Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Epic Heroes for D&D BECMI

It occurred to me that I made a number of statements throughout CC1 "Beyond the Skies" regarding Calidar’s epic heroes without actually developing them specifically. Since I posted the BECMI conversion of demon game stats, now is a good time to address epic heroes (and legendary villains) in a more focused and coherent manner in a format familiar to D&D BECMI players.

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What are Epic Heroes?

The notion of Eternal Glory is central to Calidar’s narrative. It originated from the idea that no one truly dies as long as they are remembered. This thought grew into the concept that epic heroes and legendary villains do not age so long as they are being talked about, revered, or dreaded. It is the first step toward ascending to demigodhood. Gods of Calidar are comparable to Mystara’s immortals, with demigods qualifying as Initiates and Temporals in that universe.
            During their lifetimes, adventurers earn Notoriety Points (NPs) aside from their normal experience points, leading them to attain “epicdom” well before 20th level. This scheme is strongest in the Kingdom of Meryath, which is Calidar’s alter ego to Mystara’s Ierendi, a realm of heroes. This is explained in more detail in CAL1 “In Stranger Skies,” p. 86. Though demons and demigods receive ample treatment in CC1 “Beyond the Skies,” epic heroes do not. Clues about their abilities are scattered across nearly 400 pages across CAL1 and CC1.

Notoriety Points

Based on personal merit entirely, adventurers earn (or lose) NPs, which represents how the ever-watchful servants of gods perceive them. NPs aren’t that easy to obtain and remain entirely at the discretion of the referee. The following analogy comes to mind: XPs are to basketball scoring what NPs are to soccer goals. They are meant as a tool to entice players to get more personally involved during the game rather than sit back and go along with a group of more assertive gamers. It rewards risk taking, clever behavior, and illustrious roleplaying as much as combat. A successful adventurer might expect to gain 1 or 2 NPs at the end of a foray, up to 5 NPs for some truly extraordinary feat. At 60 NPs (or more), one becomes an epic hero. Inactivity or lackluster gameplay unrelated to bad die rolls may also result in lost NPs, so it is possible to “fade out” of epicdom until enough NPs are regained.
            Along the way, adventurers can also receive divine favors when they please their patron deities—usually a temporary magical ability of some sort, described in CC1. Since the game master controls their attribution, NPs can be adjusted to help characters to attain epic status well before experience levels gleaming out of reach to most players (games beyond 15th level are rare, especially in an OSR context). At 1,000 NPs, epic heroes and legendary villains have garnered enough divine attention to ascend as demigods at the service of sponsoring deities. You are welcome to guess that the next blog entry will focus on demigods and their interface with D&D BECMI.

Epic Benefits

The nature of being "epic" comes directly from the thoughts and admiration (or dread) of common people hearing fantastic tales, amplified and brought into existence by Calidar's World Soul. It is in fact how gods are created at a much greater scale. Note that although epic heroes are politically empowered in the Kingdom of Meryath, their behavior is legally regulated on the islands. Meryath minstrels, a new character class (soon to be published in PG1 “Players’ Guide to Meryath”), enjoy alternate ways of earning notoriety for themselves and their companions.
            What follows includes a compilation of various statements scattered throughout CAL1 and CC1, with new powers added at the end. 
  • Epic heroes and legendary villains do not age. They can be killed in combat like any other character.
  • If killed, they can be called to serve their liege deities as powerful divine servants (see CC1 p. 211 for their stats and abilities.)
  • Odds epic heroes/villains contract limbo sickness are limited to a maximum 10% regardless of ability scores.
  • Their attacks are considered magic weapons as regards monsters immune to non-magical attacks; this benefit applies whether these heroes fight with melee and projectile weapons or bare-handed.
  • They can inflict combat damage and cast spells upon demigods and archfiends* (which lesser mortals cannot, even when using magic). They can also slay dormant gods.
  • Epic heroes can directly influence how mortals perceive their gods, possibly altering in the long term the behaviors, alignments, and appearances of these deities. With respect to this ability, epic heroes may face conflicts with threatened cults or with related clergies seeing their own influences challenged.
  • Upon achieving a related quest, an epic hero can rally enough mortals to revive a dormant god.
  • Epic heroes have a better chance than lesser mortals at calling for divine intervention.
  • In general, they receive saving throws (with appropriate penalties) against godly magic or against the powers of divine artifacts, while lesser mortals do not. As a result, they may be able to shield their thoughts from gods and archfiends, or refuse to honor an imperious order.
  • Epic heroes may be called upon to work as their divine lieges’ scouts, spies, and informants. They may be tasked with quests to handle godly business among mortals.
  • They may be summoned to command a part of a liege deity’s army in battle on outer planes.
  • When reaching “name level,” they earn the Leadership and Military Tactics skills, or substantial bonuses for skills already possessed.
  • Elves and dwarves especially may be tasked with crafting and enchanting artifacts with necessary divine powers willingly proffered by liege deities, usually in exchange for a service of some kind as payment for their work.

(*) Referees should feel free to discard the original rule that epic heroes are unable to fight demigods with more than twice their Hit Dice. The simpler approach might work better, with epic heroes able to fight any demigod instead.

Upon reaching “name-level” and for each new experience level from this point onward, epic heroes can earn One of the following advantages:
  • +10 hit points (first time) and +5 hp (if picked again).
  • Improve their natural AC +2 in addition to any other ability, armor, and magical bonuses.
  • Improve an ability score +1 (even beyond the maximum normally available to normal adventurers).
  • Magic Resistance +5%.
  • Regenerate +1 hp per hour.
  • Detect invisible 15’ radius.
  • Detect evil (or good) 30’ radius.
  • Immunity to poison and drugs (one-time choice).
  • Immunity to paralysis and “hold” magic (one-time choice).
  • Immunity to normal and curse-type diseases (one-time choice).
  • Immunity to fear and mind-affecting attacks (one-time choice).
  • Turn into a Rascal-type demon with appropriate HD (one-time choice, irreversible; NPs and XPs are no longer relevant).
Conclusion: Although by no means impervious to godly wrath, epic heroes can prove to divine society as useful as they are exasperating. Some deities will eventually resort to elevate to demigod status an impertinent but irrepressibly glorious mortal as a scheme to better control the pesky offender who now is obligated to faithfully serve the divine sponsor in every possible way. Most, fortunately, attain demigodhood as a rightful and timely reward willingly given for their loyal services.

Coming Next: Demigods of Calidar with D&D BECMI game stats.
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