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.

For me 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.

Eclipse: the Codex Persona, by Distant Horizon Games is shareware available from RPGNow and Lulu.com. When you’re converted go back and drop the $9.95 for Eclipse: the Codex Persona and get Eclipse II: Libram Arcana thrown in for free with more examples and goodies. Totally worth it.

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