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Reconciling Immortals, Part III: Powers and Immortal Campaignsby Scott Moore
For characters reaching 36th level, the Immortal character class, originally presented in Frank Mentzer's Immortals Rules boxed set (the gold box) and later revised for Aaron Allston's Wrath of the Immortals boxed set (WotI), provides further advancement and adventuring opportunities. Unfortunately, several significant differences exist between these two products. Some items addressed in one product are ignored, or even contradicted, in the other. The purpose of this series of articles is to help document the information that differs between the two products as well as to provide some suggestions for expanding the material presented in both sets. For this third and final article in the series, we'll examine immortal powers and some suggestions for running immortal campaigns.
The introduction to WotI Book One (page 2) makes a note of some of the differences between that set and the earlier gold box. Where there is a conflict between the two rules sets, it recommends using the WotI set as the definitive guide. While this does make sense for certain items (such as eliminating the limit on the number of Immortals per level, dropping the Olympics and competition requirement for advancement, and dropping the sphere association for spells), there are certain aspects of the gold box rules that players may wish to continue using in their game. For those that may own only one of these boxed sets, the following will give you an idea of exactly where some of the rules differ and offer you the option of adopting either system (or a combination thereof) as the base rule in your own campaign.
Wrath of the Immortals introduces the concept of immortal Powers. Beyond the standard abilities of all immortals, an immortal character may select four additional Powers when they become an Initiate (page 67, WotI Book One). An optional rule (page 71, WotI Book One), allows immortal characters to gain one additional Power upon reaching each additional rank (Temporal, Celestial, Empyreal, Eternal, Hierarch). Rather than reproduce the entire list of Powers presented in WotI, a select list is included below for those that may want to incorporate this feature into their immortals campaign. Note that many of these Powers may be abilities the character possessed in life, but they are not automatically inherited once the character gains immortality. In such cases, the character may wish to take the immortal Power version of the same ability in order to continue enjoying the same benefits.
Control Undead - The immortal has the power to speak with intelligent undead and control undead as if he or she were an Undead Liege of 33+ Hit Dice (page 217, Rules Cyclopedia).
Detection Suite - The immortal can detect traps, sliding walls, sloping corridors, new construction, and hidden and secret doors with the normal chances for success for an elf or dwarf.
Enhanced Reflexes - An immortal taking this Power adds +2 to his or her rolls for surprise and individual initiative.
Fighter Options - The character gains Lance Attack, Set Spear vs. Charge, Smash, Parry, and Disarm as a 36th level fighter.
Increased Damage - The character causes one extra die of damage for each attack. This Power may be taken up to four times, for a maximum of four extra dice of damage.
Mystic Special Abilities - Note that this power counts as three choices. The character may use Acrobatics, Awareness, Blankout, Gentle Touch, Heal Self, Mind Block (vs. immortal spells), and hand to hand damage attacks as a 16th level mystic.
Swoop - A flying immortal that swoops down on a target does double damage on a successful attack. This ability may only be used once every three rounds.
Thief Special Abilities - The character may use Open Locks, Find Traps, Remove Traps, Climb Walls, Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, Pick Pockets, and Hear Noise as a 36th level thief.
Turn Undead - The character is able to turn undead as a 36th level cleric.
Upon reaching immortal status, the scope of the campaign should change just as profoundly as the character themselves changed upon attaining immortality. The following suggestions are for use in building campaigns around immortal characters.
The term "prestige campaign" was used by Jim Ward to describe a special campaign environment designed especially to challenge a higher-level party. Good examples of such a campaign setting would be Fast Forward Games' Dungeon World, Bastion Press' Forge, or Fantasy Flight Games' Midnight campaign settings. The plot and back story of these campaign settings have some interesting twists and turns compared to a "standard" fantasy setting and have plenty of elements to challenge a party of immortals. Other campaign setting with a "unique" flavour, such as Wizards of the Coast's Ghostwalk could also be adapted to such a campaign.
Note that all of the "prestige campaign" options mentioned here are d20 products. These settings can easily be adapted to earlier versions of the D&D game, however, as it is the flavour and "chewy bits" that are the key elements to these settings and not so much the "crunchy bits" (the game mechanics themselves).
Another option would be to completely convert the characters over to the d20 system (Wizards' does have a D&D Conversion Manual for converting characters from earlier version of the game to d20 available on their website at: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/files/conversionbook.zip). The player character would then be sure to encounter situations where their powers do not work exactly as expected under the older rules. These changes should be role-played through, as the new rules system would help simulate the new immortals' unfamiliarity with their new abilities or the way they work in different campaign settings (whether they are considered planets, planes, or dimensions within your overall campaign).
Other Games/Other Worlds
Branching off the idea of prestige campaigns, you may even decide to migrate the immortal characters to an entirely different genre. For example, there is definitely no shortage of immortal heroes in the comic book genre, and the theme of immortal-observer-who-decides-to-become-involved has been repeated throughout classic comic books for over half a century. Dropping new immortal characters into a superhero game gives the immortals the opportunity to play with characters and challenges that are more likely on par with their abilities.
There are many conversions available, both official and non-official as a quick search of the Internet will show, for converting D&D characters for use in other game systems. With a little work, you can transplant your immortal characters to almost any other game system the GM and the players are interested in trying. The old TSR Boot Hill game and the 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide even had rules for transferring characters between the different version of D&D and games like Boot Hill, Gamma World (now also available in a d20 version), and Metamorphosis Alpha (now available again in a 30th anniversary 4th edition). These different game systems may simply exist as other planes, alternate dimensions, or different time periods within the greater Mystaraverse.
Another option would be to look at the various RPG sourcebooks available in the Steve Jackson's GURPS line, which probably has more diverse game settings published for it than any other RPG. Even if you decide to keep your immortal campaign within the prime plane, some of these sourcebooks (such as Mars and Space, for two examples) could help provide some background flavour.
If you do not wish to completely switch to another gaming system, but like the idea of using different rules to simulate the new immortals' attempts to acclimate themselves to their new roles, you may wish to keep multiple copies of the characters: one using the original D&D stats and one for the new rules system. If you prefer, XP (or now, PP) awards can still be based on the original D&D rules, with updates made to the original character. When the immortal character gains a level under the D&D rules, the closest analogue of the new abilities gained should become available for the alternate character under the other rules system as well.
Immortal observers are those characters (typically Temporals and Celestials) that are sent to study various areas, races, or items, on the Inner Planes and report back to higher level immortals. Observers are not permitted in interfere; they are there merely to observe and report back what is revealed to them. On page 25 of the DM's Guide To Immortals from the gold box, it is suggested that immortal observers should receive 10% (rounded up) of the standard PP award listed on the Rate of Progress table, above, and that while acting as an observer they assume "the part of a mortal in all respects", although page 16 implies that this is not mandatory.
Staying at Home
If your regular Mystara campaign includes a wide span of character levels, including both immortal and non-immortal characters, you can incorporate immortal characters into your games as behind-the-scene influences, such as the "mysterious benefactor" who follows the trails of the main characters through the first two modules in the Desert Nomad series (X4 and X5).
Power Point Awards and Adventure Planning
Page 25 of the DM's Guide To Immortals from the gold box suggests awarding a fixed amount of PP to immortal characters each game session, as determined by the number of game sessions you want the characters to go through before gaining a level. To use this method of adventure planning, find the number of game sessions you want the characters to go through in order to gain a level across the top of the following table, then find the characters' immortal rank(s) along the first column. The intersection of this row and column indicates how many PP should be awarded to each immortal character per gaming session. The gold box rules recommend 5 sessions to gain a level for lower level immortals, with 6-8 sessions to gain a level for higher level immortals.
Rate of Progress 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Temporals 110 74 55 44 37 32 28 Celestials 450 300 225 180 150 129 113 Empyreals 850 567 425 340 284 243 213 Eternals, Hierarchs 1700 1134 850 680 568 486 426