle (see below) power.

Word of Warning (Su): Once per day the Voices may speak and advise character predicting result of future actions (treat it as a free action Augury spell effect in a form of an advice, caster level equal to recipient's level). This power usually used at GM's discretion to warn character if she faces overwhelming opposition, she's to enter a trap or ambush or of the course of her action may be detrimental to her cause.

Price of Greater Purpose (Su): The character has a greater purpose she devotes her life. The purpose must seem possible to reach and it must require risking lives. As long as the Doomed Prophet strives to achieve it she has access to certain special abilities.

Strength of Greater Purpose (Su): The purpose of the prophet yields incredible strength of will and body. Should the prophet be reduced below 0 hitpoints, she immediately gains ability to regenerate damage at the rate of one hitpoint per round (until she is at 0 hitpoints again). If Doomed Prophet is brought to -10 hitpoints or below, she appears to die, but will recover one hour later (in order to be killed, her body must be cremated and the ashes must be thrown to winds, or at GM's discretion, another similar method may be used). She also is immune to mind-affecting or fear effects.

Recruiting for Greater Purpose (Su): Doomed Prophet's sermons acquire incredibly powerful strength. Treat it as Mass Charm Monster effect cast at Prophet's level, available once per week.

Inspiring to Greater Deeds (Su): By speaking aloud a Doomed Prophet may strengthen Recruiting for Greater Purpose power so that the affected feel no fear of throwing their lives away (think lemmings). This power can be used only once per week, only on individuals already affected by Recruiting for Greater Purpose power.

Minor Miracle (Su): Once per day a Doomed Prophet may heal a group of people (of no more than one target per level). All creatures within the group receive benefits of Cure Disease and Cure Serious Wounds cast at Prophet's level or as 5th level spellcaster (whichever's higher). The Prophet cannot use this power to heal herself.

Major Miracle (Su): Once per week a Doomed Prophet may speak against enemy creatures or object. This produces a maximized Greater Shout effect at recipient's or at 15th level spellcaster effect (whichever's higher).

Price: Life force (5000 XP) paid by either patron or recipient. Should the price be paid by patron, Minor Miracle power may be used once per week and each use of Strength of Purpose to bring the character from -10 hitpoints or more costs the character her life force (500 XP).

Power adjustment: CR+2, LA+1. Properly used this is the prophet can use both her minions and her personal powers to oppose enemies.

Special: This is a supernatural ability, suppressed but not cancelled by antimagic effects.

Eater of Sin (template)

What devout servant of a god would not want to be able to find sins of others?

Prerequisite: Strong faith and strong need to find transgression against faith's tenets. Often goes hand in hand with a trait of intolerance.

Benefit: The user of the boon learns to detect taint of sin in hearts of those she interacts with.

Hunting the Taint (Su): Once per day per level she may focus (a standard action) on an individual she's speaking with (for the purpose of determining whether the ability can be used, assume that "speaking with" phrase requires at least two answers to mundane questions). Then she rolls an Sense Motive check opposed by Bluff at +10 insight bonus. Success allows to determine whether the individual in question sinned against Sin Eater faith within Eater of Sin level weeks. If the result is positive, i.e. the individual sinned, Eater of Sin may focus immediately again and ask about the nature of transgression (Eater's Intimidate check at +10 insight bonus vs result of target's Will save check). The target, should she fail her save, must answer truthfully, albeit she may choose a sin she is going to reveal if she committed more than one.

Each time Eater of Sin successfully queries her target, the target individual must reveal another sin or eventually admit she does not remember any more.

Each time Eater of Sin successfully uses this gift and the target confesses, the target takes one point of permanent Wisdom damage. Should the queries continue long enough, the target may be reduced to 0 Wisdom and enter catatonia or become insane (GM's choice). Eater of Sin is usually unaware of this side effect.

GM's note: Wisdom damage is not immediately apparent. It's loss should be roleplayed, not simply revealed.

Price: Life force (1000 XP) paid by either patron or recipient. Should the price be paid by patron, the character feels the need to question closest friends once per week at GM's whim.

Power adjustment: CR+0, LA+0. This is not a combat ability. Its drawback may severely damage Good aligned characters.

Special: This is a supernatural ability, suppressed but not cancelled by antimagic effects.

Master of Crafts (template)

An architects wills his failing body to continue working, a bell-founder spends hours basking in the heat of a bell to be cast, hundred people pull their ropes slowly lifting another block of stone to its proper place under supervision of an engineer, a wizard sacrifices his student for his research, a painter finishes a work of his life just as his muse expires. Great works require great sacrifices.

Prerequisite: Sacrificing one's health or life, sacrificing welfare and lives of others for the sake of some grand work.

Benefit: The recipient of the gift gains an ability to sustain herself upon life force of others.

Supreme Devotion (Su): Master of Crafts gains extraordinary stamina (+4 inherent bonus to Constitution) and +10 insight bonus to all checks related to her field of expertise. She also begins unknowingly to draw upon life energies of everyone working with her (one point of temporary Constitution damage per day from everyone who remains longer than 4 hours within 30' radius, leaving the presence of the Master after 4 hours but before a day passes does not prevent this loss unless a distance from the Master reaches more than one mile). As long as at least one point of Constitution is drained per four hours, the Master of Crafts does not need to sleep, eat or drink. Should she die without completing her work, she will return as a ghost (standard Ghost template) bent on continuing her work.

Price: Life force (1000 XP) paid by either patron or recipient. The patron pays the price only if someone already died for Master of Crafts cause. This power is usually revoked upon the completion of the work. The realization of the costs and withdrawal of the strength is usually enough for the former Masters of Craft to attempt to commit suicide in some elaborate way (GM's discretion).

Power adjustment: CR+0, LA+0.

Special: This is a supernatural ability, suppressed but not cancelled by antimagic effects.

Plague Reaper (template)

This power is usually offered to terminally ill beggars on the verge of expiring. The victim is tempted with the promises of getting well, and sometimes the ante is upped by declaration that the recipient will never need to fear getting sick again. Quite contrary, she is likely to get stronger and tougher.

Prerequisite: Being ill. Blasphemy helps.

Benefit: Plague Reaper harvests and stores in herself new diseases for her patron. Being an imperfect vessel though, she also becomes a medium for spreading them.

Plague Vector (Su): The recipient begins normal recovery (+20 to saving throws until the final recovery, for this disease only). The recipient will never suffer effects of any disease, mundane or magical (note that some diseases are actually curses and are not affected by this power). The disease effect resistance may be cancelled for an unruly customer (Standard Supernatural action). All the diseases resume normal progression, but the recipient still fails all saving throws.

The recipient automatically fails (-20 penalty) to any saving throw versus disease from now on. However, instead of getting sick, she only gets slightly feverish and sweaty. She also begins infecting (i.e. exposing to disease, granting usual saving throws - choose highest DC but roll randomly for actual disease to be transferred) anyone she touches, spits or makes a any other physical contact. She also contaminates any food she eats, water she drinks (or bathes) or place she sleeps. Mercifully, due to supernaturality of the cause, the contamination of nonliving or vegetable matter fades with the next dawn.

For every disease gained, the recipient gains +2 (up to the maximum of +10) inherent bonus to Strength and Constitution, but suffers -2 penalty to Dexterity, Intelligence and Charisma (up to the maximum of -6 and ability minimum of 1).

The curse may be temporarily suppressed also with Remove Disease effect, but it will resurface once one hour per effect level passes, though one, randomly chosen, disease will be permanently removed. Permanent suppression fails with exposure and subsequent failed saving throw to any contagious disease.

Price: Life force (1000 XP) paid by either patron or recipient. Should the price be paid by patron, the character is immediately visited with a deadly disease of patron's choice.

Power adjustment: CR+1, LA+0. While the unfortunate recipient is more dangerous in combat, she also suffers great penalties in social interactions and everyday life.

Special: This is a supernatural ability, suppressed but not cancelled by antimagic effects.