Creature on the border of the sphere of fire

I'm making a critter. I could use some feedback.

I wanted to make a really dangerous creature that wouldn't have an agenda.

In the year 885 Olbrecht of Bonisagus (one of the order's most influential early authors on magical beasts) was studying a dragon when he observed an attack on that dragon by a similarly sized draconic creature. The second creature appeared from nothingness and exhibited a remarkably savage nature but only bestial intelligence. After a brief altercation the beast flew away rising higher than any altitude he, or the dragon he was studying, could reach.

Investigating further, Olbrecht found that he was able to observe the creature on two further occasions by creating the illusion of a dragon soaring high above the tops of mountains. This creature apparently thought the illusions to be a challenge to its territory. The beast was often invisible and not only completely impervious to fire but also able to dispel ignem magic apperntly effortlessly.

Olbrecht documentaed his findings and the beast became, for a short time, well known in hermetic circles. It was not seen again until 1105 when a Verditus maga experimenting with devices to allow travel to exceptional altitudes was threatened by a beast matching Olbrecht's description. She first noted it by the dragon shaped holes it created in the clouds she had conjured for shade as it flew down to her location.

Olbrecht's Sky Drake is an ancient creature. That lives high in the sphere of air. It perhaps may have possessed some sort of intelligence in ancient days but it at present has the mind of an animal, perhaps it is the result of eons of lonely flight, perhaps it is related to the nasty scar on its temple, perhaps it never was more than an animal. It is among the most powerful of drakes possessing the size and might of a Dragon. It flies ceaselessly and is territorial of a vast volume of empty sky stretching all of the way up to the sphere of fire.

I want this to be the mightiest of Drakes so I chose might 40 in accordance with RoP Magic p 74. I choose size +7 I want a really big beast , this is the size of a 30-35 ft. tall giant (per RoP: Magic), it is, according to Mystery Cults, bigger than a killer whale, and smaller than a humpback whale.

Base attributes (using seven points on only physical attributes as per p. 38 of Mystery Cults) are:
Cunning 0
Perception 0
Presence 0
Communication 0
Strength 0
Stamina +1
Dexterity +2
Quickness +2

But I adjust for size +7, give it mental characteristics as if it were a bird and I get

Cunning -1
Perception +2
Presence -1
Communication -2
Strength +14
Stamina +1
Dexterity +2
Quickness -5

I was thinking of winter season for my drake, but that brings up a problem. Winter season is 1,200 experience points (RoP: Magic). For a creature who doesn't have languages or lore that's enough for Brawl and athletics around level 20 and everything else relevant at level 13 or so. I'm not partial to that plan. My new plan is to just choose what feels right. It's simple, fast and will get what I want. I'm wondering if I have a third alternative anyplace? (I know Jean Paul Sartre would say that I'm stuck with option 2 regardless of what I choose, but I'm wondering if the books present another methodology).

Basic abilities for a clawed beast or a bird from Mystery cults are :

Looking at the ability list I'm going to add in Stealth and Hunt.

I'm going to choose level 8 for what I think it's amazing at and level 5 for the rest. So
Awareness 5 (flying creatures)
Athletics 8 (flying)
Brawl 8 (claws)
Hunt 5 (track by scent)
Stealth (gliding invisibly)
Survival 5 (at the highest altitudes)

Looking at the animal qualities, I see stuff that seems appropriate: accomplished flyer, aggressive, Crafty, Extra Natural Weapons, Fast Flyer, Grapple, Keen Eyesight, Pursuit Predator. But most of this is really for making up animals and won't apply to my mythic drake. I'm going to change its cunning to +1 and not worry about whether or not it has the thick scales quality. Does anyone here see that as problematic?

Next I'll deal with magical qualities and inferiorities.

RoP: Magic encourages me to choose a number equal to my creature's might, specifically might before adjustment for size. That would have been 47 points if I'd have chosen an initial might to get the critter to 40 after a -7 adjustment.

As a minor quality I'll choose personal power for invisibility
As a major quality greater power: unravel the fabric of Ignem
Two minor qualities for improved powers, to spend on the previous two powers
Major Quality Focus power Crafter of Ignem
Major Quality Focus power Crafter of Auram
Major Quality Greater Virtue Greater immunity Fire
Major Quality Greater power Flame Breath
Minor quality improved powers to spend on the flame breath
Major Quality no fatigue
More minor qualities:
Improved recovery
Improved initiative
Improved attack
Improved defense *2
improved Soak *2
Minor virtue *6 all spent on improved characteristics

That's 36 points, it seems like plenty to me. I suppose I could have taken a smaller starting might and then spent points on improved might in order to get things to balance. Spending that much additional effort to get my creature to adhere to arbitrary rules is not something I'm going to do.

So here's a first pass at Olbrecht's sky drake

I looked at the fire breath of Stelatus in the core book and at the spell design of Arc of Fiery Ribbons and didn't love either, so I created a fire breath that I'm more fond of than those.

So what are any issues with the final creature?

How would you have followed the books more closely or less closely? Tell me about how much or little worth our systems for creature creation are for you. While from my method you can tell that I find them greatly too restrictive for my games, I'd much rather have them and choose to ignore them than not have them.


The final creature isn't quite legal, since Animal Qualities and RoP:M rules don't mix well. AQs are used as guidelines. The drake also needs something to let it fly.

You could give it some season other than Winter?

I'm not sure the RoP:M entity creation rules are really better than "just wing it." I am sure they are more complicated, and have some strange and (for me) undesirable results (eg Kelpies are Magical Things? umm...).



Yes to the first, but no for the second. For mundane animals you choose some sort of Flight. For Magic creatures they can just have it. Same thing with claws/bite/etc.

Residual vis on the corpse?

I suppose I cold. I chose winter because it is a powerful creature that's very ancient. Do you see some benefit from choosing a season to give an xp budget and then sticking to that budget? I think that the seasons are designed for intelligent social creatures, make sure that they have abilities on par with the magi they'll be interacting with.

I'll move the animal qualities that I wrote down in the description and make them unique virtues. I've seen that Animal qualities and RoP: Magic rules don't mix well, but what specifically makes this creature not quite legal?

whoops, I'll correct that.

No books handy, but I'm pretty sure that the drakes/dragons in the books are given explicit flight powers, and that special bite/claw attacks are built up using Qualities.


In theory, yes: SinceNPCs are built the same way as PCs, giving an xp budget based on power makes sense, as is the case for PCs.

The seasonal aspect of this doesn't make sense, though. Something can be ancient, powerful and limited. Another being can be relatively young, weak but very clever and skilled. Cramming the covenant model onto magical beings... very meh.

And this doesn't quite work.

That you used them at all. That you're now making them unique virtues (which I suppose is legal, but so is making my own spell guidelines, or combining Pre+Com; but invoking Rule 0 makes everything legal.)

It would have been really nice if critter design scaled. Then I could have a "fire breathing dragon" whose abilities were pretty much the same whether Might 20 or 50, but the big dragon would have bigger, hotter flames, sharper teeth and claws, and so on. So that the fire would do Might damage, the dragon would have social skills (for charm, intimidation, command, mesmerize) with a bonus of Might/5, etc. RoP:D and :I do a bit of this with the way attributes are scaled.

Continuing in this vein, raw power and diverse abilities are two very different things. A 500xp Mutants&Masterminds character at level 5 is very different from one at level 15 (or from a 300xp lvl 15 character.)

The AM magical critter design rules get in the way at least as often as they help, I think. Your example here is a case in point: You need to create a new virtue to get what you want, which isn't all that outre. The rules aren't all that balanced but are all that fiddly. (Two entities whose final Might is 20 can be utterly imbalanced. For example, one of them starts with Might 10,020 and takes Reduced Might 10,000 times. And why do we need a rule for animals (but not other magic critters?) to have their Might reduced by Size? Fiddly. Just Plain Bad.)



So if I were making a chinchilla of virtue, wouldn't the most rules proper way to go be to first make a chinchilla using the Bjornear chapter and then modifier it into a creature of virtue using the magic animals rules in realms of power magic?



That might have been an intuitive way to do things, but that's not what I got from reading the rules and checking it twice way back when.

A horse has Tireless AQ for free as part of being a horse. A Horse of Virtue does not get this, but must spend 2 qualities to get the same 2 fatigue. Both get the same Size, but they have different rules for how this affects characteristic points (normal animal is favored.) The normal horse gets Abilities based on the animal rules; the HoV gets xps based on its season.

AQs serve as a 'guide' for how to spend points.

I suspect that the natural animal rules were not very concerned with balance: All animals are not created equal but that's fine because they're just animals and rather limited. The magic animal rules seem more concerned with balance, to make a (base) Might 30 (adjusted ~35 or with 5 points of bennies) Rat of Virtue just about as good as a (base) Might 30 (adjusted ~28) Lion of Virtue.



I agree with this, along with the rest of what Ovarwa said here. I would have designed things differently to make a few more things mutually compatible, like this and issues surrounding shape shifting.

There is a little cross-over in that a few AQ's were designed as Powers. But I consider the writers of those to have been misguided because they've given non-magical animals magical non-magical stuff that can be resisted in weird ways. And, related to that, RoP:M and RoP:F should have had some non-power options to avoid some really bizarre things.


Stealth ability missing a score and still no Vis?


Still not sure if you can take the AQ Large Claws and Teeth rather than use MQs to build them up.

Also, still not sure if you can take Flight on a dragon without a power. There are no mundane dragons to serve as a basis, unlike a Bird of Virtue. (The Magic Animal rules are a bit strange (not in a good way) in that some of these only apply to Animals of Virtue. Then dragons get some special rules of their own, or at least one special rule: Size above 0 doesn't cost anything but does affect final Might calculations. So if you want a large familiar, you're best off designing it and then making it work as a dragon. Also works for small familiars: Base size for dragon is 0, iirc, so that Size -3 or -4 raven works even better as a shoulder dragon, since you can get some points for bringing down the size from 0. Even better if you can give it flight by saying it has wings.)

BTW, Variable Power should be looked at for pimping out a dragon's breath: Getting an extra Might/5 (or similar) variants is a real bargain! One "max power" breath for a single target and another for an area, two more costless breaths for single or area. For a fire dragon, maybe a variant that creates a vast cloud of choking, sulfurous vapors and another for harmless but obscuring steam. Maybe another in which the dragon inhales for a PeIg effect that sucks out all the heat from an area. That's 6, and a Might 40 dragon could have 3 more variations! Dragon breathes on himself and heats himself up, creating a zone of intense heat centered on him that lasts for Diameter. A very long range breath? Something that causes fatigue due to heat? A PeAq evaporation effect?



Neither. For a Magic Animal you just take what applies, as shown repeatedly in RoP:M.

Again, you just take what applies for a Magic Animal. Look at the Raven of Virtue, the Wise Owl of the Forest, and Arkliss.

These are explained on page 32:

These "free Qualities" provide for things like Large Claws.


I might crack open the book, because...

Hmm. I don't remember that at all, but that MQs are needed for an especially damaging attack. Unless these are on top of Large Claws?

It's also not clear "what applies" for free when talking about a dragon or something that the GM just makes up, like the dread Roc Shark (not to be confused with the antipodean Rock Shark), which can breathe air and water, can swim and fly (all for free), and can both swoop down and up on its prey.

Hmm. I'll look at Arkliss.

I think there's a larger context in which this signifies something different, but I'll take a look. I might well be misremembering.



Yes, on top of Large Claws or similar.

I agree it gets confusing. Take Arkliss for example. Why a power to breath underwater? It's buried. The idea is that it has to breath because of Susceptible to Deprivation, so it either uses lungs or gills (breath air or water) naturally. To enable both a Power has been added.

There's a table for base claws/fangs for dragons on page 75 of RoP:M - Size +2 or greater generally uses the Large versions, with constriction talked about in a separate box below it on the page.



If there's a table for dragons, then for other beasties the rules are "make something up that seem reasonable." (And that would be fine in a context other than rules that demand strict accounting.)




It might have to breathe, yet can still be amphibious. Turning the water to maple syrup or befouling the air too much would still affect it. So why a power to breathe underwater. (Can Arkliss fly without a power?)

Yes, confusing.

I especially 'like' the way two magical animals with the exact same stats can have different costs.



I expect it was known at the time that fish breath water and people breathe air. I doubt anything was known about lungfish, frogs breathing through their skin, etc. So as far as I can tell it would naturally breathe one or the other but not both. The power gives it the other as well.

Yup. No power given for Arkliss's flying, yet Arkliss can fly.

I would have had Supernatural Qualities/Inferiorities v. Mundane Qualities/Inferiorities. I would have made mundane animals using only Mundane Qualities/Inferiorities, no Virtues nor Flaws. Virtues and Flaws could distinguish individuals from each other within a creature type, while Mundane Qualities/Inferiorities would distinguish creature types from each other. Then with shape shifting you could swap out Mundane Qualities/Inferiorities and just leave the Virtues and Flaws alone. That would also show what you gain by shifting into the form of a drake or similar, not picking up the Supernatural Qualities/Inferiorities. Then you could set up a conversion, such as getting two Mundane Qualities/Inferiorities in place of one Superior Quality/Inferiority or one Virtue/Flaw when building Magic Animals or building animals in Grogs, or leave it as one for one.

Edit: Also, this approach with supernatural beings would prevent things like a dispelling effect removing a gorgons' snake hair. Similarly, it would stop magic resistance from nullifying some mundane animals' inherent abilities.

Edit: The same sort of thing could have been done with Characteristics so that shape shifters and CrAn/Co rituals could use the baseline, adjusted for Size, more easily