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Shields in d20: alternative mechanics

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Shields are great – particularly when your opponent doesn’t have one. There’s a few ways to better model this in d20-based systems (like DnD, OGL, SRD, etc).


1. Instead of the shield’s AC bonus you can use the shield to “soak” damage. Convert the shield’s AC bonus to Damage Reduction. You become easier to hit but harder to damage. This is the willingness to take a hit on the shield.


2. Forfeit the AC bonus of the shield. Instead make a roll to “soak” the damage with the shield if you are struck. In v3.x roll vs. a DC of 10 + Opponent’s BAB + weapon specialization (and the like). The shield-wielder adds their BAB + shield specializations (and the like). Each point of success reduces the damage by an extra point.

Eg. DC is 19. Roll a total of 21. Reduce damage by 3 (19, 20, 21).


2a. Shields can be given a maximum damage they soak before they “splinter”.

Eg. a buckler might be able to soak 15 damage before it splinters (is made useless).


3. When one has a shield and the opponent does not double the AC mod.


The point here is that with a little bit of thought shield function can be better reflected in any system.

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How to make a real Archmage

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One of the constraints of general d20 is the lack of a cross-realm caster like Rolemaster’s archmage. By cross-realm I mean conversant in the use and knowledge of all types of magic. In d20 this is arcane, divine and psionics. In Rolemaster (RM) it was Essence, Channelling and Mentalism.

It might be easy to say that a character could multi-class their way to approximate the RM archmage.  But what if you want to start from level-1 and take the various hits to your powers so that you can stay true to your concept?

Eclipse: the Codex Persona, to the rescue.

Sejanus, Archmage

Sejanus is an archmage. A caster of any types of magic. He is a member of the esoteric order of Ogham Divina. Part of order membership is various duties. They members are respected and privileged as scholars and lawyers. They are often expected to adjudicate legal matters. Members also must contribute 20% of their monies to the order or to certain charities is the order is not present in that area. To even join the order one must have the aptitude to learn magic (Fast Learner: Magic) and to absorb knowledge quickly (Fast Learner: Skills). Most of his time is spent tracking down obscure parts of old books, rumours of magic, and testing formulae or potential members.

Sejanus is in late middle-age (tends to overlook simple things like catching a carriage instead of walking to the next town), blocked from learning martial feats, and a terrible liar (bluff –5, incompetent).

The cross-realm magical abilities have restricted the way Sejanus can learn spells. He must make a Spellcraft check to recognise the spell he wants to learn. If he fails, he misses out on learning that spell/ability. However, he can use Spellcraft as Psicraft and vice versa. At low-levels this is not a big risk of missing a known spell. At higher levels it becomes more likely that powers will not be learnt (DC=[Spell Level + 1] times 5)

Sejanus’ main magical usefulness is in preparing powers and having them available to Triggering. He can “programme” a string of spells if need be and they can be activated based on his wherewithal in the preparation.

Here’s the gritty bits.

Sejannus: Archmage, level-4

Human: racial bonus feat, fast learner (skills), fast learner (magic), bonus feats (L-1/3/6/9 etc.), bonus attributes (+1 L-4/8, etc.)

BAB/Warcraft: +2

Saves: Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +3

Hit Points: 17 (4d4 + Con)

Proficiencies: all simple weapons


Appraise +2

Concentration +5

Decipher Script +3

Gather Info. +3

Heal +1

Know: Arcane +2

Know: history +2

Know: religion +2

Move Silently +2

Prof: Lawyer +4

Sense Motive +3

Spellcraft +5

Magic Abilities

+4 Base Caster Levels: for all magic types

L-4 Psion: specialised, spellcraft check to learn new powers

L-4 Wizard: specialised, spellcraft check to learn new powers

L-4 Cleric (no package): specialised, spellcraft check to learn new powers


MAGIC Save DCs Slots/Known Effects Learn DC
SPELL LVL Psi/Arc Div Psions Arcane Divine Spellcraft
0 14 14 PP/25 5/10 6/7 5
1 15 15 4/9 4/4 10
2 16 16 9 pwrs 3/4 3/3 15

This means Sejanus has a lot of powers (if he made his Spellcraft checks). The odds are that he’ll know most of those powers listed. Still, he is only one person and has quite a few limitations that are permanent. Ie. they can’t be overcome later with “feats that create exceptions”. I can see for some GM’s they’ll balk at this but I’d be happy to run such a PC because there’s so much control over it via the Duties.

Metamagical Theorems





Magic Efficiency

SR/PR Improved, 10 + Level, 14

Lore: loremaster

Privilege: loremaster, lawyer, minor legal powers, receive hospitality


Aged (does silly things, like walk instead of ride unless reminded), Blocked (martial feats), Incompetent (bluff –5)

Advancement Ideas

Metamagic: Amplify (once have SL4 slots), Mana, BCL Increase, Magic Progressions increase, SR/PR Improved, Conversion (evasion/location spells), Spell Pool (wiz/clr), Skill Emphasis (sense motive), Persistent (metamagic)

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